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    Published on: February 1, 2017

    by Kate McMahon

    There will be a new sex symbol steaming up the small screen and social media during Sunday night’s Super Bowl telecast. No, not a scantily-clad buxom babe (like we've gotten used to seeing in GoDaddy ads), but a more unlikely choice: Mr. Clean.

    Yes, Mr. Clean. Like you’ve never seen him before.

    The iconic 59-year-old bald and bold mascot for his eponymous brand has morphed into one buff and bump-and-grinding hunk in the 30-second commercial. We’re talking Magic Mike in head-to-toe white. You can see it at left.

    Since its release last week, the ad has racked up more than 1.8 million views on YouTube. On Mr. Clean’s official Facebook page, almost 700,000 followers viewed the debut and shared their views –- 2,000-plus comments which ranged from “creepy” and “offensive” to “love it” and “Whoa lookin’ good!”

    Acknowledging on Twitter that his moves are testing the seams of his body-hugging pants and tee-shirt, @RealMrClean posted a head-in-hands photo with the tweet “That look when you realize your mom will see your sexy Super Bowl ad.” (Which, when you think about it, hardly is the most provocative thing that has been Tweeted lately...)

    This is the first Super Bowl commercial for the Procter & Gamble cleaning product, and exemplifies how social media has dramatically altered the game plan for marketers and advertisers. Up until the past decade, the Super Bowl’s “breakthrough commercials” (think the much-lauded 1984 Apple ad launching the Macintosh or the Mean Joe Green spot for Coca-Cola in 1980) were kept under wraps until the big night.

    Today, most ads are previewed with much fanfare and a marketing blitz covers all social media platforms. Websites have already declared “the best” and “most-talked about 2017 Super Bowl ads” five days before the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons square off in Houston. Brands in the spotlight include perennial powers Budweiser and the carmakers, Skittles and Snickers, Intel and Turbo Tax, and newcomer Mr. Clean.

    Which brings us back to our man, mop or sponge in hand, sashaying his way from the kitchen to the steam shower and seducing the woman of the house up until the last few frames.

    Admittedly, I am the first to call out advertising campaigns that I find sexist and insulting to women. I have frequently asked the question: “Didn’t anyone in the room realize this is stupid, misogynistic and offensive to 51% of the population?” (Some MNB readers have commented from time to time that I should lighten up and have more of a sense of humor.)

    So I have to admit that while I thought this ad was funny, I knew it would raise a legitimate question: Would I have the same reaction if the gender roles were reversed and a woman was being objectified? Is this a double standard?

    Yes, the ad is a little risqué, but Mr. Clean is a cartoon character. And men being sexually objectified in media is not a defining issue of our times. And anyone would be hard-pressed to argue with the closing line “you gotta love a man who cleans.”

    Most importantly, it tells a story, which matters for a Super Bowl ad or any retailer or marketer seeking to connect with an audience. I guarantee that like the commercial or not, you'll remember it.

    After the Super Bowl, the mascot will step out of the limelight for a year. He will be replaced by 40-year-old Mike Jackson of Atlanta, whose won a nationwide search for The Next Mr. Clean. (Women were also invited to post an audition on YouTube or attend casting calls to show they could be “just as clean, fearless, helpful and tough on dirt” as Mr. Clean.)

    A self-described neat freak, Jackson is bald, muscular and wears a gold hoop earring in his left ear. Unlike his predecessor, he is African-American and works in sports marketing. After modeling for a limited edition Mr. Clean calendar and collecting his $20,000 check, Jackson will be a guest at the Super Bowl, leaving the dirty dancing and the clean up to the original for the evening.

    Comments? As always, send them to me at .

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    Barron's has a piece about how Apple, which has seen Mac and iPhone sales improve even as its iPad sales and overall sales in China have declined, is looking at its "services" segment as being a place where it can grow in the future.

    According to the story, CEO Tim Cook wants to double that business over the next four years, and a big part of that could be original content that would compete against the original content offered by Amazon, Netflix, and even companies such as HBO.

    “We have put our toe in the water with doing some original content for Apple Music,” he said, adding that Apple was “learning a lot about the original content business and thinking about ways that we could play in that ... We started the new Apple TV a year ago, and we’re pleased with how that platform has come along. We have more things planned for it but it’s come a long way in a year and it gives us a clear platform to build off of."

    I've always been intrigued by the idea of Apple offering original content through its iTunes store. It simply seems to make sense, especially because it is competing for time and eyeballs with companies such as Amazon and Netflix that have been very successful - and spent a lot of money - doing the same thing. I think private label content could end up being as important to Apple as its proprietary hardware and software ... if it chooses its projects carefully and with good taste, it could end up being both a source of revenue and consumer loyalty.

    When I'm thinking about watching a movie on TV - and I have both Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV - I always go to Amazon, which gives me access to a wide variety of services, including Netflix. I rarely think about going to iTunes, and I think that's not a good thing for Apple. They need to be in the equation if they want to keep being relevant.

    I'll be interested to see what they do in this segment. I hope it is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    There are a couple of stories this morning about the impact that a border tax could have on US food businesses.

    Bloomberg has a story about the "wide range of agricultural goods" that are imported into the US from Mexico, and therefore would be affected by the 20 percent import tax that has been floated as a possibility by the Trump administration.

    Among them are fresh vegetables, $4.84 billion of which were imported from Mexico in 2015 ... $4.28 billion worth of fruit ... $2.7 billion worth of beer and wine ... and $1.72 billion worth of snack foods.

    The story notes that "despite running an overall trade deficit with Mexico, U.S. food and drink exports to its southern neighbor don’t lag far behind, at $17.7 billion for 2015. The U.S. typically carries a trade surplus with its southern partner in years when grain and oilseed prices are high, as they were for most of the previous decade. Mexico was the biggest buyer of U.S. corn, soybean meal, rice and dairy products in 2015."

    And Barron's writes that "a tariff on Mexican imports" could put quick-service chain Chipotle "in the cross-hairs," since the chain "imports tomatoes and avocados from Mexico."

    The story notes that "avocado prices have already hurt Chipotle’s results. Earlier this month, the company said its results would be hurt by a spike in the price of avocados caused by a strike in Mexico. It was just the latest challenge to the burrito chain after dealing with food-borne illnesses and management changes over the last year." And Barron's suggests that "along with higher labor costs, a spike in ingredient costs could slow Chipotle’s resurgence."
    KC's View:
    There are so many questions that need to be answered about this tax, if it even is imposed by the federal government. I think that some folks believe that while it could raise prices, when combined with a corporate tax cut, it'll end up being a wash. But that depends on a lot of things working out perfectly - including consumers getting enough of a tax cut so that they are not bothered by higher prices.

    I've talked to a number of senior retail executives in the last week or so, and I've asked them all the same question:

    Have you asked your people to compile a list of all the products you sell that come from Mexico, or that contain ingredients from Mexico, so that you at least have a sense of exactly how many items might be affected by an import tax?

    They all gave me the same answer:


    This sort of surprises me. I'd think you would at least want to know what the landscape looks like before venturing out into it. A map of sorts might be helpful.

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Procter & Gamble has "vowed to support its employees and vendors impacted by President Trump's 90-day immigration ban targeting seven Middle Eastern and African countries with heavy Muslim populations."

    According to the story, P&G said that "an undetermined number of workers will be affected. Some foreign-born employees won't be able to travel abroad. Other employees originating from the seven targeted countries won't be able to fly to Cincinnati or anywhere in the U.S. from overseas markets where they are stationed. P&G officials said the company frequently flies in leaders from around the world to Cincinnati for meetings with top executives or leaders from other divisions. The company said it's still assessing the full impact."

    P&G employs 95,000 workers around the world and does business in more than 180 countries.

    At the same time, the Enquirer reports that another Cincinnati-based company, Kroger, said that "a tiny fraction of their employees are directly affected by the executive orders but the company is reviewing the full impact."

    "We recognize there are a lot of unknowns about how this order will impact associates and their families and communities," said Jessica Adelman, Kroger's group vice president of corporate affairs. "We want all of our associates, customers and communities to know that our fundamental values include diversity, inclusion and respect, and that all people are welcome in our stores and welcome to be a part of our family of companies."

    Meanwhile, the Seattle Times reports that Amazon is supporting a lawsuit filed by the Washington state attorney general against the executive order from President Trump that instituted the ban.

    Ayesha Blackwell-Hawkins, Amazon’s senior manager for mobility and immigration, said the order “immediately — and negatively — impacted employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon.” And CEO Jeff Bezos said that the company is "reaching out to congressional leaders to 'explore legislative options,' and is considering 'other legal options as well'."

    The Times writes that "Amazon’s move to back the attorney general’s suit came amid widespread backlash in the tech industry against the temporary restriction, which the administration says will protect the U.S. from terrorist infiltration while the government figures out ways to improve vetting of travelers. From Google to Lyft, companies joined the outcry, but Amazon’s response, involving the court system, seemed to go a step further than most."
    KC's View:
    I think it is safe to assume that this going to continue to be a hairball - a controversy that many companies would prefer had never occurred, and one on which they'd rather not have to take a public position. But that's not the way life has worked out ... and it seems to me that companies are going to find that because of how this controversy affects employees and customers, more and more of them will have to stake out positions.

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    Barron's reports that Cowen & Co. is out with a new report saying that e-commerce sales will grow "even faster in 2017 than they did last year. And by 2022, Cowen thinks e-commerce could comprise 14% of all retail sales, up from an estimated 9% this year."

    Indeed, the new research report says that "eCommerce disruption is still early days, as most large verticals (Apparel, Auto, Grocery) are in early/mid stages of eCommerce disruption."

    The report suggests that the US remains over-retailed with bricks-and-mortar stores, with "roughly 48 retail square feet per person in the US ... versus 22 square feet per person in the U.K. and 13 in Canada ... Net-net: We think the runway is clear for Amazon to continue to win in large retail markets for the foreseeable future."
    KC's View:
    No argument here.

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    The Washington Post has a story about made-in-the-USA efforts undertaken by sports apparel manufacturer Under Armour, which has just released "the first batch of clothing to be made at UA Lighthouse, a sprawling Under Armour facility that opened this summer in Baltimore. A 35,000-square-foot design and product development hub, it is an anchor of Under Armour’s attempt to figure out how to make clothing in the United States — an unusual venture in an industry where manufacturing has largely been done overseas for a generation. About 97 percent of clothing sold in the United States is imported, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association."

    While it is described as a small-scale effort to begin with, "the process of creating them offers a look at what the future of Under Armour — and the wider apparel industry, for that matter — might look like. The company says that it was able to operate on a sharply shorter timeline for bringing the gear to market, and it says it believes the Lighthouse setup is cost neutral compared to making clothing overseas."

    But what it has meant has been rethinking the entire process of how clothing is conceived, designed and manufactured ... which makes this an interesting story to read, since that's what so many retailers and manufacturers need to do in order to be relevant in a world where tectonic shifts seem to take place daily. You can check it out here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    USA Today reports on Dollar General's new concept store - DGX, designed to be a smaller format that will appeal to millennials and serve as a "quick-trip urban store."

    According to the story, "There are similarities between a traditional Dollar General store and DGX, but the smaller-format store features a more modern design, a curated selection of goods and a brewed coffee station for metropolitan shoppers ... The DGX store has a soda fountain, coffee station, grab-and-go sandwiches, limited assortment of grocery items, pet supplies, candies and snacks, paper products, home cleaning supplies and a health and beauty section. Unique to the store is a small assortment of home decor, electronics and seasonal offerings not typically found in quick-trip stores."

    The first of the breed has been opened in Nashville, Tennessee; a second will open shortly in Raleigh, North Carolina.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon "plans to build its first air cargo hub to accommodate its growing fleet of planes, signaling the company is ramping up its expansion into transporting, sorting and delivering its own packages" and "lessen its dependence on traditional carriers, including United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp."

    The hub is expected to be located at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport in Hebron, Kentucky.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that the Conference Board is saying that "its index of consumer confidence fell to 111.8 in January down from 113.3 in December ... The decline was driven by a less optimistic outlook for business conditions, jobs and consumer income."

    The story notes that "consumer confidence reached a 15-year high in December."

    • Albertsons said yesterday, two years after it acquired Safeway, that it has built 23 new stores and acquired another151 stores, in the process adding 26,000 jobs to the company's payroll; the company now employs some 276,000 people.

    The company also said that its food donations nationwide topped $271 million last year, up from $245 million in 2015, which it said reflected "a commitment to increasing support for the critical cause of hunger relief."
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 1, 2017

    We've had some discussion here in recent days about how certain companies have responded to the immigration ban, and the emails continue.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    I want to share my experience over the weekend regarding the whole immigration ban and associated protests.

    My wife has been in San Diego for most of the last month helping her sister who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  She was finally heading back home to Seattle, misses a connecting flight on San Fran because of baggage issues and then lands in Seattle at 10pm Saturday night.  I am waiting in the cell phone waiting lot when she calls and lets me know it may be a while because of a protest that is blocking access to baggage claim.  Another traveler told her she had been attempting to get her bags for the last 2 hours.  At that point I was not aware of why there was a protest.  Normally I am very aware as I follow politics very closely but had 2 kids sick with the flu.  Eventually I am able to pickup my wife, who is very much anti Trump, and the first thing she said is I can not tell you how pissed off the people who were on the plane are at the protestors.

    Here is something I am not sure was clear to the protestors, those travelers whose right to freely move about was being denied, another phrase that could be used to describe them is future potential voters.  I say this as someone who for the first time in my 30+ years of voting, in 2016 did not vote for either major party presidential candidate.

    Regarding Starbucks, I really wish corporations would have a blanket statement that said we do not comment on political issues otherwise you are assured of angering some group.  In Seattle, anytime there is a protest, it does not matter what the issue, the joke is the only group that ever profits is the company that gets paid to replace windows at Starbucks.  I say this as someone who has owned stock in Starbucks for 25 years and has mutual friends with the incoming CEO.

    From another reader:

    It strikes me that Howard Schultz knows what is important to Starbucks’ employees and customers.  He could have perceived that there was more risk in being silent on these issues than taking a position on them. 

    MNB reader Ben Ball wrote:

    Just one observation, nay prediction.

    Howard Schultz will declare for the Democratic primary in 2020. Or at least form an exploratory committee at the very minimum.

    And MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

    My guess is Starbucks probably already employs a lot of immigrants so in a way Schultz is making a point of expanding something he already is doing. Why? I think because he is making a moral statement and also, as you noted in your comments this morning he is playing a global game. I am amazed at how the Trump Administration seems to completely ignore global economic realities. There is no turning back the clock on the global economy and I for one am glad.

    Regarding Walmart's change of strategy in how it competes with Amazon Prime, one MNB reader wrote:

    Other retailers have been offering Free 2 Day Shipping with $35+ for quite a while. Rockler Woodworking comes to mind for example. What this does is remove the barrier to buying from the subject retailer and prevent (to some extent) guys like me from cruising over to Amazon to see if I can buy the same item on Prime first when I get a Rockler email or mailer. What it does not do is stop me from immediately opening my Amazon app first anytime I am looking for practically anything I need. I don’t think Walmart will see much difference.

    From another reader:

    Challenge I see with Walmart’s version of 2 day prime is the minimum order. The benefit I have is jumping on Amazon and grabbing whatever it is regardless of price for free 2 day shipping provided it’s prime. Last week it was a speed jump jump-rope for my daughter for $4.79. While Walmart may also have a similar jump-rope available, I am not going to up my basket to get to $35… nor will I jump ship when this is how most of my Amazon shopping is done – as something is needed, on the fly.
    KC's View: