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    Published on: August 9, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    The new Procter & Gamble ad, about racism in America, has in a short time created both conversations and controversy.

    It is called “The Talk,” and it looks at generations of African-American parents who have a conversation with their children, explaining about the specific and unique challenges they will face in the world. The names they will be called. The suspicions they may face. The bias they will encounter, just because of the color of their skin.

    “Let’s all talk about ‘The Talk’,” the ad says, “so we can end the need to have it.”

    The ad is not connected to any of P&G’s brands, and the company says it is just the beginning of a series that will focus on specific societal issues. Gender equality reportedly is on the list of subjects to be addressed.

    Not everybody is positive about the ad, with some calling it racist. National Review criticized it for pandering to “identity politics.”

    Electronic Urban Report notes that the ad also can be seen as anti-police, with one white police offer writing on P&G’s Facebook page, “I am a proud parent of 2 African American kiddos and I’m a cop. I will no longer buy any P & G products. Your divisive and biased ads will not create more customers. More will stop buying your products.”

    However, the response from some in the African-American community has been more positive. Jamilah Lemieux, vice president of digital at i-One Digital, told CBS News, "I can't say I've seen a commercial like this before … I guess I'm struggling to find the intended audience for this commercial. If it is in fact African-Americans then one can say you're preaching to the choir. If this is in fact a commercial that is targeted toward white Americans ... then I have to say this is pretty commendable. I'm wondering what are the next steps.”

    If conversation and controversy indeed are what P&G was intending, I;’d have to say that they got their money’s worth.

    This isn’t the first time that P&G has taken this approach. You may remember that a couple of years ago it did the “Like A Girl” commercial for its Always feminine hygiene brand, which sent an important message that transcended gender and focused on empowerment; I thought at the time that it was both a smart piece of filmmaking and intelligent advertising by a relevant brand. (You can check it out here.)

    It seems to me that “The Talk” goes farther and is much stronger, if only because they had to know going in that there was the potential for alienating a percentage of the audience/customer base. The only folks likely to be alienated by the “Like A Girl” ad were hardcore male chauvinists and maybe one now-former Google engineer.

    I’ve watched the ad several times now, and I’ve had several different reactions to it.

    To begin with, I cannot imagine what it would be like to send my children off into the world believing that they are at greater risk because of the color of their skin. I’ve had talks with my kids, but never “the talk.”

    I think the criticisms of the ad are overblown, though if I’d been producing the ad, I might’ve had one scene in which an African-American cop had “the talk” with a son or daughter, if only to blunt the criticism that it is anti-police.

    I must admit that I’ve also wondered a little bit about the strategy behind it. Could such an ad really sell more Tide or Gillette razor blades?

    Maybe, in the end, that doesn’t matter.

    There are some things we know. One is that young people are less brand loyal than their elders; sometimes they are even suspicious of the companies that make such brands. However, they will show some loyalty to brands that they see as being socially responsible, and/or reflective of their values.

    We also know that young people tend to be far more tolerant than their others. Discussions that have polarized earlier generations - about gay rights and acceptance of the LGBQT community, for example - are far less important to them.

    A company like Procter & Gamble, then, needs to figure out ways to prove to young people not just that its products are relevant to their lives, but resonant in how these customers see the world.

    And I think that’s what this ad is about - smart, provocative, willing to take both a position and a chance, and in the end, Eye-Opening.

    Good for Procter & Gamble and the agency that produced this ad. I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 9, 2017

    The Wall Street Journal reports on how some manufacturers, concerned that Amazon is fueling its retailing juggernaut at the expense of small retailers, “are enforcing minimum advertised prices to make it harder for online sellers to undercut local merchants, while others give local stores first dibs on new products or funnel customers from their own websites to local outlets … While many brands sell directly to Amazon or through third parties, some worry about tying their fortunes too closely to one customer and fear that online price wars will damage their image.”

    Amazon argues that “more than half of the items sold on its site come from small businesses and entrepreneurs. ‘Amazon helps small businesses increase sales and reach new customers by providing access to more than 300 million customers world-wide,’ a spokesman said.”

    Among the companies that are taking steps to protect other and smaller retailers are running gear manufacturer Brooks; Luxottica, which sells Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses; UPPAbaby, which makes baby strollers and car seats; and Thule, which makes cargo containers, bicycle racks and luggage.
    KC's View:
    Some suppliers will be able to resist the siren song of Amazon, which offers so much distribution. But I’ve always argued here that sometimes there is the intelligent loss of business … that when one retailer accounts for an enormous percentage of your business, it puts you at risk.

    This won’t stop or even slow down Amazon, in all likelihood … especially because Amazon is not a price play as much as it is a value/convenience play. But I think that if some manufacturers can protect other valued customers, it is probably a good thing.

    Published on: August 9, 2017

    The Harvard Business Review has apiece in which it “identified seven tactics that pioneering brands have used to arrive at an effective digital strategy,” noting that it is critical for CPG brands to do this at a time when Amazon seems to be making moves “to alter the relationships between consumer goods makers and their brick-and-mortar retail partners.”

    The story notes that it won’t be long before “digital agility will be as important to consumer brands as traditional capabilities like brand-building, new product development, and distribution. What that digital response looks like will vary from brand to brand. For now, product makers can look to retailers and innovative brands for lessons in ways to balance universal best practices with choices that are authentic to the brand, the evolving consumer purchase process, and the specific channel environment.”

    You can read the entire piece here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 9, 2017

    Mashable reports that there are 3.028 billion active social media users around the world, “meaning that almost half of the world's population spends at least part of their day updating their status or story.”

    Earth’s population currently is estimated to be 7.524 billion people.

    Furthermore, this means that “only a small portion of the estimated 3.819 billion people with internet access around the world don't have at least one social profile. Mobile users make up a large chunk of the base, with 2.780 billion active users.”

    According to the story, “Facebook is, unsurprisingly, the king of the social media platforms, with an estimated 2.047 billion monthly active users (MAU), while its other properties, WhatsApp and Messenger were over the billion MAU mark as well in the third and fourth position, respectively. Instagram followed closely behind with roughly 700 million MAU.”

    The numbers were compiled by Hootsuite and We Are Social and published by The Next Web.
    KC's View:
    I have to wonder when all these people will begin to think that they belong to the nation of Facebook, and not to whatever nation they happen to live in. If that happens, there will be a lot of implications for governments, businesses and the social order.

    Published on: August 9, 2017

    The other day, MNB took note of how technology-driven companies are disrupting revenue models used for decades by traditional companies - in this case, television sports, which is seen as slowly but surely migrating to ad-free streaming services. Amazon, for example, has bought the rights to stream 10 Thursday night National Football League (NFL) games this season, and it is seen as inevitable that it will be willing to bid a lot more money for a lot more games.

    Well, we got an other example of this shift away from traditional models yesterday - David Letterman announced that he will return to television with a brand new talk show, two years after retiring and handing off “The Late Show” on CBS to Stephen Colbert.

    His new talk show will be on Netflix.

    The new Letterman show will be just six episodes, and the Hollywood Reporter says that the new program will “feature Letterman conducting longform conversations with a singular guest as well as exploring topics on his own — outside of the studio.”

    Letterman released a statement, saying, in part, "I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first.”
    Meanwhile, it seems that even the disruptors can be disrupted.

    Walt Disney Co. said yesterday that “ it will stop selling movies to Netflix and begin offering ESPN sports programming and family films directly to consumers via two new streaming services,” according to a Bloomberg story.

    The announcement came as Disney “reported a rare drop in revenue and profit — from falling ad sales at ESPN and a decline at the film division. The moves show how seriously Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger views the threat from streaming services like Net­flix and and their impact on conventional pay-TV.”

    “Our direct-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the company, one that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands,” Iger said in a statement.
    KC's View:
    I find these stories to be fascinating. Bastions of old-world constructs find that they can have a new or revived life in new media, while old media companies find that they need to create new media businesses in order to remain relevant and (hopefully) profitable.

    What these stories have in common is that the old world constructs are falling by the wayside. Which I think is something that is going to happen in a lot of industries.

    Published on: August 9, 2017

    • The Chicago Tribune reports on how the room service component of the hotel business is changing. Room service, the story says, is “expensive both to order and to operate, looks extravagant on a business traveler's expense report, and for most people, goes against the very point of travel: to get out and explore new sights and cuisines.”

    While room service revenue is down more than 25 percent over the past decade, it also is true that “some members of the traveling public want the option of food delivered to their rooms, and hotels are eager to offer solutions that will differentiate them from competitors without breaking the bank.”

    Some Chicago hotels are looking to outsource the service, “delivering meals to guest rooms through partnerships with a popular local gastropub, a cult-favorite burger chain and a hometown service that delivers organic, chef-made meals.”

    CNBC reports that McDonald’s plans to almost double the number of restaurants it has in China, to 4500 from 2500, over the next five years. Such growth would make China the hamburger chain’s largest market outside the US, supplanting Japan.

    According to the story, “The announcement … comes a week after McDonald's completed a previously announced deal to sell most of its operations in China. The deal leaves McDonald's with a 20 percent stake in its China business. There are about 37,000 McDonald's restaurants worldwide and more than 14,000 in the US.”

    KSAT-TV News has a story about how H-E-B’s new barbecue restaurant in San Antonio, True Texas B-B-Q, will open next week with “a drive-thru window, which is a first for H-E-B. None of the company’s other in-store restaurants offer that service.”

    • IGA USA announced that it is collaborating with Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to launch the first-ever IGA Cares initiative, saying that “through in-store fundraising activities and the sales of specially marked IGA Exclusive Brand products,” it will support the mission of helping families struggling with their son or daughter’s substance use. “During this national campaign – which began running in participating IGA stores on August 1st – IGA will raise both critical funds and awareness to help parents and families and help end the nation’s opioid epidemic,” the announcement said.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 9, 2017

    Business Insider reports that American Green Inc., one of the nation’s largest cannabis companies, has bought the 80-acre California town of Nipton and hopes to transform it into “ "an energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination.”

    According to the story, “American Green says it plans to expand that farm and bottle and sell cannabis-infused water from Nipton's plentiful aquifer — both moves that would make the town green in more ways than one. The buyers are also reaching out to edibles manufacturers and other pot-industry businesses, hoping they'll be interested in relocating to Nipton and bringing jobs with them.”

    There won’t be many people affected by the sale - fewer than two dozen people live in Nipton. (Which may explain why the place was for sale.) In many ways, Nipton is a kind of ghost town; it was created by the gold rush of the early 1900s, and is described by one resident as “conveniently located in the middle of nowhere,” even though it is just 60 miles south of Las Vegas, just over the state line.
    KC's View:
    I see shuttles running to and from Nipton, which ought to be able to effectively market itself to tourists visiting Vegas. But even more importantly, I think there’s a potential big business opportunity there … beyond the pot, I’d want to have the exclusive rights to sell burritos, Rice Krispy Treats, and goo balls.

    Published on: August 9, 2017

    Glen Campbell, who crossed over from being an in-demand session guitarist (on songs as diverse as “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys and “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra) to being a country music and then popular music star (“Gentle on My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy”), with his own network variety show and even some movie appearances (such as with John Wayne in the original True Grit), passed away yesterday. He was 81 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
    KC's View:
    Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, and he responded with a long and well-received farewell tour that was chronicled in the documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me. It was both affectionate and unsparing, and it is worth seeing; I’ve never been a big Glen Campbell fan, but I also liked his last album, “Adios,” made up of standards he loved to sing but had never recorded.

    It all is sentimental, but perhaps because of my own experience with a family member suffering from a slow, degenerative brain disease, I found it to be touching stuff.

    Published on: August 9, 2017

    Yesterday, we took note of the contretemps at Google, where a software engineer’s internal memo criticizing the company’s diversity efforts as misguided, and suggesting that women are biologically less able to perform certain technology-based roles than men, went public, creating new employee concerns about the climate there at a time when the company is dealing with a federal probe into whether it routinely pays women less than men. Indeed, the software engineer who wrote the original memo has been fired, but the controversy seems not to have abated. (The engineer has said he plans to sue.)

    I commented, in part:

    I have enormous trouble with the idea that some people are biologically better able to be engineers and scientists because of their gender…I think people have the right do think that way, but they do not have the right to block women from achieving what they want to achieve because of views that I would define as archaic.

    Of course, it doesn’t really matter what I think. It matters, in this case, how Google is culturally constructed. And the powers that be there seem to view this guy’s opinions as archaic, too … hence his firing.

    I have no idea whether the company’s actions are legal or not, though I must admit to looking forward to reading about how this case unfolds and writing about it from time to time. Google will argue that this is not retribution because of his politics or political incorrectness (which some will try to make it) as much as it is a necessary reaction to his apparent believe that anyone with a vagina cannot do his job as well as he can, simply because he has a penis. That’s not exactly a helpful attitude to hold in any workplace.

    One MNB reader responded:

    The definition of "political-correctness" is one group of people telling everyone else what's acceptable for them to think, do, and say - and then enforcing it by firing anyone they thereby deem “deplorable.”

    I disagree. This person wasn’t just expressing an opinion … he was stating a position that within that organization could be considered tantamount to harassment.

    Firing him wasn’t being politically correct. Just correct.

    MNB reader Joye Crosby wrote:

    I agree with you in all ways.  I am going to throw out another idea to ponder....Why not hire a male VP of diversity to run their program?  It seems to me we mostly find women in this position.  Maybe forcing a man to clean up their problem would be enlightening?  Just a thought….

    It is true that Google’s VP - diversity is a female. I’m not sure that your idea is the best way to go. One of the problems that some men have is dealing with women in power positions, and having a woman in the job actually forces them to do so.

    From MNB reader Hy Louis:

    The comments from the Google engineer do have some merit.  Generally, unless it is high level professional sports, I have never seen where any gender is biologically inferior.  Psychologically on the other hand there seem to be obvious differences. Thats why we have all these diversity issues in the first place.  We are trying to fit square pegs in rounds holes. I have never once seen a male dental hygienist nor have I ever seen a female large appliance mover.  I'm sure someone, someplace has and will use that rare example to disagree with me.  We could list occupations all day long that appeal more to certain genders.  The role of diversity is not to simply force feed genders into certain jobs, but to find ways to better accommodate the psychological differences rather than the biological differences.  Almost any job can be appealing to any gender under the right conditions.

    I did a quick check with the American Dental Association, and learned that 95.8 percent of US dental hygienists are female … which means that 4.2 percent are men. Not a lot, but not none.

    Can’t find any stats about large appliance movers.

    But for the record, the 2017 median salary for a dental hygienist is more than $72,000 … so maybe this is just an example of women being smarter than men.
    KC's View: