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    Published on: August 22, 2017

    by Michael Sansolo

    When it comes to seizing a marketing moment, we clearly have a top banana - both literally and figuratively.

    It seems almost impossible that you missed the biggest celestial story of the past few decades: the solar eclipse that worked its way directly across the US Monday afternoon. It was a constant presence of the news, social media and, varying degrees depending on your location, in the sky as well.

    In other words you couldn’t miss it…unless you did. For instance, how did you market the event? Did you sell the special viewing glasses or even use the celestial show to build some excitement into the dog days of August?

    If you didn’t, you missed a fabulous opportunity and, to make matters worse, others showed how it could be done, including 7-Eleven, which marketed the daylights out of those same glasses. But others were actually far more creative.

    Consider the following examples collected by CNBC:

    • Volvo marketed a special moon roof cover to allow eclipse viewing from the vehicle.

    • Dairy Queen started a special marketing campaign of the Blizzard dessert and plans to continue it through the start of September.

    • Door Dash food delivery services gave away free “eclipse” cookies, more usually known as half moons or black and whites.

    • Krispy Kreme designed a special chocolate glazed eclipse donut just for the occasion.

    • Other specials came from Denny’s, appliance maker Frigidaire, McDonald’s and even a realtor in Michigan.

    In other words, if you did nothing you clearly missed an opportunity that comes along rarely and that others jumped on energetically. The good news is that you can redeem yourself on April 8, 2024, when a solar eclipse will move across the country, from Texas to Buffalo, NY.

    Hopefully, you’ll both be in business and much more prepared for that one.

    As you plan for that, give a lot of thought to your produce section. Because in preparation for Monday’s event nothing came close to Chiquita, which ran a marketing campaign that came close to outshining the sun itself. The tongue-in-cheek campaign ran virally on line and in full-page ads in major newspapers.

    As Chiquita explained, the key to the solar eclipse was not about totality and that path across the nation. Rather it was in the areas where the sun would be mostly covered, leaving a yellow crescent shape that strangely enough looks like a banana. The ads jokingly explained that seeing that shape was the real show on Monday.

    The ads and videos then went into detail on how exactly the eclipse - or “banana sun” - is really a celebration of Chiquita bananas, how Chiquita is actually behind the entire thing and how the sun and moon will not be harmed in the process. (Chiquita also managed to work in repeated cautions about the right way to view the eclipse.)

    In other words, the ads and video were funny, timely and memorable. They were the essence of great marketing as they gave people one more reason to think of the Chiquita brand differently than everyone else.

    Talk about seizing the moment and putting everyone else in the shade.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    We talk often here about the importance of storytelling and there was a news item over the last couple of days that illustrated this in compelling fashion.

    It was announced on Sunday that a team led by Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, had discovered the final resting place of the USS Indianapolis. It was, the stories said, 18,000 feet deep in the Philippine Sea.

    The USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II, but it is hardly a unique case; in fact, a quick internet check shows that more than 1,500 ships were sunk during that particular war.

    And yet, when I first heard the story on my car radio, I immediately knew the basic facts of the Indianapolis - that it was sunk on July 30, 1945, after having delivered parts of the first Atomic bomb to US forces that eventually would drop it on Hiroshima. But because of its top-secret mission, the fact that it was missing was not immediately noted, and it was four days before the survivors were spotted entirely by accident by a bomber pilot.

    During those four days, however, many of the men who went into the water died - a number of them attacked by sharks. If I recall correctly, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men came out.

    I’m not entirely sure about the accuracy of those last two numbers. The only reason I remember them is that the story of the Indianapolis comprises one of the most compelling scenes in Jaws, when Robert Shaw’s Quint tells the story about how he was on the doomed ship.

    Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah, then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces.

    Now, to be sure, the speech gets some of the specifics of the event wrong. (Like the date of the sinking - Quint puts it on June 29, not July 30.) But the storytelling is memorable. (Legend has it that Shaw - a talented novelist and playwright, rewrote it and turned mere prose into bone-chilling poetry.)

    I know a number of people who, as soon as they heard that the final resting place of the Indianapolis had been found, immediately flashed on that scene from Jaws. Which speaks, I think, to the power of a story. (Not to in any diminish the stories of all the other ships that were sunk and men who were killed during World War II…) The scene from Jaws is so powerful and memorable that the New York Times even mentioned it in the lede when it reported on the discovery.

    The Times also notes that “Mr. Allen, whose father fought in World War II, has made a passion of finding and preserving artifacts from the war. His expedition said that the precise location of the Indianapolis would be kept secret from the public, and that the site would be respected as a grave, as American law requires.”

    But the Eye-Opening story will live on.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Kroger chairman/CEO Rodney McMullen this morning that is definitely worth reading.

    The story points out that McMullen is “navigating Kroger through its stormiest period in more than a decade,” and that Kroger is sacrificing profits to compete more effectively with Amazon, and cutting prices to compete more effectively with Walmart, Aldi and Lidl, while at the same time working to maintain its own values and value proposition; the sense is that McMullen and Kroger do not want to be maneuvered into a position where they are only playing defense.

    Asked what a Kroger store is likely to look like in 2025, McMullen says:

    “It wouldn't surprise me that customers would be in the store eating but they would use an app to order what they want. When they are finished, [the store clerk] would deliver the groceries to them. It will be so easy because we'll be able to predict a lot of the things you want. The associates you engage with will be so knowledgeable about where tortillas came from. I believe some stores will be big and some small. And it will be the combination of all those things that make it special.”

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

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    In Minnesota, the Star Tribune looks at the remodeled Target store on Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall, where the company “has redesigned and upgraded everything from the fitting rooms to the online pickup counter and the grocery department” in what one executive calls its most ambitious redesign in two decades.

    An excerpt from the story:

    “The old vinyl tile flooring has been replaced by more modern, polished concrete. The corners of aisles are curved to be more inviting. The mannequins now look more like, well, real people and represent sizes that range from 4 to 22.

    “And the fluorescent lights overhead have been replaced with LED ones, including many specialty lighting treatments that bring more warmth than glare. Beacons are embedded inside each light fixture enabling customers to open a map in the Target app, locate themselves in the form of a blue dot and find nearby Cartwheel deals.

    “The downtown Minneapolis store, which will celebrate the completion of its $10 million makeover on Wednesday, features many of the bells and whistles that Target is in the midst of rolling out to hundreds of stores nationwide. The redesigns are a key strategy to revitalize sales along with investing in technology, the supply chain and new brands.”

    “It’s more about experience,” says Joe Perdew, who leads Target’s store design team. “It’s about the physical, digital and human elements you want to offer up that help make it all come to life.” Perdew estimates that “experience accounted for about 5 percent of the previous store design, but contributed to about 20 percent in the new plan.”

    Some examples: “Fresh produce and grab-and-go meals, with more attractive displays, have been moved to the front of the store. It also has one of the newer Sephora-like beauty layouts that will be in 70 stores by the end of the year, which has huge digital screens behind it displaying videos and images to draw more visual interest.

    “And a soundtrack with upbeat, catchy tunes also has been added, playing over the store’s speakers.”
    KC's View:
    I think that one of the enduring problems that Target will face is that it has seemed out of step with consumers for quite some time, and so it will have to persuade shoppers to give it a chance to make a second first impression. That’s not impossible, but it ain’t easy.

    The two Target stores that are close to the places where I spend most of my time - in Stamford, Connecticut, and Portland, Oregon - are so vanilla and so uninspiring that it would take a lot to get me to make special trips there.

    I haven’t seen its new approach to grocery yet, but I still have to wonder if Target would be better off partnering with another retailer in its food departments, in much the same way that it has done with CVS in HBC and pharmacy.

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    Tech Crunch reports that Blue Apron is being hit with several proposed class action suits that allege the meal kit company has not been forthcoming about its decision to cut back on advertising, its problems with customer retention, and delays at a new factory in New Jersey.

    These suits, the story says, only add the woes that Blue Apron has been facing since the company went public just a couple of months ago. Its stock price has dropped by almost 50 percent since the IPO, largely, it appears, because of the perception that Amazon is threatening its ability to grow both with its own nascent meal kit business and its decision to bid $13.7 billion to acquire Whole Foods.

    To be clear, the story also notes that the lawyers proposing these class actions and making charges are still seeking actual plaintiffs.
    KC's View:
    Sounds like the vultures are circling, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that Blue Apron hasn’t been entirely forthcoming as it grapples with severely diminished expectations.

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Kroger has begun offering home delivery from two of its stores in the Cincinnati market.

    The pilot program, according to the story, is being offered in partnership with local grocery delivery service Grocery Runners, which “has been delivering groceries to customers who ordered through Kroger’s ClickList online order and customer pickup service since then. But now Kroger has formed a relationship with Grocery Runners” that allows customers to “order directly from Kroger and have their groceries delivered to their home without the need to contact a separate delivery company.”

    The story goes on to note that “Kroger plans to expand the service to other ClickList locations in Greater Cincinnati after it tests the service at those two stores. Kroger has about two dozen ClickList locations in Greater Cincinnati.
    Kroger has been testing home delivery in other markets through a variety of methods, including Uber in Washington, D.C., and use of Instacart and Shipt to delivery groceries in other markets.”
    KC's View:
    I like the idea that Kroger is testing lots of different options, but I continue to believe that in the long run, retailers need to really own the delivery process, if only because it is risky to outsource such an important part of the consumer experience.

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    • The New York Times reports that “in what may be the largest award so far in a lawsuit tying ovarian cancer to talcum powder, a Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in damages to a medical receptionist who developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s trademark Johnson’s Baby Powder on her perineum for decades … A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, Carol Goodrich, said the company would appeal the verdict handed up by a jury in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and was preparing for additional trials.”

    • In Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reports that Target “has severed ties with the makers of the popular Just Mayo egg-free condiment two months after pulling the product and others over alleged food safety violations. The move comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this month closed without further action a review of the plant-based products made by Hampton Creek, a San Francisco-based start-up that sells only vegan foods.”

    The story says that Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Hampton Creek, “said the flap ensued from a ‘fraudulent letter’ and that Target pulled its products on June 22 with little warning. Tetrick said that Target ended their relationship because Hampton Creek went public after the FDA closed its case, violating a vendor communications agreement.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    Barron’s has a story pointing out that Apple has said it plans to “spend $1 billion on original video content for its Apple Music service, far less than what Netflix,, or HBO pay annually.”

    While the story suggests that “Apple’s clean-cut reputation could hinder its ability to produce the same kind of thought-provoking content that’s netted awards for the major streaming players,” the story also posits that Apple may be more interested in competing with Spotify, rather than with Amazon, Netflix and HBO.

    Here’s the logic: “Apple has made the somewhat puzzling decision to house its original content within Apple Music, its subscription music service, because it wants to give users a reason to choose its service over market-leader Spotify. That service was years ahead of Apple in terms of offering an on-demand listening, and many iPhone-wielding Spotify users haven’t found reason to switch to Apple Music.

    “Spotify has about 50 million paying subscribers, while Apple has 27 million,” and one analyst estimates that “Apple would need to add just 7 or 8 million more customers to recoup its $1 billion in content spending (over three years).”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    • Publix announced that Alison Midili Smith, its Vice President of Human Resources, is being promoted to Senior Vice President, responsible for the strategic oversight of human resources, customer care & social media, and media & community relations.

    In addition, Marcy Benton, Director of Retail Associate Relations, will be promoted to Vice President of Talent Management.

    And, Woody Rayburn, the company’s Director of Real Estate Assets, is being promoted to Vice President of Real Estate Assets.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2017

    I’ve gotten several emails recently about MNB readers’ various experiences at Walmart-owned stores.

    MNB reader Brian Carpentier wrote:

    I had my first experience with the new Walmart tower also three weeks ago. I was looking for a specific battery operated ride on toy for the grandchildren. I was able to get it sooner and for less money from Walmart then from Amazon. I believe a week sooner and close to $20 less. Though it was a day late, it got here in time for the event. Since it was a very large box, once I entered the invoice number, someone was there within a minute to tell me they were bring it up to the front of the store (where the tower is). This pick-up area is also in orange Vs the rest of the registers in blue. In that area, there were comfortable chairs to sit on. Though they offered to bring it out and load it, I did so myself. Big step forward for Walmart.

    MNB reader Lyle Walker wrote:

    I shop at Sam's Club because of convenience, and once I started using their self-scan app, I've never gone back.  It is one of the best pieces of technology I've seen for a consumer.  The scan app itself is amazingly fast.  As soon as you point it at a barcode, you get a response.  It takes about 5-10 seconds to figure it out, as it has a very simple design.  Very impressive app and actually makes shopping easier.  It's now nice to see long lines at the checkout and know that you get to walk around them as you head out the door.

    I don't typically shop at Walmart, but when the self-scan app is available, at least it gives me an additional reason to add them to my store consideration set.

    And, from another reader:

    I write you with 3 prefaces: I sell beer for a living rather than write … I avoid Wal-Mart because a) the lines & service are deplorable and b) their corporate image screams "drive out indy biz retailers in your market, screw your employees, squeeze suppliers...then repeat” … and we are devout Prime users.

    Last week on vacation we had forgotten beach gear items shipped to us in <2 days for free.

    With the above caveats...for the 1st time...I set out to support my wife with the "back to school - tax free shipping weekend".  She had the list for our 3rd & 5th graders of 48 items and quantity along with another 20 or so optionals for Art, PE, etc.

    I am a Prime subscriber, Cartwheel user, and shopper (Christmas '16 basketball hoop)

    I ran down the list comparing Amazon (her #1 choice), Target (Momma choice #2).and Wal-Mart (her reminder..."you always bitch that 30 cents is not worth 30 minutes").  Here in Florida, Wal-Mart had a price advantage with pick up today available for nearly every item.  Also telling, was that I found their site more intuitive and shopper friendly than Amazon (I know...right).  Target not in the running on price or availability.  It is worth noting the wife insisted on taking the girls to Target for backpacks and lunchboxes.  

    Upon arriving at the local WM, the directional arrows for online pickup were clearly marked and I would have used it except the order was in "processing mode" just as it was 6 hrs earlier.  Inside at the orange online pickup., I had the 2 most friendly CSR interactions at Wal-Mart that I remember in 40+ years.  The woman pulling the order went so far as to say she "enjoyed shopping for back to school" and added in a genuine tone "you really did saved a lot on the notebooks".  

    I proceeded to take the next 10 minutes grocery shopping and what felt like the next 30 min standing in line (more like 5).

    I will use WM's online shopping again, including for groceries and I bet they improve the pick process.  Traditional grocers should plan on losing much of their current GMD and occasion basket to online, dollar, and Big Blue.  Amazon is in for a fight if Wal-Mart can lure away Prime household $ away. An unplanned implication of today's shop is that WM got my grocery $ rather than Publix.

    KC's View: