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From The MNB Archives
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
by Michael Sansolo
On the oft chance you were looking for one more sign that we have a massive generational divide among our consumers, forget about the election, the subsequent protests, tattoos, coffee bars or anything else.
Think about Snoopy.
There was a time the incredibly talented cartoon beagle was as beloved a character as existed in popular culture. At its peak, "Peanuts," the comic strip that gave us Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and, of course, Snoopy, ran in 2,600 newspapers, reaching a worldwide audience of more than 350 million people.
The "Peanuts" television specials were widely hailed, awarded and watched annually at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween. We all knew the music Schroeder pounded out on his toy piano, we knew Linus’ speech on the meaning of Christmas and we knew Charlie would never kick that football.
Or at least we knew that if we were of a certain age. You might or might not know that no new "Peanuts" strip has run since February 2000 when Charles Schulz retired from the 50-year grind of drawing the strip. (Remarkably, he then died one day before the final strip appeared.) Although many newspapers still run "Peanuts" daily, using strips drawn 30 and 40 years ago, its era of dominance has long passed.
Here’s one clear sign of that shift: MetLife insurance recently announced it was dropping the "Peanuts" gang from its marketing campaign in 2017 after a 31-year run. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, the insurance giant realized that Snoopy and company had little to no appeal among Millennials and other young consumers because "Peanuts" was never really a part of their life.
Since those very consumers are MetLife’s main target market, it became time to move on. Adios, Snoopy and company.
In truth this isn’t going to matter much to most of us. I’ve never understood insurance advertising at all and can’t imagine why cartoon characters, geckos, cave men or big-haired women would cause me to buy a product designed to protect my car, home or family’s financial well-being. But the implications of MetLife’s decisions are important to all of us.
If nothing else it is a stark reminder that the cultural icons one group holds dear might mean little or nothing to others. (In a somewhat different context, this came up yesterday when Kevin wrote about the folks at Newman's Own having to wrestle with the idea that many young consumers have no idea who Paul Newman is. While this makes me shudder, I would refer them to "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies," which has an excellent chapter about his Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.)
If we don’t constantly remember that we risk putting focus in all the wrong areas and in the process we can look woefully out of date and irrelevant to the very customers we hope to attract.
More than ever we are able to understand who our customers are and hopefully we are using that information to better communicate and serve their needs and values. We are endlessly tasked with focusing on the future and the changing realities of our world and our shoppers.
Anything less is as useless as the psychiatric advice Lucy dispensed for a nickel.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . 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.
by Kevin Coupe
Forbes has a story about the growth of the hot sauce industry, noting that according to Quartz, "the industry in America alone has grown by 150% since 2000, which is more than BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise combined. Yet what’s even more interesting is that, unlike the ketchup or mustard industries which have or have had a dominant hot market player in the past, one simply hasn’t emerged within hot sauce. The top three companies in terms of market share – Tabasco, Frank’s Red Hot and Huy Fong’s Sriracha – still only make up about one-third of the billion-dollar industry’s sales."
What this means, the story suggests, is that there is a lot of room for continued growth, and also for the many brands that make up the segment to find ways to connect to consumers. The ways in which these connections are made also have changed - no longer can brands be dominant simply by advertising in mass media.
A fragmented yet growing hot sauce category, the story suggests, may be "due more to a shift in marketing media than a shift in the palate."
In other words, it may be less about hot sauce than cool media.
Which may be an Eye-Opening lesson for every brand.
Jack H. Brown Jr., the longtime CEO of Stater Bros. Markets in the Inland Empire of Southern California, passed away Sunday night, the company announced. He was 78.
Brown began leading the company in 1981, when Stater Bros. had 92 stores and sales of about $500 million; under his leadership, the company grew to 169 stores and annual sales of more than $4 billion.
Less than a year ago, Brown stepped down from the CEO job and became executive chairman.
"Grief is not a strong enough word to describe what the Stater Bros. ‘family’ feels,” Stater Bros. president/CEO Pete Van Helden said in a prepared statement. “Jack touched every one of us in a very personal way, and it is that legacy that we must carry forward. He loved the business, his company and each one of us.”
I think I've told this story here before, but I vividly remember having a conversation with the fiercely patriotic Brown about his hero, John Wayne. When I wrote movie reviews for my college newspaper, I'd written a positive think piece about what ended up being Wayne's last movie, The Shootist, and I'd actually gotten a personal note from Wayne thanking me. (This was a college campus in LA, and John Wayne was not a popular guy in such places in the mid-seventies.) I showed Brown the note, and when he held it in his hands, you'd think he was holding the Shroud of Turin.
Years ago, when I was writing and producing videos for a monthly series called "Supermarket Insights," we did a segment about Brown that ended with a brief clip of Wayne, astride a horse and moving out men and cattle. Brown got a little misty when he saw it, and I still think it reflected his approach to leadership.
Yesterday, in our Eye-Opener, we took note of how footwear company New Balance encountered a post-election backlash from some customers after its vice president for communications, Matt LeBretton, referring specifically to Donald Trump's promises regarding trade policy, said after his victory that 'we feel things are going to move in the right direction'."
The Associated Press now reports that the company is having to distance itself from a white supremacist website that called for people to support New Balance precisely because of those initial comments.
According to the story, "the alt-right website The Daily Stormer proclaimed Boston-based New Balance the 'Official Shoes of White People' this weekend.
In its response, New Balance said, "‘‘As a 110-year-old company with five factories in the U.S. and thousands of employees worldwide from all races, genders, cultures and sexual orientations, New Balance is a values-driven organization and culture that believes in humanity, integrity, community and mutual respect for people around the world."
Two things. First, New Balance - and every other company - needs to learn from this experience. Nothing wrong with commenting on public policy and supporting people who take supportive positions, but it is important to be specific ... and to be very careful especially during a time of political unrest.
That said, my second point would be that after New Balance made the follow-up point that it was merely commenting on its support of policies that aid companies that try to make products in the United States, I would've gone one step farther, just to be clear. I would've told the people at The Daily Stormer to go to hell ... because they and their white supremacist opinions are disgusting.
Just to be clear.
Of course, this is probably why I don't work in corporate communications. or public relations. Or government relations. Because "go to hell" would've been the mild version of what I really wanted to say.
• Amazon announced this morning that for the first time it is expanding its Prime Now one-hour delivery service to include a drugstore chain - in this case, Bartell Drugs, in the Seattle metro area.
In Seattle, Prime Now already offers products from Amazon, PCC, Uwajimaya, All the Best Pet Care, and popular local restaurants.
Prime Now offers free two-hour delivery, and one-hour delivery for $7.99.
From MorningNewsBeat, September 15, 2016:
A US Department of Labor report recently revealed that there were 5.2 million jobs available in the United States ... which was said to be the highest level of job availability since these specific numbers started being tracked back in 2000. This despite the fact that there remains considerable debate, much of it cacophonous, about national unemployment and under-employment.. The problem, one expert said, is that what we have in this country is "one of the biggest mismatches between skills and lack of qualified help available in the nation's history."
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Winston-Salem, NC -- ProLogic Retail Services, the largest provider of loyalty marketing solutions to independent grocers, announced the extension of its contract with Lowes Foods, which operates close to100 full-service supermarkets in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Through the Fresh Rewards program, ProLogic enables Lowes Foods to segment its shoppers, identifying its top shoppers and understanding their purchase patterns. With this information, ProLogic enables Lowes Foods to run targeted promotions that are specifically tailored to individual shoppers or groups of shoppers. These targeted promotions help Lowes Foods to retain its best shoppers and expand their purchases throughout the store.
"We are very pleased to extend our longtime partnership with ProLogic," said Tim Lowe, President of Lowes Foods. "ProLogic delivers great value to Lowes Foods with a powerful, flexible loyalty marketing platform that enables us to create and execute intelligent promotions. The Fresh Rewards program is a cornerstone of our relationship with our guests and has proven highly effective in helping us retain our top shoppers and increase their purchases."
For more information, click here. Or contact Lance Recker at email@example.com or at 561-454-7646.
...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• Employee-owned WinCo Foods said yesterday that it will donate close to a quarter-million dollars to 14 separate food banks in eight states where it operates - working out to $17,346 each, "providing potentially well more than 750,000 meals to populations in need." The food banks are in Idaho, Washington State, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas.
• Crain's Chicago Business reports that McDonald's "is testing a Sriracha Big Mac in 126 stores in central Ohio starting today, a possible prelude to a nationwide rollout." The burger is topped with its traditional "special sauce," but infused with Sriracha, a spicy Asian chili sauce.
The sauce, the story says, "also will be available a la carte for french fry and Chicken McNuggets dipping."
While my resistance to McDonald's charms have been oft stated here, I must admit that I'd be willing to try this. I love, love, love Sriracha, and it's been years since I've had a Big Mac ... so I'm curious.
• Mark Bittman, the influential former New York Times food writer who left the paper to work for Purple Carrot, the vegan meal kit startup, and then left the company a few months ago, has joined the faculty of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
GrubStreet reports that Bittman will "teach and advise students as well as work toward broadening the school’s focus on food. In a statement released by Columbia, Bittman emphasized the 'centrality' of food to issues, from 'climate change to the chronic disease crisis, and even poverty'."
Gwen Ifill, a veteran and highly respected Washington journalist who hosted "Washington Week" and co-anchored "PBS NewsHour" on public television, and prior to that covered government and politics for NBC News, the New York Times and the Washington Post, died yesterday after a brief battle with uterine cancer. She was 61.
People she worked with and covered yesterday remembered her not just as a fair and accomplished reporter, but also someone who mentored and advised young journalists throughout her career, especially women and people of color, helping them find their voice in a demanding and often cutthroat industry.
We had a discussion in this space yesterday about the new California plastic bag ban, in which one MNB reader argued passionately against it, and wrote that "it’s amazing that a state this large and diverse is held hostage by what folks in two major population centers; San Francisco and L.A. want…They rule the roost."
That's what major population centers do. It is called democracy.
To which one MNB user responded:
This law was imposed not by a reasonably-informed legislature but by a public vote. That's not representative "democracy," it's mob-rule.
This is a fair point. To be sure, the California system in which voters can get a referendum on pretty much anything can lead to institutional chaos, and create laws that are unworkable. But let's face it ... if the legislature had imposed the ban, and there had been no vote. there would've been someone writing to me saying that "the law was imposed by a bought-and-paid-for legislature out of touch with the needs of business and the electorate."
We had a piece yesterday about how Newman's Own is adjusting its marketing to compensate for the fact that millennials may have no understanding of the history and mission of the company, and may not even know who Paul Newman was.
Leading one MNB user to write:
Like Betty Crocker over the years, when will it be time for a new Paul Newman?
Sounds heretical to me.
Besides, there is a real difference. Betty Crocker is a fictional creation. Paul Newman was a real guy.
Yesterday's Eye-Opener was about the current political climate and how companies have to pick their way through the cultural and emotional minefield carefully.
One MNB reader responded:
I am one of the many that are concerned about the message my compatriots sent to our nation with their votes. I fear that open racial hostility is going to become more acceptable than it has been in decades.
Last night cemented my fear. I teach religious education in our parish, and it has always been a positive and compassionate spirit in there. Yesterday had a different tone though. One of our students told another to go back to Mexico. The kid he said it to is half Mexican, yet his father is a 25 year Army veteran who spent close to a decade in the Middle East fighting for our country. He's been shot at and rocked by explosions to keep this little brat's lifestyle safe. It both broke my heart and infuriated me. We have NEVER had any comments made like this in the program. I really hope this doesn't turn into the trend that I thinks it is going to.
From another reader:
Seriously, the only doom and gloom predictions are all in the heads of the reporter. The man hasn't even taken the oath and already the naysayers are out in force.
My mother use to tell us boys growing up..."always give people a chance...they may surprise you in the end.... and jumping to conclusions will always come back to haunt"
Mom always made sense of things. More than I can say for the liberal media!
We should trust the process...Don't you think?
No. Not always.
I'm a child of the late sixties and seventies. Trusting the process wasn't part of the program, which is why so many of us ended up on protest lines. To be honest, I wish I'd protested against Nixon more, not less.
But that's ancient history.
I think it is a mistake to ascribe all the unrest to the media, suggesting that journalists are ginning it up for their own purposes. I'd bet that the kid in that religious education class wasn't responding to media prodding. He was reflecting something that some people - and I emphasize the some - now think is appropriate.
To say the media is responsible for the unrest is as much a mistake as for Democrats to think that they could win an election without understanding the fears and appealing to the hopes of middle class Americans.
People with serious concerns deserve to be taken seriously. Not dismissed out of hand.
In Monday Night Football, the New York Giants defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 21-20.
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