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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

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Kate’s Take: Emoji Emotion

by Kate McMahon

Never mind, “Where’s the beef.” The culinary conundrum currently lighting up the internet is, “Where’s the cheese?” Or more specifically, “Where is the cheese placed in the burger emoji?”

The buns and brickbats began flying when Danish author Thomas Baekdal posted this simple tweet:

“I think we need to have a discussion about how Google's burger emoji is placing the cheese underneath the burger, while Apple puts it on top.”

What erupted on Twitter was not a discussion but rather a full-throated debate on how to stack the burger, cheese, lettuce and tomato. Culinary directors at burger meccas such as Shake Shack and Sonic Burger and thousands of civilian foodies all rallied behind the cheese topping the meat patty.

This post was typical:

“What kind of monster puts the cheese on the bottom?” (Real-world answer: McDonald’s Big Mac.)

Even Google CEO Sundar Pichai entered the fray, tweeting:

“Will drop everything else we are doing and address on Monday:)
if folks can agree on the correct way to do this!”


Agreement on the internet? Good luck with that. It’s similar to reaching consensus on whether the toilet paper roll should be placed in the over or under position, a topic that the legendary advice columnist Ann Landers called one of her most vexing controversies.

Beyond the cheese, many Twitter users were worked up about the lettuce and tomato placement, particularly Apple’s placement of the lettuce on the bottom.

The folks at emojipedia.org, the online compendium of all things emoji, conducted a poll to determine the preferred order. The consensus: the correct top-to-bottom order was salad, cheese then meat. The emojis from Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter come closest to that order.

While debate over cheese placement in emojis may sound frivolous, the growing impact of the emoji in social media is not. Research has shown that the use of the digital pictographs to convey emotion and feeling and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even email is skyrocketing.

The media analysts service Socialbakers conducted a survey that found 59% of the 500 selected top brands used emoji in their tweets, and 40% include emojis on Facebook.

Appboy, a mobile marketing service, found the number of emoji advertising campaigns increased by 777% from 2015 to 2016 and has shown no signs of slowing down.

It also reported on other research which found that 92% of people online use emojis, that some 62% of the users are over 35, and women employed emojis more frequently than men.

What does this mean for retailers, marketers and service providers? It’s simple – learn how to effectively use emojis in marketing efforts and subject lines.

Domino’s pizza is consistently touted as a prime example with its Easy Order app, which allows mobile users to simple send the pizza emoji to initiate an order. (I tried and it works).

Other notables include Chevrolet’s move to announce the 2016 Cruze with an all-emoji press release, the World Wildlife Foundation’s use of emojis to highlight endangered species, and Taco Bell’s successful lobbying campaign to have the taco emoji added to the official Unicode Consortium of emojis.

For most marketers, it is more about using emojis to quickly convey your message amid a slew of subject lines. Research by Appboy found that individuals frequently use face emojis - including “tears of joy” which was named the Oxford Dictionary 2015 Word of the Year – to express how they are feeling.

Brands, however, tend to use more eye-catching emojis such as a thumbs-up, a money bag with a dollar sign or a party-popper, and those that evoke emotional responses.

For anyone, understanding the meaning of each emoji is also critical, or the user risks losing credibility.

While there has not yet been a move by Google to change its burger emoji, a Google office in Seattle last Friday appears to be holding the line and served its employees an Android Burger, with the cheese below the patty.

I’m not sure what all the fuss us about. It seems pretty clear to me that the cheese must be melted on top of the patty, topped by lettuce and ketchup (or the special sauces at In-N-Out or Shake Shack, my two all-time faves). I, for one, do not think mushy tomato adds anything to a great burger.

I checked with the Content Guy, and he disagrees - he feels strongly that a great burger needs a slice of tomato, but that it should rest underneath the burger patty, lest it conflict directly with the Heinz 57 or Sriracha Ketchup that he prefers. (He also thinks grilled onions are critical to the experience, but that takes us down a different path.)

The debate will go on, no doubt, until something else comes along to capture social media’s rapt attention.


Comments? Burger preferences? As always, send them to me at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .

Instacart Sees Amazon’s Whole Foods Move As Opportunity

The Street has a story about Instacart, quoting Dacyl Armendariz, the company’s head of communications, as saying that when Amazon bought Whole Foods, it was a “wake-up call to the grocery industry," persuading those who were resistant that they need an e-commerce solution. “It was an incredible opportunity for us,” he says.

Armendariz suggests that rather than being acquired by another company, something that has been broadly speculated about, Instacart is focused on expanding its footprint around the country.

“Instacart still maintains its relationship with Whole Foods,” the story says. “It accounts for just under 10% of Instacart's total revenue. According to Armendariz, Amazon's ownership has not yet become a conflict of interest.

“So far, the e-commerce behemoth has not launched a major delivery program with Whole Foods. In fact, it cancelled its existing grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh, in a number of zip codes.”

KC's View: One example of the expansion Kroger-owned Ralphs Grocery Co. in Southern California announced that it will run a pilot with Instacart in select locations. This is sort of interesting, since Kroger has been testing a number of e-commerce models, including its own ClickList and Harris Teeter Express Lane click-and-collect models, as well as partnerships with the likes of Shipt, deliv, Roadie, Uber, and others. Now, there’s Instacart.

Let’s get past my basic skepticism about Instacart and the other outsourcing delivery models for a moment. I still think that it is a potential mistake to outsource an important part of the customer experience to companies that also are delivering for the competition, but that’s not the point I want to make here.

I guess my question is - and I ask it knowing that the folks at Kroger are a lot smarter than I am, and have done just fine without listening to me - whether it is time for Kroger to make a commitment. I’ve had people tell me, for example, that the Harris Teeter model is the best version of e-commerce in the Kroger system … but I’m not sure why they don’t scale it up.

I like flexibility and lots of options in most situations, but I guess I’m just wondering if at this point having too many options and too many systems prevents Kroger from being as fast and decisive as they need to be in order to do battle with Amazon and Walmart/Jet.

Just askin’…

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Walmart Pay Turns Into Big Success For Retailer

Bloomberg reports that Walmart Pay - a smartphone-based payment system developed by the retailer as an alternative to Apple Pay - “is close to surpassing Apple Pay in usage for mobile payments in the US … Some 5.1 percent of Wal-Mart shoppers said they used Walmart Pay in June, compared with 5.5 percent of iPhone users at stores that accept Apple Pay, which launched more than a year earlier, according to a survey by Pymnts.com and InfoScout. Walmart Pay’s rate of adoption is higher than Samsung Pay and Android Pay combined, the survey found.”

The story goes on: “Available in 4,774 stores, Walmart Pay is enrolling tens of thousands of new users a day, up from thousands four or five months ago, said Daniel Eckert, who runs the business. Two-thirds of the customers who try it also use it a second time within 21 days, he said, giving him confidence Walmart Pay will surpass Apple Pay in the U.S. in terms of use by shoppers in stores where they’re accepted.”

At current rates, Bloomberg writes, Walmart expects its payment system to pass Apple Pay in terms of active users sometime next year.

Bloomberg notes that “Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer rejecting Apple Pay, which requires merchants to have the right hardware at checkout. Since it rolled out in 2014, Apple has attracted retailers including Best Buy Co., Macy’s Inc. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. Apple doesn’t track individual consumers’ transactions, which makes some merchants reluctant to use it.”

KC's View: If one of the things that Walmart Pay allows the retailer to do is a better job of tracking consumer behavior - which then allows it to target specific consumers both in-store and via the various e-commerce initiatives it is developing with Jet - then this could end up being a powerful weapon.

For Costco, C’est La Vie

Bloomberg has a terrific story about Costco’s first store in France, about a half-hour south of Paris, which brings the American membership club store right into the heart of some extremely tough competition.

“The stakes are high for Costco,” the story says, because global expansion is seen as a way of continuing to drive growth. “Its U.S. customers are shopping less frequently as they get older, new locations are cannibalizing existing ones, and the younger set is spending more online.”

While in some ways France is a natural for Costco - it is the home of the hypermarket, and the French are among the biggest retail spenders in Europe - it also has required some adjustments by Costco, which has had to focus more there on higher quality items. At the same time, “the 500 billion-euro French retail market is crowded and cutthroat. A half-dozen companies control most of it, and they’ve spent the past decade engaged in a brutal price war. German discounters Aldi and Lidl have elbowed in, too, luring penny pinchers.”

But so far, some local shoppers seem to like what they’ve found at Costco - its commitment to low margins and prices remains, and a recent survey showed its prices to be 21 percent cheaper than a nearby Carrefour.

Costco management has said it plans to have a dozen or so Costco locations scattered around France eventually.

KC's View: French retailers like Carrefour and Auchan failed when they came to the US because they were determined to teach American consumers how to shop like the French. (This isn’t hyperbole. This is what one member of their management team told me…right before he kicked me out of their store.)

It sounds like Costco isn’t making this mistake in reverse … the experience may have its roots in America, but it is making enough adjustments to avoid seeming like an ugly American company. And that huge price advantage probably helps, too.

Target To Close 12 Stores

CNBC reports that Target will close 12 stores - in Michigan, Florida, Illinois and Texas - on February 3, 2018.

The decision was made after “several years of decreasing profitability” at the units.

At the same time, Target is focusing on remodeling existing - and, presumably, profitable - stores, as well as opening more than two dozen small-format units that it says are more profitable than big-box units.

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Meal Kits Seek New Ad-Vintage

Bloomberg reports that a number of meal kit companies, seeking ways to differentiate themselves and create stronger bonds with their customers, are turning to wine - delivered with the meal kits - as a potential advantage.

Blue Apron, the story says, “added bottles to its mix two years ago, partly because customers asked for it and partly to woo them back when they dropped out.” (Customer retention continues to be a problem for Blue Apron, however.) And Hello Fresh began offering wine in the US last May.

Bloomberg goes on: “Expect more meal-kit companies to pile on. All-organic Sun Basket says vino offerings are part of its future strategy. Martha Stewart’s meal kit, Martha & Marley Spoon, is cross-promoting with Martha’s new wine website for bottles to go with the $160 complete Thanksgiving feast box.”

The programs are said to still be in their infancy, however, largely because of “current alcohol regulations, which vary from state to state.”

KC's View: If the wine is good, and these meal kit companies can be seen as educating the consumer about wine in the same way they are educating people about cooking, then this sounds like it makes a lot of sense. I would think that a company like Albertsons, with its acquisition of Plated, would be ideally positioned to do this - with both beer and wine - in markets where the regulations allow.

The MNB Walmart Watch

Bloomberg reports that Walmart again is facing a gender discrimination class action suit filed by female employees who say they faced gender discrimination while working for the company, including being denied promotion opportunities and being paid less than men for similar jobs.

The suit focuses on transgressions that are alleged to have taken place in the southeastern US.

The story notes that this suit is a subset of one that was filed in 2001, but that the US Supreme Court ruled in 2011 could not proceed as a class action; that suit represented 1.6 million female employees, which the court said was too big a class.

This new suit is designed to make the class more manageable, but Walmart said in statement that it “is no more appropriate than the nationwide class the Supreme Court has already rejected. These claims are unsuitable for class treatment because the situations of each individual are so different, and because the claims are not representative of the hundreds of thousands of women who work at Wal-Mart.”

KC's View: I always thought that the SCOTUS declassification of the class action suit was sort of a shame, mostly because the women had more of a chance to make their case when they were united. Separated out, they were fighting a behemoth, and it was a lot tougher.

I know that this was Walmart’s goal, and I’m sure it all was legal. Just a shame, and maybe not in the best interests of justice.

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E-conomy Beat

TechCrunch< reports that “Amazon Cash, the service that lets consumers add cash to their Amazon.com balance at brick-and-mortar retailers, is now available at nearly 8,000 7-Eleven convenience stores, the companies announced today. That’s a significant expansion for Amazon Cash, which was previously available at retailers like CVS, Speedway and GameStop, along with a handful of other supermarket chains and convenience stores.”

Amazon Cash is aimed at better serving what are called “under-banked” and “un-banked” shoppers - a group targeted by chief rival Walmart.

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FastNewsBeat

Business Insider has a story about how a number of supermarket chains were negatively affected in terms of share price by Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. Sprouts Farmers Market was one of them, and it watched its share price drop more than 17 percent in three days.

But … “the company isn't standing still,” the story says. “It reported its third-quarter earnings on Thursday, and beat Wall Street's expectations for earnings and revenue by a wide margin.” Indeed, the story says that one analysts observed that “the company's produce, low prices, and ability to convert the occasional shopper into a regular is driving growth at the company, and he reiterated the importance of those strengths after the company's report,” saying that “Sprouts is one of the best-positioned grocers right now.”

RIP

Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher and eight-time All Star with a lifetime 203-105 record and 3.38 ERA during his 16 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, died yesterday when the single engine plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40.

Halladay perhaps was most noted for having thrown a perfect game during the 2010 season for the Phillies, and then became only the second pitcher in history (Don Larsen was the first) to throw a no-hitter in the postseason, against the Cincinnati Reds.

Your Views

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