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    Published on: May 2, 2013

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    I was interested to read a piece in the New York Times the other day about the public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, which has been around for more than 60 years and is now rebranding itself with a new logo and slogan: "The Power of True."

    The Times notes that "true" seems to be a common message for such firms these days. McCann Erickson Worldwide, the ad agency, has as its slogan "Truth Well Told." And the agency MediaVest uses as its calling card the phrase, "Truth and design."

    Now, I've worked in PR, and I know enough people who worked in the ad agency business to know that their campaigns often have very little to do with truth. Their goal is to sell stuff - an idea, a product, a service. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But truth? It ain't necessarily so, as the Gershwin song goes.

    But, these agencies are onto something in that in today's competitive climate, truth is the ultimate weapon. Truth, and transparency, and authenticity. (I'm talking real authenticity here, not the fabricated kind.)

    One of the things you get when you come to a city like Portland, which has such a strong food culture, is that feeling that things are real. A little rough around the edges, sometimes. But real. They get it. At least, most of them get it.

    In the food business, truth and transparency and accuracy and authenticity are not just tactics, not just words in a slogan. They are in fact, the core of what the food business should be about. Because it is right, because it is what the customer wants - or will want, and because technology makes it hard to hide anything over the long term. All good reasons. Choose which one is most important to you.

    It wasn't just the Gershwins who wrote a song called "It Ain't Necessarily So." Willie Nelson also did...and the song begins...

    You can break your eggs to count your chickens
    And you can break your neck to keep your ducks all in a row
    But don't think every chance you take
    Has to mean a new mistake
    It ain't necessarily so...

    Taking a chance on truth and accuracy and authenticity ain't necessarily a mistake.

    That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    by Michael Sansolo

    ORLANDO -- The intersection of personal and professional growth dominated the agenda at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Future Connect conference here for future retail leaders. In sessions throughout the day, attendees were treated to presentations and hands-on lessons in how to build career skills and personal goals to become better leaders for the future.

    Jack Groppel, the co-founder of the Human Performance Institute, kicked off the day with an energetic presentation on the challenges business leaders face in building a plan for success. Groppel, who also ran a breakout workshop later in the morning, talked about the confluence of personal and professional goals and even the importance of good personal habits, such as regular sleep, exercise and proper eating throughout the day.

    But the focus of his message was on leaders finding their true personal goals to power themselves to greater happiness and fulfillment both on and off the job. In his workshop he had the group outline specific areas of neglected growth and urged an active and committed response to those goals.

    Interestingly, the day ended with a general session featuring three business leaders sharing their secrets about how to reach the top. Andy Callahan, president of Hillshire Brands Company; Marnette Perry, senior vice president of Strategic Initiatives for Kroger; and Stacy Pugh, chief customer care officer at Coca-Cola Refreshments, all shared stories of business missteps and the lessons those incidents produced. Plus they detailed the benefits of mentoring (both giving and getting.)

    Other parts of the program included:

    • Four individual tracks for more focused learning. One session I attended challenged the group to work in teams to identify key capabilities necessary for the role of a store manager. The various groups focused on strategic management, technology, operations and industry collaboration.

    • A panel of key industry research firms - which together worked with FMI to provide the data for the research presented earlier in the program - took a deeper dive into those findings. Some of their key points involved how companies can get ahead of the coming competition with web-based grocers by pre-empting them in the market. They also focused on the importance of understanding the growing power of emerging demographic groups including Hispanics, Asians, young people and aging Boomers, and even the challenge of building in-store excitement.

    • Kroger chairman/CEO Dave Dillon again served as master of ceremonies and capped the day by reading Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Less Traveled,” as a point of challenge and inspiration to the group.

    In other news, the FMI board of directors voted this week to extend the terms of Harris Teeter CEO Fred Morgenthall, the current FMI chairman, and most of the rest of the board, by one year, in order to more efficiently and effectively implement FMI's new strategic plan. This is the first time in recent memory that such an extension has taken place.

    BTW ... Dillon also reminded me personally that in my MNB report yesterday, I overly shortened his story, told during the opening session, about the Boston Marathon. To make a point about how the bar of performance and competition is constantly improving, Dillon talked about how the winner of the original marathon ran a pace that would not qualify for the race today. As Dillon explained, the marathon was actually only 24.5 miles in the late 1800s, not the 26.2 mile-length usually run and still done so today.

    I failed to correctly report yesterday that while the winner of that first race posted a time fast enough for the current standard, he would have failed to do so had he run the current distance. (Dillon is a regular MNB reader and promised he’d be checking for this correction!)

    Dillon returned to his marathon story at the close of the day Wednesday reminding the crowd that they while have the choice to raise their own level of performance they need understand that the bar (of required performance) will be raised higher.

    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 by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Interesting piece in Advertising Age about JetBlue, which it said "jumped into the conversation about Jason Collins with posts on Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday thanking the NBA player for coming out." The Twitter post said, "Thanks Jason, today we're all on the same team."

    While there were a lot of people and organizations that applauded Collins for becoming the first active athlete in a major professional sport to publicly declare his homosexuality, the story notes that unlike Absolut, "which has long marketed to gay consumers and supported causes such as gay marriage," JetBlue, "an airline without a connection to the NBA or Mr. Collins, was trying too hard - stretching to turn a gay-rights moment into a marketing opportunity."

    It is a good and Eye-Opening point - that there is a thin line between being connected and being exploitive. Whether JetBlue crossed the line or not may be a matter of perception; it seems entirely possible that JetBlue could end up negotiating an endorsement deal with Collins, just as the general feeling seems to be that Collins, a journeyman basketball player, likely will have a lot more endorsement heat now that he has come out.

    It is worth thinking about. Part of the challenge and opportunity of instant communication is knowing what to say and when to say it, not to mention knowing how it will be perceived in the marketplace.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    MarketWatch reports that as Walmart looks to "gain ground" on's commanding lead in the e-commerce sector, it "is also hoping its global database of customer information will give it a better read on consumers. In the past 18 months, Wal-Mart has built or expanded three technology centers in San Bruno, California; Bangalore and Sao Paulo.  In the San Bruno and San Francisco Bay area, a 1,500-people global online commerce unit has been installed, separate from the corporate home base in Bentonville, Ark."

    The story says that "among some of its initiatives, Wal-Mart’s tech team will now constantly update its home page and search functions to make it easier and more interesting to shop. Over the next two days, for instance, in the U.S. is rolling out a new home page design that includes features that shows what’s trending on its site, including on a local store level.

    "While Wal-Mart is behind on the initiative compared to its retail counterparts such as Home Depot Inc. HD , the company this year also began to give credit to stores for online sales generated in their local area to encourage employees to help customers in stores find things online." And, MarketWatch writes, "The company’s team also developed a tool last year that will allow it to compare its prices online on a real time basis against its rivals and adjust instantly, compared to in the past when it wasn’t as frequent or had to be done manually."
    KC's View:
    Walmart should be totally unconcerned about whether its sales come from supercenters, traditional stores, Neighborhood Markets, Express stores or from its online store. It should just care about the sales being from Walmart, and at some level that seems to the culture that the company is trying to create.

    Easier said than done, though. As I've suggested here before, the company's long bricks-and-mortar legacy is almost genetically engineered to create antibodies that will fight off any threat to the supercenter business, and that's a hard thing to re-engineer. Or de-engineer.

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    Troubled retailer JC Penney, desperate to figure out what it has to do to make shoppers love it, has posted a new :30 commercial on YouTube and Facebook that apologizes for its recent marketing missteps. The ad, which features gauzy images of Americans in various settings, has the following voiceover:

    It's no secret. Recently JCPenney changed. Some changes you liked and some you didn't, but what matters from mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you. To hear what you need, to make your life more beautiful. Come back to JCPenney, we heard you. Now, we'd love to see you.

    JC Penney is trying to dig itself out of a situation that it created when, faced with declining and stagnant sales, it hired Apple Store veteran Ron Johnson to run the company. Johnson then looked to reorganize the stores into a group of boutiques and go from coupons and promotion-driven marketing to EDLP. When that resulted in plummeting sales, profits and traffic, the company fired Johnson and brought back the man he replaced, Myron Ullman III.
    KC's View:
    The more I think about it, the more I'm pretty sure that the board would have brought back James Cash Penney himself had he been available.

    If the ad had been honest, the voiceover would have gone like this...

    Oy. Did we screw up. It ends up that comparing the Apple Store to JC Penney is like comparing apples to manatees. And boy, have we become a retailing manatee. So here's the deal. We're going to send you coupons. And more coupons. We're going to have sales and more sales and more sales. And we'll pretty much do anything to create the illusion that we're relevant. Because America needs JC Penney. And more importantly, we need our jobs.

    And then, they'll break into song...

    What have I got to do to make you love me
    What have I got to do to make you care
    What do I do when lightning strikes me
    And I wake to find that you're not there...

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    The Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal reports that General Mills chairman/CEO Ken Powell has "restated his opposition to mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms, commonly called GMOs, at a conference in California Tuesday ... Powell said GMOs are safe and they're part of a solution to feeding the world's growing population."

    The story goes on:

    "He said he's not opposed to Whole Foods' policy because General Mills' organic brands -- such as Muir Glenn, Cascadian Farms, Larabar and Food Should Taste Good -- that it sells to Whole Foods are GMO free.

    "Powell said virtually every product in the grocery store contains GMOs, and he doesn't think it's a good idea to label those as having GMOs.

    "General Mills spent about $1 million lobbying with other food manufacturers to defeat a measure in California that would have required GMOs to be disclosed on food labels, according to the story. If such a rule was implemented on a state-by-state basis, it would cost consumers more because manufactures would have change how they manage their supply chains, Powell said."
    KC's View:
    I would agree that a state-by-state approach seems silly and inefficient. If there is to be a mandate, it should be national.

    Here would be my rejoinder to Powell...

    You are entitled to your opinion. But it may come to the point where your opinion won't matter, because events, public opinion and attitudes toward transparency may overtake you. The Whole Foods decision was a game-changer, and you may find that it will be simpler and more effective to just label everything. Because there may be organizations out there that will make your lack of labeling - and apparent lack of transparency - an issue.

    If you fight it now, you may find yourself on the defensive later. Not because you've done anything "wrong," but because when transparency was possible, you went the other way.

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    IGA USA yesterday said that it is launching a new marketing program for independent retailers that is designed to organize them into "a single marketing entity, leveraging their combined sales volume to increase individual store sales."

    IGA Performance Insights, the company said, "develops added-value shopper offers (called IGA Hometown Proud Offers) sponsored by a select group of the industry’s premier food manufacturers (called IGA Red Oval partners)." Participating IGA retailers are able to promote to shoppers (using digital and print promotional materials) a different IGA Hometown Proud Offer at their store each month, with "transaction data ... aggregated from each store to measure overall program impact and to report results of each IGA Hometown Proud Offer to the sponsor." Participating IGA retailers are then "reimbursed based on their individual sales performance."

    "In the end," says IGA CEO Mark Batenic, "working more closely together through this program will enable us to act as a virtual chain, bringing more value to all IGA members and more engagement with shoppers."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    The Boston Globe reports that "power of optimism"-fueled clothing-and-accessories company Life is good is partnering with JM Smucker Co. "to bring Life is good coffee to retailers throughout North America. Starting late this summer, flavors such as 'Light Hearted,' 'Happy Medium,' 'Dark & Daring,' 'S’more to Love' and 'Banana Bread Bliss' will be available at Life is good retail stores, Genuine Neighborhood Shops, grocery store chains, and on"

    The story notes that "while famous for its peanut butter and jelly, Smucker is also the largest US producer of packaged coffee. Life is good said the coffee will be UTZ Certified, a program that promotes sustainable farming, and 10 percent of profits will go to the Life is good Kids Foundation."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    The New York Times reports this morning "ever since a building with garment factories collapsed in Bangladesh last week, killing more than 400 people, Western apparel companies with ties to the country have scrambled to address public concerns about working conditions there.

    "Benetton repeatedly revised its accounts of goods produced at one of the factories, while officials at Gap, the Children’s Place and other retailers huddled to figure out how to improve conditions, and some debated whether to remain in Bangladesh at all."

    In fact, the Walt Disney Co. ordered an end to production of any of its licensed merchandise in Bangladesh back in March, and "the public disclosure of Disney’s directive came two days after officials from two dozen retailers and apparel companies, including Walmart, Gap, Carrefour and Li & Fung, met near Frankfurt with representatives from the German government and nongovernment organizations to try to negotiate a plan to ensure safety at the more than 4,000 garment factories in Bangladesh."
    KC's View:
    As suggested here on MNB earlier this week, companies can no longer deny the implications and repercussions of a global supply chain that exploits people in foreign countries so people in the US can have cheap goods.

    And this piece is worth reading here.

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    Marketing Daily reports on a study from NPD saying that what moms really want for Mother's Day are a handmade gift from their child, a day off, a spa day, with very few saying they'd like breakfast in bed. However, studies also say that what moms are going to get for Mother's Day are electronics and jewelry, followed by a meal out, flowers and gift cards ... with 29 percent of purchasers planning to make those acquisitions online.

    • The Chefs' Warehouse, Inc., a distributor of specialty food products in the United States, today announced that it has acquired all of the equity interests of Qzina Specialty Foods North America Inc., which is a manufacturer of gourmet chocolate, dessert and pastry products for baking professionals. Cost of the deal was said to be about $32.7 million.

    • Acosta Sales & Marketing announced yesterday its acquisition of four foodservice agencies: AFM in Florida, AFM Pegasus in Georgia, AFM Harvest in the Carolinas, and ACM representing the domestic and overseas military channels. These organizations, the company said, "will integrate with Acosta’s rapidly growing foodservice division and will extend the coverage of the company’s sales and marketing services in the Southeast."

    • The NRF Foundation, the careers and education division of the National Retail Federation, announced the launch of its new Retail Insight Center, a website that it says is "designed to serve as a resource for researching industry, government, economic and consumer trends within the retail industry ... This new website will feature analysis and highlights of NRF’s consumer spending surveys, key government indicators that relate to the economy, retail and employment, and other unique datasets surrounding retail companies, purchasing influencers and economic trends."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2013

    ...will return. I promise.
    KC's View: