Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shrinkage

Blink:
I was not surprised when I read that Technomic Inc. reported their findings of a new survey that indicated consumers are wary of higher food prices and smaller portions. Specifically, 50 percent noticed smaller supermarket portions. Consequently, I decided to draft my own shrinkage list.

Read On:
I will begin with items I bought recently at the supermarket:

• Milano cookies from Pepperidge Farm on sale for $2.49. No wonder, there were only two sleeves instead of the normal three.
• A can of coffee to pair with the cookies. Opened it to find out it was only three quarters- full.
• Loaves of bread.
• The size of English muffins.
• Salad bags.
• Soap bars.

All others:

• The length of a college school year.
• Vacation time.
• Travel agents.
• The size of airplane seats.
• Smart Cars.
• Gasoline station attendants (the only place I have encountered them this past year were NJ and Oregon).
• Independents – book stores, restaurants, pharmacies, shoe repair stores, etc.
• Daily newspapers.
• Paper towels in restrooms.
• Christmas cards.
• Birthday cards.
• Civility.

Do you have any shrinkage items you would like to add to the above list?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Wide Gap

Blink:

Recent headline: Jobs Data Brighten U.S. Economic Outlook. The Labor Department reported 244,000 jobs were added in April, above expectations given March’s gain (221,000), but unemployment crept up to 9.0% from 8.8%. I am confused, especially when I examine the disparity in corporate compensation (a.k.a. The Wide Gap).

Read On:

Occupants of the corner offices are rolling in dough again. After experiencing shrinkage during the recession, according to a study of 200 major companies conducted for the New York Times by a compensation consulting firm, the median pay for the top executives was $9.6 million. This represents a 12 percent increase over 2009 for chief executives. Actually, U.S. businesses are swimming in cash which I first addressed in my January post Shift Happens. In the fourth quarter of 2010 profits were up 29.2 percent, the fastest growth in 60 years – U.S. businesses reported profit at an annual rate of $1.68 trillion.

Consequently why the paradox? The recovery has not trickled down. Unemployment remains high and those that are gainfully employed are still struggling to hang on to their homes and jobs. Recent efforts under the Dodd-Frank financial regulations that empower shareholders has done little to curtail top executive compensation. Leading analysts doubt we will witness any major changes in the near future during proxy season as long as the market continues to perform.

I understand that executives of the corner offices assume the burden of responsibility for making their company successful for their employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers, etc. However, recently I learned that the IPS (Institute for Policy Studies) reported that leading corporations pay their top executives 300 plus times more than what the average American earns. I remember reading Peter Drucker, the father of modern management science indicating that companies should not compensate at more than 20 to 25 times what their workers receive. He believed that widening the gap beyond that would make it difficult to foster the teamwork needed to make a company successful. A controversial stance, but he firmly believed corporate leaders should do what is right for their enterprise first, not for their shareholders alone, and certainly not for themselves. To quote Drucker: “When CEOs pocket huge sums while laying off workers, that kind of action is morally unforgiveable.”

The reality is executive pay packages are soaring and we will continue to experience the Wide Gap. This morning’s query: If we were to put a ceiling on the corner office compensation, say 50 times, twice the rate Drucker proposed, how many more jobs could efficiently be added into the system? What do you think?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gamification USA

Blink:

I walked out my door Saturday morning to a frenzy of Millennials running around Independence National Historical Park in their best campers’ attire with their smartphones surgically attached to their hands. Immediately I realized I was witnessing the Gamification of USA.

Read On:

What is gamification? In a nutshell it is the combination of engagement science and game mechanics. As a result, it helps simplifies the processes necessary to obtain personal achievement, as well as improve relationships between constituents and their community. Are you confused yet? Am I talking about participating in Little League baseball or getting together with a bunch of friends to play a good game of Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble? No, I am sharing a new marketing strategy devised by Silicon Valley and Alley. The technology companies are looking at leveraging markets, networks and communities by capitalizing on the competitive nature of consumers and rewarding them with prizes – check-ins to become a “mayor”, loyalty awards, discounts, etc. Technology (web and more importantly mobile sites) facilitates gamifaction and engagement in the form of a game for tasks that are otherwise perceived boring like chores, shopping, surveys or reading websites.

Are you still confused? I am confident most of my readership has heard of or uses Foursquare or better yet Facebook Places. Both are primary examples of gamification. A relatively new player is SCVNGR, a social location-based gaming platform for mobile phones complete with challenges and rewards for their players. Back in March, they partnered nationwide with high-end retailer Neiman Marcus. Imagine winning enough challenges and being rewarded with a $2,500 shopping spree.

So what was happening outside my front door Saturday? A scavenger hunt called The Ultimate Old City Adventure. The hunt was organized by CityHunt whose mission is to make the universe a better place one scavenger hunt at a time, thus inspire people to build great relationships and learn how to have fun together. Founded in 2000, the company will organize public or private (e.g., birthday parties, corporate team building, etc.) hunts.

Is gamification a passing fad or an upcoming trend? I predict a trend given that I just read that the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation will be investing $20 million to develop innovative digital and game based learning tools complete with social networking capabilities for US kids. Fun is our future as we master gamification. A topic for another day since I need to head out now to my local Starbucks to check-in and see where I am on the leader board to be the next “mayor” at 8th and Walnut. Oh yes, I also want to start working on my next business concept while I enjoy my Cocoa Cappuccino – My Sandbox, a new social location-based mobile game.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

RAGD

Blink:

Do you know your carbon footprint? Better yet, for those reading this post that own dogs, do you know your pup’s waste pawprint? With over 77 million dogs in U.S. households, I recently discovered the RAGD site – Raise a Green Dog.

Read On:

One topic I have explored in the past has been America’s passion for pets, specifically dogs. Consequently, I take time out on a regular basis to find out what is going on out there in Pets USA. Yesterday’s search yielded Raise a Green Dog (RAGD), a site that addresses eco-friendly advice and products of how your dog can live the healthiest, happiest and longest life possible. Click away and you will find everything from dog products, food, clothing, grooming & cleanup, etc. In addition the site addresses the 3-R’s process – reduce, reuse and recycle when it comes to pet care. 3-R suggestions: When buying products for your dogs take into consideration the amount of packaging associated with the product. If you are looking to buy a new collar or leash, donate the old one to a local rescue or shelter.

Heads Up: Leslie May, RADG’s founder will be featured in the upcoming May 2011 issue of Dog Fancy’s Natural Dog. The article entitled “Reduce Your Dog’s Waste Pawprint” addresses how to dispose of your dog’s #2 (a.k.a. dog doo, dog poo, etc.) in the most eco-friendly way possible. An area of focus in the article is the use of biodegradable bags in waste removal.

My closing thought: I know you can google and find numerous carbon footprint calculators. You can even google and find a carbon paw-print calculator for your dog’s air or car travel. However, I finally uncovered that there is one thing you cannot find on google – a dog waste pawprint calculator. Sounds like a business opportunity, given there are over 77 million dogs in America. What do you think?