Monday, December 28, 2009

Brevity Works

Brevity (noun): shortness of duration; shortness or conciseness of expression.

Read On:

· Got Milk?

· Just Do It.

· “Don’t leave home without it.”

· twitter – fastest growing social networking service via 140 character posts within a community of 55 million plus (last Nielson count).

· President Obama’s campaign mantra in 2008 – Hope & Change (Change We Need).

· Google’s Mission – Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

· Madonna.

· Unfriending.

· This blog.

Brevity Works!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beds of Nails

Chiropractor wannabes need to reconsider their future career goals in recognition of the contemporary Swedish variation of the traditional Hindu bed of nails. Before long, the Stockholm Christmas fad will spread to the States, further validating the “Diffusion of Innovations” theory.

Read On:
Swedish nail mats; a foam rubber pad embedded with hard plastic disks with sharp little spikes were first used by the yoga community in Sweden before it was accepted by the general population. Back in August, one of the largest manufacturers of the nail mats organized an event in a Stockholm park. Approximately 3,000 people showed-up, sitting or lying down on the mats. A majority of the people chanted or sang mantras while the rest slept. The event publicized the benefits of the mats, specifically as a cure for back ailments, relief from migraines and sleep problems. Boom, the bed of nails fad was born.

The origins of the “Diffusion of Innovations” theory vary, but were popularized by sociologist Everett Rogers back in the 60’s. In English, the diffusion model is an academic approach of statistically charting how innovative ideas or products spread through society. Diffusion researchers have charted five groups:

Innovators, the adventurous ones are the first individuals to adopt – in this case Sweden’s yoga community.

Early Adopters are the second group, larger in numbers, habitually informed opinion leaders. In Sweden, it was Susanna Lindelőw, a 46 year old woman who cured her lower back problems when she bought a mail order mat made in Russia. Consequently, in 2005 she started a company called Cura Comp and began manufacturing mats.

Early Majority, the third grouping according to the diffusion model, is slower in the adoption process. These individuals are now responsible for driving sales of approximately a dozen different brands being sold this Christmas in Sweden’s fitness stores and over the Internet.
Ikea has yet to jump on the bandwagon. When they do, they will most probably capitalize on the tail end of the Early Majority, as well as the fourth and fifth groups, those individuals that are slower and more adverse to change, the Late Majority and the Laggards.

So why should chiropractor wannabes reconsider their future career goals in the United States? Two reasons:

1.) Real simple – I guarantee that some well informed innovators, who are probably into yoga, read the same New York Times article I read back in November. Soon they will buy the mats over the Internet and begin spreading the word.

2.) The Swedish mats were first manufactured in Sweden and India. No surprise, China is now capitalizing on the fad and manufacturing low cost mats.

Personally, I am an Innovator, but I will be a Laggard when it comes to a bed of nails. My back is just fine. Besides, I prefer Advil.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Orchestrated Chaos

Have we become victims of the tyranny of technology?

Read On:
I was thumbing through the pages of my latest issue of Wired, when I became fixated on all the new mobile gear (a.k.a. gizmos) being marketed this holiday season. A netbook with 1 GB of RAM, 160-GB hard drive, 1.3-MP webcam, complete with a battery that lasts nine hours. Lightweight Bluetooth headphones with trouble-free call accept and in the words of the reviewer: “Awesome li-ion battery life – we got around six hours.” A self contained WiFi router (a.k.a. Portable Hot Spot), the same size of a stack of ten credit cards that fits in your pocket that can convert a 3G cellular signal into WiFi. Pages of 3G cellular phone ads all fighting for market share.

Detailed below are some of the things I began to think about after reviewing the new mobile gear:

1.) How many “Wired Road Warriors” will I encounter as I traverse around the country for my business in 2010? Will those I do encounter at least leave their gear in their rooms when they go out to dinner and socialize?

2.) Will all these devices mean that my communications will be returned on a timely/real time basis? Will I no longer receive out of the office, limited access to email messages?

3.) If everyone is wired, will I be able to connect my former way with the individual next to me on an airplane, in a waiting area during a flight delay, on a rental car bus, etc.? Something that personally resonates for me, given I got my job with the Quaker Oats Company in 1985 by sitting next to one of their key executives on a flight from New York to Chicago.

My query could go on, but the battery in my Dell computer is low. Therefore, I will conclude with one last thought. Are we wired to handle all this technology, thus become more productive or all our activity equates to orchestrated chaos?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks (born November 30, 1912) was an innovative African American. Best remembered for his Life magazine photo essays, journalist/activist, part-time musician and an early contributor to the Blaxploitation genre ( thus the first African American to write, direct and score a Hollywood film.

Read On:
Personally, Gordon Parks was one of my favorite 20th century photographers. I remember reading that he was asked to join the Black Panthers back in the 60’s. He refused and stated that he was not going to join a political group, but would make his political statements through the lens of his camera. I was saddened when he passed away in March of 2006. I read his obituary in the New York Times – what a life! The obituary also detailed his four secrets of being an authentic Renaissance Man. Sound advice for future leaders:

· Work Hard

· Challenge Conventional Wisdom

· Create

· Persevere

For you film trivia buffs, the original Shaft was the movie he directed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lessons from Airwalk

Airwalk, a board sport footwear company founded by two entrepreneurs out of California in 1986, capitalized on clever advertising to spread the buzz and build a formable, trendy brand during the evolution of board sports culture. Then in 1996, after great success, it decided to go mainstream.

Read On:
In the beginning, Airwalk’s core market was teenagers that embraced the beach and skate culture of Southern California. They marketed canvas shoes in bright colors and then a more durable skate shoe with thick soles and cushions. They sponsored professional skateboarders and developed a cult following – Airwalk was cool. In 1993, after building a small, comfortable $16 million company, they decided to target all the extreme sport enthusiasts: surfers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, etc. The company implemented a buzz marketing campaign where they placed dramatic photographic images/ads of Airwalk fans on billboards and postings on construction-site walls, utilized alternative magazines, even worked to get alternative rock bands to sport their footwear. Subsequently, they implemented a clever TV advertising campaign that incorporated the culture cues that innovators were exhibiting around the country as it related to the music, clothing and television. Boom, by 1996 their sales peaked to $175 million. Crash, in 1997, their sales faltered. Why? Two reasons:

1.) The classic case of a company growing too fast and not having the proper infrastructure in place similar to a case study I presented last December about Jones Soda in Show Me the Buzz Specifically, they experienced production problems, thus had difficulty filling their orders.

2.) Airwalk’s original strategy was to sell their products to their “cool” innovator customers distributed via boutique extreme sports stores around the country, an exclusive, more upscale product line, signature items retailing for $80 and up. Exclusivity is a proven marketing strategy since it makes everyone feel special Instead of sticking with their original strategy, Airwalk in its quest to expand their overall sales, also attempted to retail a line of less elaborate shoes for $60 distributed to Kinney’s, Champ’s, Foot Locker for the mainstream consumer.

Summarizing Lee Smith’s thoughts, their President at the time:
“In the world of cool, it all works on word of mouth. Cool brands treat people well, we didn’t. We should have paid attention to the details and listened to our innovators who began telling us, you guys are sellouts, you guys went mainstream, you guys s**k.”

Key Learning: Respect you niche.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Starbucks VIA™

Back in March, I addressed the introduction of Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew: I promised a progress report.

Read On:
The launch of VIA™ back in March marked a strategy by Starbucks to shift away from cost cutting and launch new products in an attempt to further reverse their revenue and earnings decline. VIA™ first appeared in Seattle and Chicago, but then rolled national this past September, complete with their clever buzz marketing campaign Starbucks Via taste tour:
In early November, Starbucks announced a strategic alliance with Acosta Sales & Marketing Company that will facilitate distribution of VIA™ to convenience, grocery and drug stores next year in the company’s quest to capture its share of the $21 billion soluble global coffee market. In Howard Schultz’s words; “The future of the company is not based solely on cost takeouts. It’s based on innovation and the emotional connection and trust we have with our customers.”

As of last week, Schultz’s blueprint called the “Transformational Agenda” has been working. Their stock tripled from a 52 week-low to $21.76 on the news of a strong quarter and a bullish outlook. Two contributing factors being improved store operational processes and an aggressive social media campaign which resulted in Starbucks being the number one brand on Facebook and Twitter.

VIA™ in its initial launch phase has outperformed its test plan. In spite of these results, it is too early to evaluate whether Starbucks instant coffee strategy will be effective long-term. Again I will go on record. Back in March, I suggested that instant coffee was too mainstream. As a result, Starbucks would lose its aura of an Italian espresso bar, the original emotional connection and trust it created with its guests. To further corroborate my point, in my next blog, Lessons from Airwalk, I will address how a brand can decline long-term when it decides to go mainstream.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Instant USA

I was eating my instant oatmeal this morning (a.k.a. wallpaper paste), when I realized America has totally transformed into an instant gratification, real time society. Made me think about a great blog I read yesterday written by my good friend, fellow blogger, Tom Rector about the absence of long term thinking (

Read On:
Instant USA – We are caught up in a tidal wave of convenience foods (frozen, shelf stable – a majority being microwaveable), fast foods restaurants (complete with drive thru windows), text messages, Twitter, Foursquare, Loopt, YouTube, Flickr, speed dating, speed networking, Ponzi schemes, etc.

In The 29th Day, the blog I referenced above, Tom alluded to how American corporations, primarily those that are publicly-owned, focus on the short-term versus the long-term. Instead he encourages companies to steal a page from Ford’s recent turnaround. In addition to reorganizing (and reduce) their plants and workforce, Ford redoubled their research, design and marketing efforts to build products that better fit the marketplace long-term.

I too support and continually promote the need for more long-term strategic planning and investment, a topic I addressed back in September: A Lesson from Charlie

In my next blog, I will address how Starbucks in an attempt to further reverse their recent revenue and earnings decline, introduced an instant coffee. I have my reservations whether this is a sound long-term strategy. However, sounds like a great short-term co-promotion: Quaker Instant Oatmeal and Starbucks VIA™.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Speed Networking

In my blog titled ATP posted November 1st (,
I disclosed that when it comes to networking, I subscribe to the philosophy of going deep versus wide. Consequently, I had the curiosity to attend my first speed networking event in Philadelphia last night to learn more about this new phenomenon.

Read On:
Speed networking is a structured event where professionals can meet a large number of people in a relatively short period of time (usually less than five minutes per attendee interaction). Detailed below are some of the benefits:

Reach a larger audience.
2. Connect with like minded professionals.
3. Exponentially expand your relationship capital.

Key learning last night:



Scary stuff. My apologies, I could not resist since I am posting on Friday the 13th. Seriously, the speed networking event reminded me of the times I played musical chairs when I was a kid. I believe I will stay with my philosophy of going deep versus wide.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Good Thinking

Innovation is essentially about making unexpected connections between things (looking for new places to make connections). Good thinking!

Read On:
Thanks to today’s current economic environment, innovation is the hot topic. Every industry is pushing their people to be innovative, think of new processes, products or services to compete on the cutting edge. Companies are searching for that “Big” break through, the guaranteed home run. This way of thinking was challenged in a great article written in Fast Company back in 2007 by Seth Godin ( The article titled “Slowly I Turned…Step by Step….Inch by Inch…” advocated the benefit of gradual change. In Godin’s words: “Every great company, every great brand, and every great career has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little. If every element of an organization gets a little better every day, then that organization will become unstoppable. An organization that builds that kind of momentum will soon evolve into a market leader.”

Sometimes small can be big. Last week in Chicago, I witnessed innovation at its best at the Hotel Allegro. When I checked into my room there was a card for me to fill out – “Let US Print Your Boarding Pass! Guests that drop off their completed card at the front desk 24 hours before departure receive their printed boarding pass delivered to their room three hours before or by noon the day of their flight (whichever comes first). Good thinking Kimpton Hotels! Convenience spelled with a capital “C” for all your loyal “road warriors”.

Remember, innovation is all about making unexpected connections between things.

FYI: Monday night I met Emanuel Rosen, author of The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited, the sequel to his national best seller, The Anatomy of Buzz (
Interesting dinner! I have now added a link to Emanuel’s blog under suggested reading in the upper left hand margin.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


LinkedIn, launched in 2003 with more than 50 million worldwide business-oriented registered users; has evolved into a great contact management tool. Thanks to connections, people can find jobs or business opportunities. However, people have become too reliant on LinkedIn.

Read On:
Back in May, in a blog titled 148.7, I challenged the authenticity of social media connections (
Robin Dunbar a British anthropologist researched primate groups to predict human behavior. He theorized that communication and behavior attributed to direct connections remained under control at 150. Meltdown occurred above 150. Weekly I field LinkedIn invitations. I notice that numerous people have 150 plus connections. Personally I believe in Dunbar’s theory, thus subscribe to the philosophy of going deep vs. wide when it comes to networking. Consequently, pre-dating social media I developed some personalized networking tactics to deeply connect with my connections. I call these tactics ATP – “Authenticity Touch Points." Here are some ATP tips:

1. When in direct dialogue with an individual drill down by asking numerous questions, listen and remember something personally unique about that individual – familial situation, educational background, special interest, etc. In later communications (e.g., direct conversations, email, etc.), reference what you remembered.

2. Position yourself as a Maven; a title given to an individual who is willing to share knowledge. Continually seed your connections with information that will be of interest to them. For example, if you read an article in a magazine or online about California wines, think of whom in your network would be interested in the article, then make it a point to forward the article with a reference – thinking of you.

3. Handwritten notes. In this Internet age, break through the clutter with a handwritten note delivered via snail mail. A thank you note acknowledging a dinner, a gift, etc. communicates the value of being a friend. Notes attached to articles or funny cartoons have always been effective for me. Top of the list are birthday cards.

4. Never waste a networking opportunity when traveling. Going to be in Chicago? Reach out to a connection to meet for a cup of coffee, a drink or a meal.

A little ATP in conjunction with LinkedIn is a great way to truly be/stay connected.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Big Black Hole

It’s Friday morning and you are probably asking yourself; wow, how did my week evaporate? The other day, I was sorting through some old papers and came across a survey I once read that was taken amongst ten thousand executives in 1992 titled Ten Major Time Wasters. What has changed?

Read On:

1.) Meeting-itis.
2.) Telephone interruptions.
3.) Shift in priorities.
4.) Lack of priorities.
5.) Attempt too much.
6.) Ineffective delegation.
7.) Drop-in visitors.
8.) Cluttered desktop – lose things.
9.) Lack of self-discipline.
10.) Inability to say “no”.

What has changed since 1992? A no brainer; the Big Black Hole – the Internet/Intranet. Think about how much time you spent emailing, responding to email, Googling and staying linked via social media this past week. Time management has become an enormous challenge thanks to the expansion of the Big Black Hole.

On a personal note: Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of my blog, SMARTKETING Reflections. Candidly, I consider myself a novice of blogging. Still learning, realize I have a ways to go, but I am definitely having fun. Thank you. I anticipate your continued readership.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Luxury Brands Rock Asia

Imagine, Louis Vuitton ( and Ermenegildo Zenga ( just opened shops in Mongolia’s capital, a country of 2.7 million people, one of the poorest nations in Asia. It’s GDP of approximately $1,800 in 2008 places it 164th in the world, just ahead of the Gaza Strip. What makes luxury brands rock?

Read On:
Similar to world leading brands Coca Cola, P&G and McDonald’s to name a few, luxury brands understand the advantage of moving first into any new geography that can sustain business profitability, is a real benefit. They leverage their brand DNA to tap into the local affluent market. Despite Mongolia being known for nomadic herdsmen that produce some of the world’s finest cashmere, it is rich in minerals – gold, copper and uranium. As a result, affluent elite has slowly emerged.

What is brand DNA? It consists of two components. The first being “Code”, which is what the brand stands for in the psyche of its users. Once the “Code” has been established, it is all about the “Cue”, the sensory signals that alert consumers the benefits they are looking for from the brand. Leading luxury brands’ DNA clearly communicates wealth and status to the elite. Consequently luxury brands are now targeting Asia. Gucci has 28 stores in China. Bulgari, the jeweler, has one of its flagship stores in Taipei, the city where Hermes will open a store next month. High-end brands fill the new ION shopping center in Singapore – Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Rolex.

Luxury brands is a topic I first wrote about back on 11/8/08 in a blog titled Premium Choices: (
Bottom-line, despite the unsteady global economy, the luxury market continues to prosper with luxury brands now rocking Asia, excluding Japan.

Year to year comparisons: The Gucci Group reported Asian sales up 25 percent in the first quarter. Richemont, the group behind Cartier and Chloé indicated that despite overall sales being down 16 percent, Asia was up 5 percent for the first half of the year. Hermès worldwide sales for the first half were up 7.6 percent, with revenues in Asia; again excluding Japan up 30.8 percent. Analysts predict that the growth of the luxury market in Asia is not a short-term fluke. It is projected that China and India will grow 6 to 7 percent in the next year compared to a 5 percent estimated decline in Europe and a 10 to 15 percent decline in the United States and Japan.

Oh yes, if you are playing geography with your kids the capital of Mongolia is Ulan Bator.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Yesterday I withdrew 200 Euros from a cash machine in France. Later when I went on line, I learned that equated to a $291 checking account withdrawal not including the service fees. I could only grimace. For years now, as an American, I have been experiencing bad burgernomics in Europe.

Read On:
The Economist magazine coined the word burgernomics back in 1986 when they introduced the Big Mac Index as a semi-humorous method predicting exchange rate movements between two currencies. The concept was to select a product that is readily available around the world to determine its Purchase Price Parity. I will not bore you with the details of the complicated formula, but the American dollar is seriously under valued here in Europe. According to my calculations, 25%. No surprise the Economist later created other global currency measures, the Tall Latte index and the iPod index.

Reflecting on the bad burgernomics I have experienced over the years here in France, I decided to create my own index to justify one of the reasons I keep coming back. It is called the Géant Food index. Géant is France’s leading supermarket chain. A 1.5 liter bottle of Evian is .66 Euros or the equivalent of $.96 for one and a half large bottles in the States. An average baguette is .92 Euros or $1.33 in the States, considerably cheaper than the baguettes at Whole Foods. Candidly, I do not come here to live on bread and water alone. Overall all the food is considerably cheaper than the States – the produce, cheese, fish dripping from the Mediterranean, etc. Let’s not forget the wine. Why is the Géant Food index favorable here? A majority of the food is local, thus I am not paying for the transportation. Remember, the average food travels 1,500 miles from source to plate in the States. So today, not only am I going to eat some great fresh food, I am also going to be environmentally responsible eating a locally sustainable meal with a favorable carbon footprint.

Just paid 5.80 Euros for a Big Mac
Translates to $8.43 at today’s exchange rate
Ate it and had a Big Heart Attack

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Lesson From Charlie

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

Read On:
Everyone continues to have angst about our current economy. What is now being labeled “The Great Recession” by the media is a reality. In spite of this, we need to learn from the wisdom of Charles Darwin, thus respond to changes in the global economy. A prime example being Red China’s decision to become Green China, reference Thomas Friedman’s op-ed: The New Sputnik
( Rather than retrench spending, both public and private companies need to transform current strategies and invest in new initiatives that will payoff two to three years down the road to sustain their business long-term. Detailed below are some investment recommendations:

1.) Join the “Social Media Revolution” – Web 2.0 provided us with the technology that enabled us to harness and share intelligence/data with just one click or link. We started with Google and Wikipedia; now five years later, we have YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Great vehicles to further connect and have conversations with your consumers/customers. Invest immediately because Web Squared ( is on the horizon thanks to the advent of smart phone applications.

2.) Tap into the current labor pool – The Labor Department’s latest numbers indicate with 14.5 million people officially unemployed, job seekers now outnumber openings six to one. I am uncertain that these statistics include all the recent graduates who are still looking for their first jobs. There is a lot of talent floating around out there worth discovering.

3.) Invest in organic growth – Old marketing adage – “Your best customer is your existing customer.” Provide loyalty incentives to drive the overall consumption of the products or services you are selling. A sound business strategy and proven to be more effective than the marketing expenditures required to cultivate new consumers/customers.

4.) Outsource innovation – While you are busy putting out the daily fires to remain competitive in “The Great Recession”, hire a seasoned, connected “free agent resource” to facilitate innovation. Bear in mind, innovation is largely about making unexpected connections. Thanks to experience, plus objectivity, a “free agent resource” thinks “Outside the Lines”, thus innovates new product/service concepts, strategic alliances or “buzz marketing” strategies.

Remember a survival lesson from Charlie – time to transform and invest in your future.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tweeting Not So New

People are talking about Twitter. Since its inception in 2006, critics have been trying to figure out the function of the micro-blogging service (140 characters max). Pear Analytics reported babble. Other marketers cite the potential value for promoting their businesses. Why all the buzz? People have been tweeting for centuries.

Read On:
I conducted an archeological dig to determine who were the first official tweeters. I learned that despite not benefiting from current technology, the first tweeters surfaced in Japan in the 1600’s, Matsuo Basho and Ueshima Onitsura who elevated a form of Japanese poetry now known as Haiku. Haiku consist of three cadenced phrases. The original content of most Japanese Haikus had seasonal reference, but evolved over time to other subjects as Western cultures adapted.

Personally I do not tweet yet. However, I have conducted market research over the past six months to get a better understanding for the potential business applications of tweeting, especially as it relates to new product introductions. Nevertheless, now that I know Haikus were the original tweets, I thought I take a stab at a few Haiku tweets.

Twitter is so, so cool
As I relax
Sitting by the pool

I love my iPhone
Drinking my Starbucks
Eating a scone

Season’s greetings
Crazy busy
Call you after my meetings

I’m mad about Haiku
Less than one-hundred forty characters
Do you tweet 2?

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Reduplicative Process

The reduplicative process is the act or instance of reiterating – do over & over again or repeatedly, sometimes with wearying effect. The reduplicative process – the stuff champions are made of.

Read On:
I first learned about the reduplicative process from one of my favorite contemporary artists, Alex Katz. In his exhibit, Alex Katz Paints Ada
(, the artist explained that he repeatedly painted his wife over and over again, sometimes in the same outfit, but always from a different angle, to a point that viewers were unable to delineate what was rehearsed versus what was improvised.

I was reminded of the reduplicative process Wednesday night when I witnessed Roger Federer’s advance to the U.S. Open semifinals. It was the 22nd time in his career (
that he has advanced to a tennis grand slams semifinal. The next closest streak for a tennis player was 10 by Ivan Lendl. For me this is one of the greatest records in modern sports history. I can only think of the endless hours Roger has practiced every given situation he would encounter on his quest to be the all time greatest player in the history of tennis. When I watch the Maestro (his nickname), I no longer know what he has practiced versus what he is improvising on the court. Roger has mastered the reduplicative process.

Key Learning: Execution is vital to business. Employ the reduplicative process whether you are making a sales call, a management presentation or a speech. Guarantee your audience will not know what you have rehearsed or what you are improvising on the spot.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Random Trivia

In my last blog posting, Timeout, I recommended we need to control our daily flood of information. However I must confess, I am guilty of periodically surfing the Internet. It never ceases to amaze me what is out there – random trivia, things you might want to know.

Read On:

· Nielsen data indicates that the average number of text messages sent/received per month per US mobile phone subscriber jumped from 447 in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 486 in the first quarter of 2009. Texters 13-to-17 year-olds lead the way: 2,272 in Q4 2008; 2,899 in Q1 2009. According to my calculations that is 97 texts a day. Maybe you should check on your kids to see if they are actually sleeping right now.

· Struggling with what to do with the $9.79 left on the Applebee’s gift card you have been sitting on? Try that exchanges cards for cash/credit or make a charitable contribution to schools via

· According to a VINEXPO study conducted by London-based drinks research organization International Wine & Spirit Record (IWSR), U.S. will become the biggest wine consuming market in the world by 2012. I’ll drink to that.

· Concerned about our planet and looking for a worthy cause to sink your teeth in? Familiarize yourself with SCI (, a humanitarian organization that promotes the worldwide usage of solar cookers that use sunlight as its energy source. A great initiative that not only slows deforestation and desertification, but also pasteurizes water preventing waterborne diseases in areas of our planet that do not have a sufficient amount of clean water for its inhabitants.

· Going out for sushi with a friend later this week and want to be environmentally correct? The Monterey Bay Aquarium (, the Environmental Defense Fund ( and the Blue Ocean Institute ( have all published sustainable seafood sushi guides online that you can print or download to your phone that detail recommended choices.

· When you are sitting at the sushi bar and spot a teenager examining a sushi guide on their new Palm Pre, wearing Nike “Gucci” Dunk Highs, ordering a spicy wild pacific salmon hand roll, please note: TRU, a Chicago based-research firm that specializes in the youth market, recently reported that teens have an estimated annual spending power of $127 billion.

I could continue, but I need to get back online for my daily random trivia fix.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


“Everyone gets so much information all day long they lose their common sense.” - Gertrude Stein

Read On:
At 7:20 this morning I finished scrolling through my sixth online newsletter. Good stuff, especially all the information I gleaned on SmartBrief regarding social media – articles about consumer marketing companies printing their Twitter URL on their product labels, tips about building your own communities (a.k.a. networks), etc. By 8:00 I read all the bookmarked newsletters and blogs I failed to read due to travel. By 8:10 I had put a huge dent in my email which included several links to articles and YouTube video clips sent to me by my own personal maven that keeps me in the loop. As I headed to my kitchen to refresh my coffee, I suddenly was reminded of the above Gertrude Stein quote I once read. Imagine Gertrude Stein, writer, pioneer in recognizing/collecting modern art, lived pre-technology from 1874 to 1946. What would Gertrude be thinking today?

Well for starters if she were living today we could tweet her at Twitter@SteinG. However based on what I have read about her, we would not reach her since she would have deliberately left her Palm Pre at home. She would not want to be interrupted as she sat in a cafe, read the Le Monde that she picked up after her morning walk and daily exchange with her newspaper man. Then she would spend time watching Parisians scurrying to work like ants before thinking about what artist friend’s studio she wanted to visit.

By the time I finished pouring my coffee, I realized that Gertrude Stein had a point. It was only 8:14 and I was already on information overload. The day was young. Based on what was on my plate; client work, social networking, email, financials, more email, etc. I thought about when I would take timeout to think. If I don’t think, how would I ever exhibit the common sense I need to compete effectively in today’s world of chaos? Common sense is a byproduct of thinking. By the time I returned to my computer, I hit the off button and decided to walk down for a New York Times so I could talk to my newspaper man, sit in the park to read and watch everyone dropping off their children at the daycare center next to my residence as they race off to work. Definitely a topic for another day.

Recommended formula: Control the daily flood of information + take time out to think = common sense.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brain Drain

Enrollment in American higher education is expected to hit record highs this fall. One driving factor will be the influx of foreign students seeking diplomas from U.S. schools. Question: What will happen when they leave after graduation? Answer: Brain Drain.

Read On:
Foreign student enrollment has been steadily increasing this decade since 2005. At last count there were over 600 thousand foreign students in colleges and universities in the U.S. Favorable exchange rates attributed to the faltering U.S. dollar which continues to lose value against other currencies around the world and enhanced recruitment strategies abroad are the driving factors. Short-term, the increase in foreign students bodes well for our economy. Campuses that meet their enrollment quotas provide employment not only for academics, but for all those involved in the auxiliary services to keep the campus operating – administrative and maintenance staff, foodservice and let’s not forget parking. In addition, the entry of foreigner money will boost the local communities where campuses are situated. Foreign students will buy their laptops, printers, iPods, digital cameras, even their clothes when they arrive in the States.

Conversely this trend will negatively impact our economy long-term. Why? Colleges and universities are the primary breeding ground for innovation. Innovation is the engine that will drive the Global economy in the next decade. Once foreign students receive their diplomas and their visas expire, the “Best & Brightest” from overseas will return home to become Global leaders in business, technology, medicine, etc. Does this spell brain drain for the United States?

Today’s blog entry is my final post in my summer series – What’s Next U.S.A.? Five blogs in total: Vanishing Vacations, Man’s Best Friend, Pet U.S.A., Vampires and Brain Drain. Five trends that will shape (impact) our country’s next decade.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


24/7 is not only America’s business mantra, but a fitting depiction of our frenzied, multi-tasking, round-the-clock lifestyles. Now add to the equation the social media explosion combined with our obsession for caffeine, America is breeding a wired generation that operates from midnight to dawn – Vampires.

Read On:
National Sleep Foundation’s (
latest poll estimated that Americans now get an average of 6.7 hours of sleep during a weekday – approximately 25 percent less than we did 100 years ago. The poll also revealed that 20 percent of the people surveyed sleep less than six hours. What has caused a decline in the hours of sleep? Start with stress and economic angst. Throw in the advent of the Internet with access to global friends and clients, the plethora of entertainment options, twenty-four hour convenience stores, restuarants and fitness centers, Americans are staying awake longer hours. Consequently, 24/7 is the norm; we are breeding a Vampire generation that continues to be wired from midnight to dawn.

There are two other significant factors that will fuel the wakefulness of American life in the next decade – social media and caffeine.

Ø Last week, according the “Consumer Internet Barometer” published by TNS and the Conference Board, the percentage of U.S. Internet users who visit social networking sites jumped from 26.7% in 2008 to 43.7% in 2009. Approximately 72% of those users were under the age of 35. What better time to tweet or stay connected to friends via Facebook, Flickr or LinkedIn than between midnight and dawn – after work/school, working out and socializing?

Ø Caffeine, caffeine, caffeine everywhere. Let’s look at the numbers: Coffee consumption consistently continues to soar with 54% of the adult populations partaking in 2009, with men out drinking women among coffee drinkers approximately 1.9 versus 1.4 cups per day. Tea has evolved into a $6.85 billion market, 3.7 times the amount consumed in 1990 when the Tea Association of the U.S.A. began tracking the value of wholesale tea sales ( In 2007 it was reported that Americans consumed three quarters of a gallon per capita of energy drinks. Analysts are now projecting that per capita consumption of energy drinks will jump to two plus gallons by 2011. Then there is “Liquid Candy.” Carbonated soft drinks are not only the largest source of calories in the American diet, but they also contain caffeine. A 12 oz. can of Coke has 34 milligrams of caffeine; the monthly per capita of soda is 48 cans or the equivalent of 54 gallons per year.

More 24/7 options catering to Vampires will develop, gathering places where Vampires can meet, network live or via technology, eat and drink everything from coffee drinks to energy drinks – even Bloody Mary’s.

Sounds like another opportunity for Starbucks.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pets USA

The American Pet Products Association ( reported this year that 62% U.S. Households (roughly 71.4 million homes) own a pet. U.S. Census indicates 46 percent of U.S. Households credited to the aging of population and fertility patterns changes have a child under 18. Pets are replacing kids, thus have a new role in society.

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Thanks to the pet ownership boom, it is estimated that $45.4 billion will be spent by pet owners on everything from food, supplies, vet care, grooming, etc., making pet-spending one of the top ten retail segments, bigger than toys, candy or hardware. No longer are people buying regular pet food. Instead they are purchasing gourmet, vegetarian, low-carb and organic food for their animals. Superrich dog owners then use pet teeth-whiteners, breathe fresheners before they put on designer sweaters/jewelry prior to putting their companion in a special car seat for a ride over to their local grooming salon. Yes, thanks to pet pampering, numerous services have cropped up, everything from doggy/feline daycare, luxury hotels in lieu of kennels with the latest trend being the launch of Pet Airways ( where owners fly their pets in comfort so they can rendezvous with them at their favorite vacation spot.

As I reported in my last blog, pet owners are even taking to social media to connect with other pet fans, learn about products and services via blogging. There are numerous pet training blogs with tips from masters and amateurs, as well as recommended weight loss programs. Even blogs, like Romeo the Cat have been developed to raise money to help shelter animals find appropriate homes.

In the past, kids where utilized as an emotional anchor in advertising. Now look for pets, specifically dogs placed in non-pet orientated traditional media to play on consumers emotions. I remember the Michelin tire ad with a baby sitting in the middle of a tire communicating family safety. Recently I viewed two ads on television – Travelers Insurance and Bud Light Lime that used dogs in spots normally void of pets. Cannon was one of the first companies to pioneer this advertising strategy with Martina Sharpova and her dog Dolce for PowerShot cameras. Remember? YouTube links: (,

Marketing gurus take note – in the future 441.8 million pets will be influencing America’s pet loyal consumers and their purchasing power.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Man’s Best Friend

Move over Lassie. I hate to deliver the bad news, but you are no longer man’s best friend. You have been replaced by the cell phone.

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It is estimated there are currently 263 million plus U.S. wireless subscribers of which 203 million are text messaging. Lassie, there are two other dynamics that are now coming into play here in Mobile U.S.A. You need to understand this as you take to the back seat as man’s best friend.

The first being text messaging which now outpaces the number of phone calls made on a monthly basis. According to the Nielsen Company’s latest estimates, 57 percent of all mobile subscribers 13 and older use text messaging on a regular basis. On average people text message 357 times a month compared to making 204 calls. No surprise that the 13-17 year olds led the pack with 1742 texts versus 231 calls.

The second factor will be the continual evolution of smartphones. Despite our recession burden economy which has caused a decline in mobile phone sales, nearly a quarter of all handsets sold in the 4th quarter of 2008 were smartphones, a significant increase (13%) versus the same period 2007. Remember these sales figures were recorded prior to the June 2009 release of Apple’s new iPhone and Palm’s Palm Pre. Lassie, man’s social expectation of always being connected is driving this phenomenon. Thanks to the advances in location based mobile services and applications, the rise of social media/networking, man is slowly becoming surgically attached to his mobile device of choice, his new best friend.

Implication: Mobile marketing is exploding. Consumer behavior will continuously be tracked as people move from site to site – restaurant reviews, checking out the latest baseball scores, booking airline tickets, etc. Short codes, marketing messages sent via text messaging (e.g., promotions) will be popping up on mobile screens everywhere in Mobile U.S.A. Right now mobile marketing is a $2.8 billion dollar industry that by 2011 will grow five times to $14 billion.

The good news Lassie, pet marketers are now using social media/networking to help connect owners to pets, pets to owners and pet products to both. So man’s old best friend is still an important partner in life, a topic I will address on my next blog, Pets U.S.A.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Vacation Nation

American celebrates another birthday Saturday. The Fourth of July, Independence Day is generally associated with parades, barbecues/picnics, fireworks and for some lucky Americans the beginning of summer vacations. I say lucky because we have evolved into the “No Vacation Nation.”

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U.S. News & World Report recently published that 35 percent of all workers will not be taking a vacation this year. Of those that will not be taking a vacation, 71 percent explained outright they just could not afford a vacation. More unbelievable, 20 % of the U.S. work force indicated they feel guilty taking a vacation, were at risk of losing their jobs or would be bypassed for promotion.

The underlying point here is American vacations are vanishing. Only 14% of American currently gets a vacation of two or more weeks as annual leave benefits have been evaporating like pensions. According to government survey data, the average American only receives approximately nine days of paid vacation and six paid holidays per year. The primarily factor being that the United States, unlike 127 other countries in the world, has no minimum paid-leave law. In comparison, Europeans lead the pack with four to five weeks, Australians have four weeks, and even the Japanese have two weeks by law.

The good news – in May, Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) with the support of the advocacy group, Take Back Your Time (,
introduced the first paid vacation bill in U.S. History. The Paid Vacation Act of 2009 will stipulate paid vacation for companies and their employees. However, referencing the U.S. News & World Report Statistics, I noticed that 28 percent of workers taking vacation this year plan on contacting their offices at least once, and 50 percent of employers expect their employees to check in.

Seems like we are now down to long weekends in our great "No Vacation Nation."

In closing, today’s blog entry is the first in a series I will post this summer under the umbrella theme – What’s Next U.S.A.? I will address numerous trends that will shape (impact) our country’s next decade. They are as follows:

- Man’s Best Friend
- Pet U.S.A.
- Vampires
- Brain Drain

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Customer Xceedpectations

Where have all the customer service departments gone,
Long time passing,
When did all the customer service departments expire,
Gone long time ago.

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I am moving tomorrow. As a result I have experienced the whole enchilada as it relates to customer service this past month. I have spent an enormous amount of real time (including hold time) on the phone as I shut down/transferred utilities; shopped for the best, most cost effective communications package for my new residence, coordinated movers/auctioneers, etc. Even asked for a glass of water at a restaurant I was checking out in my new neighborhood that I never received.

My reflection? What has happened to customer service in America? It absolutely amazes me how poor customer service has gotten over the years starting with working the automatic prompts you experience (e.g., press one for English, two for Spanish, three for the language of your choice) and hold times to get to a live person. When you do get a live customer service specialist or consultant (whatever happen to representatives or agents?), most exude an attitude: “Why are you calling me today?” I also enjoy when they close the conversation with the statement: “Did I provide you with adequate customer service today?”

Now I would like to present my customer service awards for 2009.

The Big Loser: Forest City Management out of Cleveland that owns the building I am exiting. On March 3rd there was a water main break that damaged 125 apartments in a building of approximately 350 units. The whole situation was mismanaged from day one. What amazed me the most, was how Forest City ignored the old adage, “Your best customer is your existing customer.” As a result, I am out of here.

The Big Winner: Dell. Yes, I decided to treat myself to a new laptop/docking station for my new home. My initial contact was with their Small Business Account Manger that worked with me patiently for two days to build an affordable unit that met my needs thanks to all their special promotions. The anticipated date of arrival was scheduled for June 16th. My new laptop arrived June 8th. My expectations were exceeded. Dell walks the talk when it comes to customer service. They exercise a term I once coined as Customer Xceedpectations. Every company in the world should model their customer service departments after Dell.

One last thought – I am looking forward to getting back on the phone Monday with Comcast now that I learned my first bill at the new location did not include all the special promotions I was entitled.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Waiting Place

Behavioral economists Thaler and Sunstein examine “status quo bias” in their 2008 book “Nudge” – why people tend not to change an established behavior unless the incentive to change is compelling. Cerebral stuff! Dr. Seuss addressed the same topic back in 1990 in his classic “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

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The Waiting Place….for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

Dr. Seuss’s words of rhyme and verse humorously illustrate the status quo we all experience in life – in relationships, marriage, work, etc. Even when we attend meetings and tend to sit in the same seats in the conference room, similar to grade school when we conformed to seating charts. Why do we practice status quo? People become predisposed to “yeah, whatever, it is what it is” performance. Let’s face it; status quo is less risky than making a change. Thaler and Sunstein theorize that unless people are given a compelling reason, an incentive, they will maintain status quo. Scary stuff given we live in turbulent times where we need to start considering major changes, initiate innovative thinking if we are ever going to get to the next level.

In closing, I apologize for sounding cynical, but I am witnessing status quo in my industry, foodservice. Everyone keeps doing the same old thing – participating in food shows, advertising in trade journals that nobody has time to read anymore, etc. Makes me wonder, is it only in my industry or is it all industries?

Is it society?

Remember: Stay away from status quo and enjoy the places you will go.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is currently challenging British anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s theory known as the Homo sapiens cortex ratio – the maximum number of people (approximately 150) with whom we maintain a genuine relationship. In short, someone, if our paths crossed, we would invite out for a libation.

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Last week I attended the 2009 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. It is my industry’s premier networking event. Made me think about Dunbar’s numbers, which I first read about in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Being a student of networking, I pride myself on the Homo sapiens cortex ratio, but more importantly the quality of connections I have made over the years. After Chicago, I further subscribe to Dunbar’s theory.

How did Dunbar develop this number? He studied the 38 primate groups, collected data and then developed an equation to predict the human social group size. Dunbar then researched information about hunter-gathering tribes, religious groups, etc. His findings based on historical documentation, indicated communication and behavior attributed to direct connections remained under control at 150. Meltdown occurred above 150. As a result, as villages or colonies approached the magical number, they would split in two and form a new group.

Social media is currently challenging the number of people to whom we can stay connected, thanks to the Internet explosion. People continuously forge new relationships and boast about the number of people in their network – personal or business. Is it possible for an individual to have one to two thousand connections? Absolutely. What has morphed, thanks to the presence of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc., is the definition of a connection. According to Webster’s definition – a person connected to others esp. by marriage, kinship, or common interest: a casual or logical relationship as in social, professional, or commercial. Social media facilitates these connections like no other medium in the history of mankind. However, given the number of ephemeral connections I have made over the years attending the NRA, National and Regional conferences or via the Internet, my social media query follows:

· Without the face-to-face time needed to incubate a casual social, professional, or commercial relationship, how genuine are your “connections”?

· We live in an age of transparency thanks to the Internet. Are your connections’ profiles authentic?

· What is the average shelf life of a social media “connection”?

· If you bumped into your connection, would you feel at ease to sit down for a glass of wine? More importantly, thanks to social media clutter, would you even recognize your “connection”?

Remember, Robin Dunbar would challenge how many social relationships you realistically manage?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Hip, boss, groovy, outtasite, tubular, gnarly, rad, dope, wicked, tight, sick, def, phat, sweet, kewl and bomb. What do all these words have in common? They represent “cool” wannabe slang that fade in and out of usage, while “cool” itself has endured since the 50’s across all generations.

Read On:
In my last blog, I addressed how marketers’ utilize exclusivity as a strategy to lure consumers. Add “cool” to their playbook of consumer marketing hooks. Now readers, do you want to be known as being “cool” or being a “nerd?” Cool equates to being in the know. Being in the know means you are one of the “in crowd.” Trust me, marketing geeks use “cool” as a ploy for those consumers that feel insecure about whether they are connected to the ‘in crowd.” Let me share a few classic examples:

- Facebook – Why has Facebook surpassed MySpace to become the #1 social networking site? Answer: Facebook now has over 200 million connected users worldwide. To put things in perspective, if Facebook where a country, it would be the firth-largest country in the world after China, India, the U.S. and Indonesia. Now that is “sweet.” You might want to tweet your friends with that piece of trivia.

- Red Bull – What makes Red Bull the #1 energizer drink in the world “def?” Answer: The buzz. There are 83 mg of caffeine in every can of Red Bull, compared to 27 mg of caffeine in a can of Coke Classic. Three times the buzz. Oh by the way, have you ever tasted Red Bull?

- iPod – Why has Apple sold close to 200 million iPods since they first launched their innovative portable digital music players back in October of 2001? Answer: Their highly recognizable advertising campaign with the dark silhouetted figures dancing against bright colored backgrounds attracted everyone who wanted to become part of the “in crowd”, therefore jump on the “rad” bandwagon.

So the next time you see someone sitting in a public place with their Apple notebook opened to Facebook, tweeting their friends that they are listening to T.I. on their iPod, sipping on a can of Red Bull, you will realize they are multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is “bomb.”

SMARTKETING’s slang wannabe for “cool?” Refrigerated!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Everyone wants to feel special. As a result, exclusivity is a clever ploy used to lure people to subscribe to a service or buy a product. Just ask those select members of Bernard L. Madoff’s investment community.

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Bernard L. Madoff might go down in history as the greatest Ponzi schemer of all time, thanks to his $65 billion fraudulent investment enterprise. Compared to most Ponzi artists, who prey on a growing supply of fresh, ignorant victims to keep their scheme rolling, Madoff swindled rich people by implementing an exclusivity strategy. He positioned himself as a financial snob closing his fund to new investors. Accordingly, individuals interested in joining his circle would need a special introduction. Even after he accepted people’s money, “Uncle Bernie”, as he was called by his peers, would maintain an air of reluctance, conning people into starting with small investments the first year or two, yielding large returns, before he hooked them for big bucks. Everyone felt special – they were a member of “Uncle Bernie’s” exclusive club.

The exclusivity strategy can also be utilized when marketing consumer goods. Nike has capitalized on this strategy with exclusive sneaker releases. Their most successful being NBA superstar LeBron James’s Zoom series – 3,000 to 5,000 pairs per edition retailing at $140. Like any collectibles, these sneakers will end up selling for a higher price than their original store price, based on condition, rarity and Lebron’s star power. The ultimate Nike sneaker will be released in the fourth quarter of 2009, the “Gucci” themed Dunk High that has been in the hopper since 2006. Right now there are less than 30 pairs in existence, but soon they will be available at select Nike accounts.

Sounds like it is time for me to join the exclusive Nike club, shop on E-Bay to see if I can track down my own pair of “Gucci” Dunk Highs, size 9.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lessons from Great Artists & Architects

In my last blog posting, America’s Coach, I indicated that I have been inspired by some great people I never met, artists and architects that have guided me on my business journey. The list is long: Leger, Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Miro, Calder, Dali, Neel, I. M. Pei and Frank Gehry.

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Detailed below are the lessons I have learned from my favorite artists and architects:

- You must start with traditional training before you can breakout and create new ideas.
- Simplicity.
- Scale – sketches that lead to large masterpieces.
- There is no instant gratification when it comes to artistic creation.
- Artists serve people and live in a commercial world, but they need to discover how they can step outside the norm, take risks and slice their sliver/niche.
- When artists/creative people step outside the norm they must accept criticism, wear it like an article of clothing for a while, then toss it and move on.
- What makes it all worth it (the thrill) is the process of pulling together an achievement.
- Don’t compromise your values.
- Treat each client differently and special.
- Harmony = Balance.

One final thought. Each one of the individuals on my list were larger than life, thus taught me the value of Joie de Vivre, the Joy of Living.

Friday, April 3, 2009

America’s Coach

I have benefited from the wisdom of some great mentors, my parents and a select handful of business colleagues. I have even obtained wisdom from people I have never met, great artists, architects and business gurus like America’s Coach, Marshall Goldsmith (

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Thanks to a recent misunderstanding with a client, I was reminded of a great Marshall Goldsmith article published in Fast Company magazine, Finding the Upside of Anger ( In this article, Marshall addresses how we tend to focus negative energy in the form of anger directed at individuals that drive us crazy. We relive times when this individual was inconsiderate/ungrateful. Utilizing a Buddhist parable, Marshall taught me to redirect my energy towards making some behavioral changes to better navigate my business journey in the future.

Several years ago I took the initiative and connected with Marshall via email. Great guy! A Globe Trotter that always gets back to me when I reach out to him. Very generous in sharing some of his teachings – articles that he has published or plans to get published. I also highly recommend his book, one of the best leadership books I have read, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There a New York Times best seller. Hopefully, someday I will get to meet Marshall in person, but for now he has been a great mentor from a far.

Marshall Goldsmith walks the talk and is America’s Coach.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Save $$$ & Calories

I want to take time out to acknowledge labeling laws that now require chain restaurants (15 or more stores) to display calorie, fat and other information. However, I believe chain restaurants are missing the boat and should become more proactive when it comes to nutrition.

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March is National Nutrition Month. I commend Mayor Michael Nutter of my hometown Philadelphia, “Cheesesteak Capitol”, who signed a bill in February requiring chain restaurants (15 or more stores) to display calorie, fat and other information. The law takes effect on January 1, 2010. New York City and California already have passed similar legislation. However, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Philadelphia’s law is the strongest law passed to date.

Philadelphians will now be in position to make decisions about the caloric intake of their diet. One regional operator, Wawa, Inc., a convenience store chain, announced it will post the information on in-store menus and eventually on the touch screens customers use to place their orders. Mayor Nutter will sooner or later have to call in the nutritional police at some point, given that no two sandwiches made to order at Wawa will be the same, thus yielding exact nutritional posted.

Candidly the real policing starts with the Philadelphia consumer. Portions are key when it comes to caloric intake. Wawa is not the place to go for smaller portions. Fundamentally, portion control is an area where the restaurant industry has been negligent, since a large portion connotes value. Few chains to my knowledge have explored smaller portions. Those who have, have been unsuccessful. So now I advocate that the window of opportunity has arrived for chain restaurants to get proactive, thanks to the down economy. Instead of just promoting the new value meals, which consists of smaller portions, why not emphasize that the new meals are less calories too, a more responsible marketing position, in light of the fact we know America is fighting a war on obesity.

One chain I applaud who recently utilized this strategy was la Madeline ( They first executed a LTO (Limited Time Offer) on their menu called Smart Choices, which bundled existing menu items that were nutritionally sound. For $4.99, guests could choose a meal less than 500 calories or $8.99 for a meal under 800 calories. When discussing Smart Choices with la Madeline’s COO Phil Costner, I learned that during the LTO, they experienced their fair share of bargain hunters, thanks to the economy, but it was la Madeline’s core guests that drove the LTO. Thanks to the promotion’s success, Smart Choices evolved into a permanent part of la Madeline’s menu. In Phil’s words, “Favorable nutritionals brings real value to our menu.”

A smart 2 for 1, save $$$ and calories.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

National Frozen Food Month

The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA, founded during a meeting at the Yale Club in NYC in 1945, initiated the March National Frozen Food Month promotion 21 years ago to stimulate frozen food department growth in Supermarkets.

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Highlights for March Frozen Food Month 2009 are detailed below:

- NFRA is partnering with Dream Works to leverage the theater release of Monsters vs. Aliens utilizing the creative concept: Frozen Foods – Monstrous Value. The promotion theme will be used in their national FSI, on POS materials and on NFRA’s website.

- A three-page FSI, including coupons and product photos of the participating brands, circulated to 37 million consumers, appeared in last Sunday’s (March 1) newspapers. Where you one of the recipients? Also a $10,000 consumer sweepstakes was communicated in the FSI. Consumers can enter online: Do you feel lucky?

- POS materials featuring the Monsters vs. Aliens will be highly visible in the frozen aisles of your local supermarket. In addition, press releases and radio spots will be distributed to media outlets across the country communicating the numerous savings consumers will reap by buying frozen foods.

How effective is Frozen Food Month? For nine out of the last ten years, the frozen department dollar growth in March has outpaced sales in the rest of the departments by approximately 4%, plus within the frozen food department the percentage change in dollar sales versus prior year have consistently increased, as high as 6% in numerous documented cases.

Sounds like a good time to go down to your local supermarket, buy several frozen pizzas to stockpile that you can enjoy later when you rent Monsters vs. Aliens from Netflix.

Maybe you will be the lucky winner!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


March begins with Starbucks introducing packages of Via Ready Brew instant coffee ( in Seattle and Chicago this week, as well as breakfast value meals nationwide. March is also National Frozen Food Month, National Nutrition Month and Woman’s History Month.

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Starbucks critics are saying that Howard Schultz is taking a huge risk – instant coffee (two varieties: Colombia and Italian Roast) and value meals are off-brand strategy, too mainstream. Personally I believe Starbucks will now lose the aura of an Italian espresso bar, which was the spine of their whole concept. Time will tell. Therefore I plan to circle back at a later date to present a review of their new strategic initiative.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
- Bill Gates

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speed. On Sale.

“Special promotions” are effective marketing tools companies utilize to lure consumers into ownership.

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I chuckle every time I receive a Comcast mailer for high-speed Internet. In today’s economy, everyone’s looking for quick ways to save. Sale! For a limited time, get High-Speed Internet for just $24.99 a month for 6 months*. Candidly it is the asterisk that amuses me. If you read the fine print, after the six-month promotional period to which you have subscribed, Comcast’s service charge increases to $41.95 to $59.95 depending on area and level of service. Comcast’s sale is officially over.

Reminds me of a principle outlined in Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational ( In his chapter The High Price of Ownership, Ariely details how companies utilize “special promotions” to entice consumers into ownership. High probability once the offer expires, users will not discontinue their high-speed service and revert back to dial-up. Instead the emotions of ownership will cause people to rationalize spending the additional money for the Internet time savings they have enjoyed during the promotional period.

Clever marketing. Makes me wonder what people do with the time they saved by subscribing to high-speed Internet. Conversely, what they could do with the additional $16.96/month, $203.52/year before taxes if they did not subscribe to high-speed Internet. Personally, I would take the discretionary money and buy a dozen shares of Comcast stock at today’s market price.


*Take time to read the fine print.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It takes discipline to ask questions, but it takes greater discipline to listen to an individual’s responses to the questions you asked.

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Following-up on my February 2nd entry entitled LEARN:

“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen."
- Margaret J. Wheatley (writer and management consultant)

Conducting what I call an archeological dig by asking questions to learn more about the individual you are interacting with is a discipline. It takes greater restraint to listen to their responses without being distracting by something going on in the surrounding area or thinking about what you are going to have for dinner that evening. Listening is an art, another gateway to learning.

Remember to listen!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Marriott’s customer service acronym is LEARN: Listen, Empathize, Apologize, React, Notify.

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Asking questions is one gateway to learning. Let me share a story.

I was boarding a plane to the Left Coast when I said good morning to the flight attendant. I detected an accent, made inquiry and learned that the woman was from Brazil. Later in the flight while stretching my legs, I could not resist but engage the flight attendant in a conversation about her country thanks to reading positive of things about BRIC, an acronym that refers to the fast growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. My opening question was about the leadership of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: Is everything I read about your President true, have you seen change in your country? She explained that under his regime Brazil has cut unemployment in half from 15% to 7.5%. To achieve these amazing results his focus has been on education. He even subsidizes families the equivalent wages their children would earn if they worked in the mines, thus enabling them instead to attend school. No surprise, with unemployment reduced, crime has also declined, and tourism has increased. It is also a blessing that Brazil is an agricultural power that has balanced the amount of products it exports in exchange for imported products which strengthen the infrastructure of the country, including technology.

Our conversation/exchange really began to flow:

Me: Do you still have family there?
Flight Attendant: My entire family still lives there. Once I complete my studies at the University of South Florida, I am going home.
Me: What are you studying?
Flight Attendant: Psychology.
Me: What do you plan to do with your degree?
Flight Attendant: I want to work for a company in customer service.

Being a student of customer service, I could not help but share some one of the better experiences I had at the Newport Beach Marriott. I concluded by telling her I wrote the GM of the hotel complimenting his staff and how every time I visit the property I am now treated like a VIP. She proceeded to tell me about a study she just read – individuals that have a bad experience tend to spread the word ten times more than people who have a good experience.

The best part of our encounter occurred as we were approaching our stop over in Salt Lake City. She handed me a piece of paper detailing Marriott’s acronym for customer service to cap off my morning of learning.


Listen – Listen to what the customer has to say identifying the problem.
Empathize – Empathize with the situation.
Apologize – Apologize.
React by giving an efficient solution.
Notify – Notify the rest of the team about the problem so that can follow-up with the

Remember to ask questions!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Starting tomorrow, it will be up to each one of us to be great leaders in our sphere of influence to help President Obama achieve his vision of hope and change.

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Tomorrow, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. I am excited mainly because he can finally execute against his vision of hope and change as Commander and Chief. Time will tell whether he truly is a great leader. Regardless, we must all come to the realization that the man can only do so much; it is now up each one of us to be great leaders in our own sphere of influence – family, friends and community.

Over the years I have read numerous recipes for leadership written by Warren Bennis, Jim Collins, Marshall Goldsmith, to name a few. Disclaimer: I do not profess to be a leadership guru, especially in light of my current business model to outsource all of my company tasks versus internal infrastructure. However, I have had my fair share of leadership experience with my sphere of influence to formulate my simple four-step recipe:

Pragmatic Idealist – Great leaders see the big picture. They understand that life is a journey, a series of baby steps, thus works towards the long haul. Remember there are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. Goal achievement is a long distance race. Just ask Lance Armstrong.

Role of the Day – Great leaders are like stand-up comics, they improvise and play to the crowd. Leaders understand a majority of the time they need to be a servant to people, their primary goal is to make everyone feel good. However, there are times they need to act like a dictator. I also used the stand-up comic metaphor, because leaders need to maintain a sense of humor as they waiver back and forth between receptive and unruly crowds. Not easy.

Persona with a Capital “P” – There are three components in achieving persona: A.) A positive attitude 24/7 even in times of adversity, B.) A charming infectious personality (a.k.a. poker face) so nobody can read what you are truly thinking – just ask Bill Clinton; and C.) Physical appearance counts. Whether you are leading a multi-billion dollar global company or a creative advertising agency, you must have the look. Just ask Steven Jobs – cool looking dude leading a team of young innovators.

Life is Gray/Ambiguous – All decisions are complex, there are no right or wrong, thus black or white decisions. There are good decisions, mediocre decisions or bad decisions. Leaders just know how to make decisions and move on. They have learned to corkscrew – asking themselves what worked, what did not work. Corkscrewing is a topic for another day.

Remember to lead!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Retirement Postponed

As we begin the New Year, it is understandable that last year’s meltdown of our financial system has people anxious about their future. Add to the mix the evolving trend of older new dads/second families and boomerangs; male baby boomers will experience retirement postponement.

Read On:
Trend spotters predict now that Americans are living more healthfully to 75 and beyond, less are considering retirement at 65. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there are at least 5 million people 65 or older in today’s labor force. According to a survey conducted by Merrill Lynch in 2005, 3 in 4 baby boomers indicated they had no intention of pursuing a traditional retirement – gold watch followed by golf outings and pinochle by the pool. Bottomline: Americans are living longer, thus working longer because they love their work. Then again, most are being forced to work longer thanks to financial reasons, especially in light of the 2008 meltdown of our financial system. Baby boomers retirement portfolios evaporated. In addition, health care costs continue to rise. Social Security checks, on average of $1,000, barely contribute to a sustainable lifestyle. However, it is time to examine two other contributing trends to why baby boomers, especially males are working longer.

The first trend is what has been labeled Old New Dads/Second Families. Three factors have contributed to the significant increase in the birth rate among fathers over 40 since 1980 – career women that have pushed back childbearing, divorce and the combination of biology along with success enabling men to physically father children well into their 50’s and 60’s. Let’s look at the numbers since 1980: an increase of 32 percent among fathers aged 40-44; an increase of 21 percent among fathers 45-49; and an increase of 10 percent for fathers 50-54. Sounds like there will be a lot of Dads still paying college tuitions well into their 70’s, thus necessitating the need to work.

Watch out for the boomerangs! Boomerang is the term coined for young adults that choose to return and cohabitate with their parents after living alone. Historically boomerangs tend to increase proportionally with economic downturns since it represents an easy option of maintaining the middle class lifestyle they envisioned upon graduating college, but could not achieve thanks to a tighter job market, the increased cost of living and the burden of repaying college loans. Statistically, 54% of American males between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, and 14% between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four live with their parents. Sounds like Dad is not going to enjoy the benefits of being an “empty nester”, but is going to have to continue working to keep the lights on in his “cluttered nest.”

Remember to cancel your fantasy golf lessons!