Thursday, December 29, 2011

Champagne & Caviar

Saturday night before you indulge in some champagne and caviar, here is a luxury market update for both treats that you might find interesting.

Read On:
The Chinese are coming!

Have you noticed the recent spike in champagne prices? For some of the more popular brands, I have noticed double-digit increases. The production in Reims, the leading champagne region in France is currently capped at 330 million bottles. Their production costs have skyrocketed due to the increased cost of grapes and land, because most of the major brands do not own vineyards, thus buy their grapes from independent growers. More importantly, due to the growing demand for bubbly amongst emerging countries like Brazil, Russia, India and especially China, global supply is now under extreme pressure. The bad news is Moet Hennessy which markets some of my favorite labels (e.g., Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, Veuve Clicquot Rosé, etc.) is on limited allocation. The good news is they recently partnered with a Chinese company to build a vineyard in northwest China.

On the flipside, caviar despite its luxury status, is maintaining its current market prices. Why? For starters caviar is not a brand name. Did you know that fish eggs other than sturgeon pass for caviar? Furthermore, the Russians and Iranians who cornered black caviar made exclusively from Caspian sturgeon, are being challenged by sturgeon fish farms located in Finland, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and of course China. Google revealed that there are no reliable caviar stats. Production apparently peaked at 550 tons in the 70’s all from wild sturgeon populations which are now an endangered species due to pollution, dam building along the Volga River and poaching. Farm production currently estimated at 250 tons is expected to triple in the next decade.

Bottomline: At the end of the year, higher champagne prices will be offset by lower caviar prices for future New Year’s Eves.

(a.k.a. Happy New Year!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Missing App – The Personal Touch

“Before apps, when there were attention spans, before “I’ve got five bars,” when bars were for boozing, before ring-tone selection, when the phone rang, before high-net-worth individuals, when love was all you needed, before hype, when there was Hendrix, we got by just the same.” - Roger Cohen (Globalist)

Read On:
Yesterday I was reminded of the above passage in an op-ed written by Roger Cohen titled Change or Perish. I was on my way to a meeting. It was around 10:15 AM and I spotted a line at least twenty deep outside the Apple Store. The scene validated for me how app crazed we have become.

Fact: The American Dialect Society named “app” the word of the year for 2010 thanks to its popularity. Apps is the abbreviation for application, a piece of specially programmed software that helps us navigate the world and makes our lives more manageable (time). Apps can run on the Internet, our computer, our smartphone, our tablet or other electronic devices like connected TV’s, the next major platform for app growth. Every time a product is developed for a different gizmo, thanks to each platform requiring a different code from developers, it counts as an app. Consequently, Mobilewalla reported that the one millionth app went to market in the beginning of December. Back in May, Apple indicated that 37 percent of their approved 500,000 apps were free and estimated that their paid apps had an average selling price of $3.64. Android operating systems have their own set of apps. Mobilewalla estimated they released over 500 a day earlier this month. 9 out the top 10 paid apps for the iPhone at the Apple store are games; Tetris® and Angry Birds are at the top of the list. The number one grossing app is designed for Major League Baseball fans. Facebook, Skype and the Weather Channel are free. Pages is a powerful, useful app for your mobile device that helps organize your documents/reading materials. You can use your Starbucks app (either on your iPhone or Android) to locate the closest Starbucks, pay for your favorite Starbucks drink, then use your smartphone to scan an in-store QR code to watch a video about their Caffe Verona blend, check in on Foursquare in case there are some friends nearby, before you tap your free Epicurious app when you sit down to plan your upcoming dinner party, etc. etc. etc.

At this point there is an app or an app in development for everything except the missing app, the personal touch. Remember handwritten thank you notes, birthday cards or better yet Christmas cards. When was the last time you celled up a really close friend to have a lengthy, one-on-one conversation to catch-up versus posting your latest activity on Facebook? When was the last time you interfaced with the checkout individual at your local supermarket or even the barista at your regular Starbucks? When was the last time you interfaced with a bank teller? Do you know your neighbors names? Disclaimer: I am an urban dweller. I cannot even remember the last time someone got into the elevator in my building, we said hello to each other, exited the elevator and engaged in the lobby, face-to-face for a few minutes.

Have you lost your personal touch?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


A great new word I learned this year: Zeitgeist – the general, moral and cultural climate that defines an era.

Read On:
1. Mobile – smartphones, tablets, etc.
2. Google
3. Facebook
4. Apple
5. Amazon
6. Starbucks
7. Fast Foods (e.g., McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc.)
8. Big Box Retailers (e.g., Walmart, Target, etc.)
9. Sports – arenas, team clothing (e.g., jerseys, hats, etc.), fantasy leagues, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, etc.
10. Celebrities – Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen, rehab, etc.
11. Reality TV shows
12. Harry Potter
13. Jeans, sneakers and flip flops
14. Earthquakes – Mother Nature, the Financial World
15. BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China)
16. Sound bytes – Twitter, text messaging, YouTube
17. Nanoseconds
18. Millionaires to Billionaires
19. Exotic travel (e.g., Antarctica)
20. Forever Young (e.g., Botox, plastic surgery, etc.)

Welcome to Zeitgeist.

Friday, December 2, 2011


American writer/poet/art collector Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) once said, “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense." Sometimes I wonder how Gertrude Stein would have dealt with the information age and TMI (Too Much Information).

Read On:
In 2005, according to The Economist magazine, mankind produced 150 exabytes of data. This year they project we will create 1,200 exabytes of data. As a Business Catalyst in the food industry, I must stay ahead of the curve as it relates to industry news (e.g., mergers & acquisitions, bankruptcies, etc.), food trends (e.g., flavors, gastronomic, etc.), supply chain news, consumer trends, etc. Throw into the mix the new world of social media and now mobile marketing. At times I think my brain is going to explode!

Daily I am challenged to decipher the overwhelming avalanche of information. Thanks to an intercept marketing project I am currently working on, I have been studying best practices for QR codes. I am bullish about QR codes. They are still in their infancy, but slowly evolving into the mainstream and being utilized primarily by marketers seeking to instantly engage with their consumers – immediate link to a mobile site, customized content, video, etc. QR codes also facilitate tracking measurement.

Recently I read about Coca-Cola’s first QR code campaign. They have partnered with The World Wildlife Foundation to leverage their polar bear holiday mascot to raise money to protect the bear’s Arctic habitat. Immediately I started processing that with Coca-Cola now entering the game, along with some of the Big Box retailers, Starbucks, to name a few, 2012 will be a breakout year for QR codes. Before I had a chance to finish the article, I was notified of a new comment on my LinkedIn QR code post, an article about NFC (Near Field Communications) titled 2012 Will Be The Year NFC Breaks Big—Just Not U.S. In short, NFC is a new scanning payment technology that will also engage consumers. Argh! TMI; I logged out.

So how does one deal with TMI? Here are three helpful tips:

· Identify information aggregators. Follow the right people on Twitter that tweet relevant content. Engage in LinkedIn discussion groups that post relevant content daily. Identify the people in your inner circle who are active online and solicit their help to feed you relevant content.

· Identify online resources that post relevant information in fields of interest. Alltop, the “online magazine rack” of the web, is a great place to start.

· Walk. That is right. Walk from your computer when you think you have reached the point of saturation. Remember humans are not wired to handle exabytes. That is why we have computers.

Be candid, are you experiencing TMI? Don’t lose your common sense!