Tuesday, February 28, 2012


“Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable.” – Twyla Tharp
Congratulations Michel Hazanavicius for venturing outside your comfort zone to direct Academy Award winner The Artist.

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Sunday night, the black-and-white silent film The Artist walked off with five academy awards. Imagine in an age of computer generated action thrillers, director Michel Hazanavicius conceived of a classic black-and-white silent film about a fading movie star caught up in the transition of silent movies transforming over to sound. The last silent film to win the top prize for Best Picture was Wings back in 1929.

Marketing is morphing. Status quo or adapt? I am an advocate of change. Change takes risk. Yet change sometimes can be the adaption of the old/classic combined with what is new – hybrid. That is what classically trained marketers understand thanks to the new collaborative tools of Web 2.0. Consumers are more engaged than ever due to the Internet. However, smart marketers recognize all the touch points that need to be addressed that influence consumer buying behavior. TV, print, packaging graphics, end-aisle displays, etc. will endure. Facebook, Twitter, QR codes, NFC, etc. are the future. The best of the old/classic combined with the new, hybrid, will produce winners. Michel Hazanavicius understood this concept when he directed The Artist. Michel was willing to take some hybrid risk.

Are you ready to step outside your comfort zone and take some hybrid risk?

I would be remiss not to mention, The Artist actually won a sixth award recently. Uggie the star dog won the first Golden Collar Award earlier in the month.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Content Marketing – So What’s New?

I am amused by how many marketing experts there are on LinkedIn; especially when it comes to the new world of digital marketing. Their latest “buzz du jour” – content marketing.

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According to the LinkedIn experts, content marketing is all about the creation and sharing of relevant information to potential or existing customers throughout the various media platforms. In addition, marketers now have the opportunity to engage via the collaborative tools of Web 2.0 with their targeted audiences. Candidly, for me, content marketing has been around for years. Classically trained marketers call it Messaging 101.

Bottomline: Messaging 101 is essential for effective communication. I recommend all future content marketers read a business classic, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by the Heath brothers. They emphasized three key Messaging 101 elements:

· Simplicity Rocks – Keep your message short. Your potential or existing customers are on sensory overload thanks to all the different forms of media they encounter day to day. Respect their time.

· Sound Bites – Concise language evokes a positive image. Remember Dunkin' Donuts classic Fred the Baker? “Time to make the donuts!” Fresh was the message.

· Emotional Chords – People love stories, stories build credibility. Thanks to Web 2.0 everyone has become a critic or a blogger, thus are sharing their stories. People also like babies, pets, etc. Did you notice how many Super Bowl ads incorporated babies or dogs this year?

Do you rock? Are you delivering simple content that strikes an emotional chord?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Love Your Pet Day

What are you going to do today to pamper your little friend(s)?

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I have written several posts about pet ownership. A quick review of the American Pets Products Association website confirmed that the pet industry continues to flourish. Ownership statistics gathered in APPA’s latest survey indicated the number of U.S. households that now own a pet is 72.9 million compared to 71.4 million when I posted Pets USA Revisited (July, 2010). Currently almost half of American households own a dog; an estimated 4 in 10 households own a cat. Back in 2010, I reported U.S. Pet Industry expenditures at $47.7 billion; estimated expenditures for 2011 were $50.8 billion, an increase of 6.6 percent.

Food is number one in pet expenditures. Retail sales were estimated at $19.5 billion in 2011. The basic annual food expenses for dogs and cats are $254 and $220 respectively. These numbers will continue to exhibit robust growth thanks to the increase in affluent pet owners and aging pets. The APPA reported in their survey that approximately 40 percent of cats and dogs were older than 6 years. Consequently, a new category in pet foods is emerging – super premium products. Marketers from pet food companies are targeting health conscious, label scrutinizing consumers who are willing to spend more on feeding their pets. They call these consumers “Pet Parents.” These luxury pet food items now comprise 5 percent of the market. Market leader Nestlé Purina recently introduced a product line for cats labeled Elegant Medleys with flavors like White Meat Chicken Primavera and Yellowfin Tuna Tuscany. For dogs they introduced a line titled Chef Michael’s Canine Creations with flavors like Beef Short Rib. Niche companies are also jumping into the premium pet food market. One company that piques my interest is Blue Buffalo with their line of chef inspired bistro meals like Beef Bourguignon for cats and antioxidant, nutrient rich Blue Longevity™ for dogs.

So tonight, are you going to order in some pizza or are you going to get down on the floor and enjoy a candlelight gourmet dinner with your little friend(s)?

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less: Stop! Sounds like a WMD!

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February is National Snack Food Month. The bad news is one of America’s best known snacks, a cultural icon that President Clinton placed in a time capsule and that some people fry, is under siege. Yes folks, Twinkies, a true WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction – ingredient statement listed above), the snack creation of inventor Jimmy Dewar (1930, Schiller Park, Illinois) is battling hard times. Hostess Brands, the privately held company that produces the product filed for bankruptcy back in January, the second time in a decade. Financial issues attributed to $860 million in debt, high labor costs and rising commodity prices forced the company to file. However, the good news is senior management indicated they will continue rolling Twinkies off their production lines. Bravo Hostess Brands for not laying off any of your labor force (19,000 people in 48 states) despite being under attack.

Competition in the snack business is fierce, but candidly there is one other major reason Hostess Brands, also the manufacturer of Wonder Bread, is in trouble. America’s snacking eating behavior is gradually changing. Overall, in the food-away-from-home channel, the NPD Group estimates that the overall annual serving’s per capita consumption of snacks (all types) for consumers 13+ years of age is 1,256. They also reported that the overall consumption of healthier snacks is growing. One healthier option is yogurt – 32% of Americans ate yogurt at least once in two weeks in 2011 compared to 18% in 2000. The Produce for Better Health Foundation reported in their last State of the Plate Study (2010) that the per capita cup consumption of fruit increased +5% versus 2004 and that 15% of the fruit was consumed as a snack.

Have healthy snacks declared war on WMDs?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Abe & Charlie

We all know that it is Abe Lincoln’s birthday Sunday. Did you know that Charles Darwin was also born on February 12th, back in 1809, the same day as Abe?

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

Great inspirational quote! I used it in an old post back in 2009 advocating that companies needed to think forward and innovate. I proclaimed that status quo would be the pre-cursor for business failure. Opposed to cutting back on spending, I recommended four areas of investment:

· Join the “Social Media Revolution.”

· Tap into the talented labor pool attributed to high unemployment.

· Invest in organic growth.

· Outsource innovation.

Individually or collectively, I believe these initiatives will pay off two to three years down the road for those businesses that subscribe to a sustainable business model.

Status quo or adapt?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Black Diamonds

Millions of Africans are trapped in poverty. However, due to an abundance of natural resources, minerals and oil, sub-Saharan economies are flourishing. The region is among the fastest growing economies in the world. Regardless, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, people known as “Black Diamonds.”

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For decades the African elite made their shopping rounds in far off places like Paris, London and New York City. Now, according to a report from Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, Africa exhibited the fastest growing population of high-net-worth individuals in the world between 2009 and 2010. In recognition of the sudden rise in disposable incomes, malls featuring luxury brands began sprouting up – Sandton City in Johannesburg, The Palms in Lagos Nigeria, Sea Plaza in Dakar Senegal, etc. Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss and Hermés to just name a few are now ramping up their presence in Africa and targeting the growing number of affluent professionals. They label their target market “Black Diamonds.”

Africa is also witnessing the emergence of “Black Diamond Wannabes,” consumers that are buying luxury goods as a status symbol despite the fact they cannot afford these items. Consequently, debt levels in South Africa have gone through the roof. Despite the country having the continent’s number one economy, the South African central bank just reported that household debt stands at 75 percent of disposable income. Note: South Africans spend on average 7 percent of their disposable income just servicing their debts.

“Black Diamonds” and overwhelming poverty make for a flawed continent.

Share your thoughts.