business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday’s MNB Radio commentary about the need for instruction manuals, Glen Terbeek wrote:

Maybe the need for "instruction" in today's supermarkets is because they are laid out for distribution efficiencies (i.e., a category is a slot location for a shopper to find like items) rather than logically, according to how the shopper (home chef) thinks about meals. As an alternative to "genius bars", think about several "meal idea areas", each with all of the items needed to prepare several suggested menu items for the day. One could be Italian, another seafood, or vegetarian, etc.; similar to how restaurants brand and differentiate themselves. (Remember, restaurants take a large percentage of the food budget each day.) I would guess that the "meal idea areas" would also be able to eliminate many redundant brands, since shoppers would be buying the suggested ingredients, not worried about having many brand choices they face in like item sections today. (Restaurants don't list the ingredients used in their solutions.)

Of course the "meal idea areas" would cut across the standard organizations and measurements in place today. And for sure the offerings would have to be adjusted according to the shoppers in each stores market area. And what happens to trade dollars? Oh well, maybe the "genius bar" is the only way to help the shopper cut through today's illogical stores!

Commenting on one example I offered, MNB user Christina Daugert wrote:

Sirius Radio provides a great manual. They also provide coated cards that are not only easy to store but provide a wealth of information regarding stations available, the subject mix and they are up-dated on a regular basis. They have on line memos of up and coming specials and even provide trivia information if you need it. They have news, weather, sports and music from any venue you can imagine, plus much more. Right now I am totally hooked on the Comedy stations. Our Security Guard mentioned to me that out of 400 people I am the only one coming in the door every morning with a big smile on my face.

I can't believe that you Kevin, of all people, aren't already a part of the Satellite Radio world. I had a 1 year free trial when I purchased my vehicle but I had no problem writing out that check when it was time to sign up for another year. The blame really goes to Hertz for not having the cards in each car.

When I bought my Miata 13 years ago, I don't think they even had satellite radio. And right now I have two kids in college…so satellite radio, not to mention a new Miata, will have to wait.

More comment on Home Depot’s plan to open a store that will appeal to women shoppers…

Home Depot got the hits they deserved...this is what happens when you segment by demographics rather than Psychographics/Lifestyle...Its what happens when you lose sight of your competitive advantages...its what happens when the needs of the company are more important than the needs of the customer...

I am reminded of something that I think the great Trudy Bourgeois once told me – that demographics is the study of that which makes people alike, while psychographics is the study of that which makes people different. Retailers, she said, would be able to differentiate themselves more if they focused on psychographics rather than demographics…which, of course, most do not.

MNB user Cynthia LeVan wrote:

Lowes, Home Depot’s competitor, considers women to be their target audience and markets to them. Yes, they use fashionable colors and styles in their ads, but their biggest effort is simply being clean. I don’t consider that pandering or anything else. Everybody benefits from a clean environment.

There was a lot of criticism yesterday of Home Depot, but one MNB user had a different perspective:

A few years ago I took a part-time job in the Garden Department at Home Depot. At lunch and break times HD supplied books, articles, pamphlets, and computer training for me to review to expand my knowledge. I took it upon myself to be the most knowledgeable sales guy in the store not only in my department but in others as well. I also learned from my customers how to keep rabbits out of the garden, what Aluminum Sulfate was for, and what it meant when mushrooms popped up in the lawn. I quite often used this advice in my own yard to make prettier flowers - sometimes it worked and sometime it didn't. If I didn't know the answer, I would find someone who did.

Most of my customers were actually great to work for and with. Some, however, were the definition of rudeness. My general question to anyone with that blank look on their face was, "Are you finding everything OK?" The worst cussing out I had in my life was a woman who responded to my query with questions about my parents species and then told me to perform an unnatural act with - well, you get the idea (I think some of it was in French because I've never heard those words). And she was by no means the only one because they were legion. But she was not the rule.

I prided myself in giving customers good advise in a friendly manner and offering more than just something to buy - but something to learn. I was awarded 3 times by customers (who were nice enough and took the time) who wrote into the Home Depot web site for excellent service, but I still remember the people that found me inferior because I worked at Home Depot.

My point? Whenever I read about customer complaints I think back on my experiences at Home Depot. I know the girl at the checkout with the cell phone in her ear, the kid in the paint department with the droopy pants, the clerk that didn't care about anything you said, but they were no more the rule that was my torturer with the clever use of swear words.

There were also those of us that really cared and tried to do something about it.

I suggested yesterday that Procter & Gamble was making the right move by being willing to take a hit on profits while investing in new environmental packaging, and that consumers eventually will reward thought leaders in this area.

One MNB user responded:

Just one more reason that P&G is a great company. They tend to take the long view and about anyone who has owned the stock knows they just keep humming along. They accurately report what they are doing and usually get it done. No accounting gimmicks, no the-dog-ate-homework excuses. Just delivering products the consumer wants and demands.

But another MNB user disagreed:

With respect to the detergent “compacting”; P&G has known this for years but did not want to bite the bullet (I had a conversation with their CEO about it in the 90s). Their concern was losing shelf space and “visibility” if they “concentrated” as much as was possible. You should be mad at them for taking so long not happy that they are taking this “bold step”. The bold step would have been in the 90s, not now!

We reported yesterday that Taco Bell is for the first time trying to sell its Americanized vision of the taco – a hard shell with ground beef, tomato and sour cream – in Mexico.

While some criticize its bland taste, other say it could be successful simply because it is American, and American products are seen as being high in quality.

I commented:

The reason I don't eat at Taco Bell and places like it is summed up in one statement made … by Rob Poetsch, a spokesman for Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell.

“What we are bringing to Mexico is not Mexican food, it's our exciting quick-service restaurant brand,” he said. “We feel the timing is right, and we've done quite a bit of consumer research to validate that this goes beyond product. It's about value and convenience – that's the universal appeal.”

In other words, it is about the brand. Not about the food.

The food itself is lowest common denominator food, and it may someday be America’s legacy that we spread this crap all over the planet, killing off the notion of authentic cuisines whenever possible.

MNB user Russell (Rusty) Findlay disagreed:

I am sorry that you feel so strongly about America’s legacy or lack thereof for fast food and particularly Taco Bell, but I strongly disagree. I have owned Restaurants all over our country, won many cooking competitions and created outstanding recipes, sauces and marinades that are still being enjoyed across our continent…but I struggle with eating around the world. There is very little consistency and almost no understanding of what minimal standards for value, taste, spice levels, appropriate side dishes and food safety. The great disaster that you call “American” fast food gives many of us who travel all over the world the opportunity to dine on a meal that offers us a preconceived idea of what to expect.

Do I mind what you have to say? Not at all. it even allows me to chuckle at your shortsightedness, but I enjoy almost every kind of ethnic food when prepared to American food service standards and traditions?

I do not doubt your experience and expertise.

But thinking about Taco Bell as ethnic cuisine is more than I can handle. That’s like calling Pizza Hut Italian food.

I don't know which rebels more than that notion – my head or my belly.
KC's View: