business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to a report suggesting that Americans want more nutritional information on product labels, one MNB user wrote:

Americans want what?  Really?  Which Americans are they asking?    Who on earth is clamoring for a list of possible side effects for all the potential allergens contained in a food product???  Must be a group of lobbyists for Big Pharma looking to distract us from the litany of dire “rare, but possible side effects” recited on the all-too-prevalent commercials for prescription drugs. The Americans that I know see a jar of peanut butter warning us that it contains peanuts and say “I should _____ HOPE so!” 

I’m not against being informed, but for information to be effective, it needs to be concise, practical and useful, in order to be readily understood and intelligently used.  And should probably be legible on a soup can or yogurt cup and not require a fold-out the size of a map of Saskatchewan. 
I’m just sayin’...

I get your point, but the "map of Saskatchewan" comment portrays old world thinking. Technology such as QR codes make it possible to provide a vast amount of information that people can access if they want to. It always has been my belief that providing information, regardless of whether people use it, is one of the best ways to engender trust.

From another MNB user:

The issue is further complicated in that many companies will simply add “may include genetically modified ingredients” to the existing label to ensure they comply with the rules.  In the end, if we over-label, no one is really any better informed.

Again, I'm not sure that the word "over-label" is applicable in 2012.

Got another comment about the whole "back to basics" debate...

I have the greatest job in the world, sharing best in class “proven” fundamental and ‘new” insights to help our retailers increase top line sales.

A few weeks ago in a top to top call I again heard the most famous quote "oh we knew that 20 years ago”… even thought the retailer wasn’t following the practice… that is proven to increase sales immediately with no investment.

The challenge is sometimes getting retail leadership into this century , not this decade.

My larger point here is not that people don't need to cover the basics, but that if they are not doing so and need to "get back to basics," then they're probably in big trouble.

On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

All I'll say is Aldi better bring it in Houston.

HEB has been perfecting their alternative format "Joe V's" for a couple of years, opening up multiple locations, and believe me when I say the independent trade in Houston will not shirk from their responsibility to continue servicing their respective neighborhoods. Wal-Mart has a number of very high volume neighborhood markets in H-Town, and it's home of course to one of the better Kroger divisions. Not to mention Fiesta Mart is back on their game......

This will be a fascinating look at what Aldi is really made of....

Regarding the Americans who believe that Facebook is just a fad, MNB user Samantha Wilding wrote:

I agree with you that calling Facebook a 'passing fad' may be a serious error of judgement.  It reminds me of the now famous story of Decca Records in London turning down the Beatles back in 1962.  Executive Dick Rowe turned down a chance to record the Beatles in favour of local beat combo Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.  Dick Rowe, head of the pop division, famously told the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein: "We don’t like their sound, and ‘guitar music’ is on the way out" - but alas, it was not just a passing fad !  Dick Rowe did not make the same mistake twice, and signed the Rolling Stones soon after.

Thanks for your always amusing commentary.

Most people don't get a second chance.

Responding to Facebook's high valuation in its current IPO, one MNB user wrote:

I have long struggled with the concept that a company that doesn’t produce something of true value (e.g., a product or physical service) can be valued so astronomically.  Yes they provide a service, but is it that valuable?

There are three articles in the WSJ this morning that outline just such a juxtaposition – GM has decided not to advertise on FB, although they will keep a free presence; an editorial on Facebook’s challenge to monetize the value as they move to IPO (as was the ultimate challenge and demise of AOL); and then one on Pepsico’s ‘new’ investor.

Monetizing FB to the levels of valuation is fraught with challenges, privacy being the main one, but also, in my view a change in consumer behavior that has become significantly different, and to some degree abhorrent / unmoved by constant advertising and sales pitches.  I see an eventual backlash to what started as a ‘private network’.  Perhaps not a fad, but definitely not the cornerstone of a profitable, long-term business model (read: AOL)

As to the juxtaposition – Pepsi is currently valued at $106 B, Facebook estimate is around $100B, yet Pepsi serves as many customers or more on a daily basis with a wide array of products around the world.  Great that FB has all this info, but what is it they really providing – a way to connect with hundreds of people you knew once?  Doesn’t email, Skype, texting, phone (and who knows what else is coming down the line) do that?  Consumer behavior is erratic, although at times predictable, but ever changing – I think GM and others have it right – limited ROI! As a marketer you have to play, but how can you ultimately make a payback?

All good questions. But I think one makes a mistake in diminishing the impact that Facebook has had. Does the company face real challenges in continuing to innovate and remain relevant, as opposed to going the way of MySpace? Sure.

Another MNB user wrote:

Social media is certainly not a fad.  The form that it takes may well change every few years.  To your point, Facebook will need to continue to evolve to maintain it's leadership position.  The question is, can they develop the revenue stream to be popular with Wall St. while still maintaining their hip consumer image.

Worst case scenario, Mark Zuckerberg buys the Sacramento Kings and is the new face on Shark Tank.

That would be the worst case...

KC's View: