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18 posts from February 2005

February 28, 2005

"It is Lighter than a Duck?"

I spent this past weekend at a beach house with friends. My buddy Mark, brought along a handheld gadget called "20Q"... It's full name is actually "20 Questions Deluxe." It's a small electronic game with an LED screen that 98% of the time accurately guesses what you're thinking in only 20 questions.

The goal is to try to stump the toy by thinking of something it cannot guess.

Think of something... nearly anything... and 20Q will ask you a series of questions.

It starts by asking you: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, Other or Unknown...

It then seems to ask you a series of random questions...

"Is it heavier than a pound of butter?"

"Is it bigger than a microwave?"

"Is it colorful?"


While you think its query is all over the board... little do you know it's getting closer and closer to the answer...

It has amazing accuracy... It's hard to believe that in only 20 questions the artificial intelligence can guess random things like bowling ball, light bulb, clock radio, file cabinet, handcuffs, and dozens of others...

Once in a while it may guess VERY close, but wrong... for example... I was answering questions for "banjo"... it came up with "guitar" (close, but technically incorrect)... so it asked about 5 more questions and thought I was thinking of a "piano."

Other words it had trouble with included... sand dollar and... certain body parts (but it may be programmed to NOT guess those).

It's VERY addictive. All weekend it had the eight of us baffled... One by one we would each try it to try to stump it. Time after time, it would guess right!

I'm getting one for myself, for my brother and for others. It's fascinating.

If you can't wait to get to the toy aisle to buy one... here's a similar on-line version hosted on

I wonder if this type of technology could be used to predict the quality of service an applicant may provide when interviewing for a job? Could this technology be used by medical professionals to diagnose illnesses? Could it be programmed to help coach people and help them make critical decisions? Interesting...

You can buy 20Q Deluxe many places... I'd recommend (that's where I swiped the image in this post from).

Visit the ThinkGeek for a great description of how the technology works.

February 27, 2005

The Open-Sourcing Soup Peddler???

Hugh pimps a Tailor. I pimp a Soup Maker. (Previous Soup Peddler pimpin’ can be found here and here … as well as a fresh pimp below.)

In a recent blog entry, David Ansel (The Soup Peddler) shares findings from his latest customer survey. The survey asked his Soupies their thoughts on the increasing bigness of the business and if they wanted more than just soup from The Soup Peddler. (Click here to view the survey results.)

David also shares a story about discussing his business with a highly successful Austin restaurateur who admitted being jealous of how much The Soup Peddler brings his Soupies into the business decision-making process.

The Soup Peddler writes …

Thanks to an introduction by someone I am only at liberty to refer to as The Invisible Hand of The Soup Peddler, I gained audience with Bic Brown, owner of Hyde Park Bar & Grill, to discuss the inner workings of my business plan, in order to ferret out any insanities that may lie within.

When I showed him the survey and some of the early responses, he was completely agog with the rarity of the connection that we have with our customers. He envisioned you, the collective Soupie, as a great, throbbing e-brain that could be harnessed to do my bidding.

His suggestion was to just put my business plan up on the website and tell you all to have at it. Just put it up there, go to sleep, and wake up the next morning with the whole damn thing all figured out.

I might just do that.

With the open-source movement gaining more and more momentum, it’ll be interesting to see what develops if the Soup Peddler does indeed open-source his business plan. For the Soup Peddler, it looks like there can never be too many cooks in his kitchen.

February 25, 2005

Tooth Tunes | Remarkability Amplified

Tooth_tunes_14 out of 5 marketers agree, Tooth Tunes, a musical toothbrush from Hasbro, is a case study example of spending marketing dollars to make a product better.

“When pressed to the tooth, [Tooth Tunes] renders a recorded riff from a pop star that lasts two- minutes – precisely the amount of time dentists say children should be spend brushing their teeth." [source: Wall Street Journal article | sub req’d.]

Not only does it make the ho-hum toothbrush remarkable, it also solves the problem of getting children to brush their teeth more often and for longer periods of time.

For six years, Hasbro has been trying to develop the right use for their invention of a tiny devise that can transmit sound through enamel and bone. They first tried to use the technology in a lollipop but at $10 bucks a pop, consumers balked. Next, Hasbro considered using pens, spoons, and forks but none of those prototypes made it to the marketplace. Hasbro finally settled on a toothbrush and will launch Tooth Tunes in late summer.

If 4 out of 5 marketers agree this is a great example of using marketing spend to improve the product ... then who is the dissenting 5th marketer?

February 21, 2005

The One Hundredth & First Blogger

Before submitting my essay to Jon Strande for the 100 Bloggers project, I want to reach out to you for feedback.

For those unaware, the purpose of the 100 Bloggers project is to showcase the connectedness of blogging/bloggers and to highlight the power of a networked conversation.

25 bloggers were originally invited to participate and they were asked to invite another blogger who in turn, invited another blogger who invited one more blogger until a total of 100 bloggers were on board. We each have until March 1 to submit our 1,000 words (or less) essay which will be published online and offline in some capacity.

So … here is your invitation to provide feedback on my essay and to become the 101st blogger.


Learning through Sharing
as submitted by johnmoore (from the Brand Autopsy blog)

From 10 to Tens of Millions …
Throughout my marketing career I’ve always been quick to share interesting articles with others. On Monday mornings back-in-the-day, I would usually find myself wrestling with the office copy machine to churn out double-sided copies of must-read articles from Fast Company, BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, and stories from a variety of other sources. At that time, my distribution list consisted of only 10 co-workers.

These days I’m still sharing interesting articles with others, but the difference is my distribution list extends beyond 10 co-workers to tens of millions of people on the Internet.

Thanks to the expansive reach of blogs and to blogging’s ease-of-use, I no longer spend my Monday mornings slaving over a problematic copy machine to share interesting articles. Instead, blogging allows me to simply link to the article online and digitally Cc: the entire online world and not just Cc: my marketing co-workers.

See ya Cc: …
Cc: is short-hand language for carbon copy. Long before the emergence of word processors and photocopiers, typewriters ruled the written world and making carbon copies was the everyday way to share important documents with others.

To make a duplicate copy during the typewriter age, one had to slip a piece of carbon paper in between two pieces of paper and after finishing typing, one was left with an original copy and a carbon copy.

The original meaning of Cc: is irrelevant now, but its intent is highly relevant today. We use Cc: everyday when we send messages to multiple recipients through email. We even use Cc: as a verb as in ‘I Cc:’d so and so.’

But Cc: is so yesterday while Dc: is so today.

We’ve evolved from making carbon copies to creating digital copies. And through blogging, we can digitally Cc: the whole wide world.

Sharing to Learn …
The main reason I blog is to learn -- that’s because I learn by sharing. Conversation always follows sharing and inherent in any conversation is the art of listening and the act of responding.

When you share your opinions, thoughts, and influences with others on a blog post, it will usually generate comments. It’s through listening and responding to these comments that I learn most.

I learn when someone openly challenges my thoughts as it forces me to reevaluate my thinking. I also learn when someone adds their unique perspective by riffing off my perspective.

But before you can share to learn, you must learn to share.

Learning to Share …
Too many times we find it easier to keep our opinions, thoughts, and influences to ourselves. Blogging requires you to tear down barriers and be more transparent in sharing with others what you are passionate about.

The act of blogging has been characterized by some as being egotistical selfish musings. I could not disagree more.

Blogging is as selfless an act one can do. To blog is to be transparent. To blog is to open oneself up to being judged. To blog is to share. And to share is to learn.

The Virtuous Cycle of Sharing and Learning …
Blogging’s virtuous cycle of sharing to learn and learning to share has transformed how I receive information and how I am inspired by information. I credit this virtuous cycle to helping me make sharper, more strategic business decisions and in helping me to become a more consistent marketing mentor to others.

I invite you to join this conversation because the more people share, the more we all will learn.

If you are already blogging, I ask you to blog more often. If you haven’t started blogging, I ask you to begin. Together, we can make this virtuous cycle even more virtuous when more of us share to learn and more of us learn to share.


Have some comments? Please share so I can learn.

February 20, 2005

What Google Did

GooglezonSeth Godin once asked us What Should Google Do? and he turned our answers in an e-book (PDF). And now … Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson, staffers at the Poynter Institute for Journalism in Florida, give us their vision of how Google will rule the media landscape in 2014.

Done from a ‘backcasting newsreel’ perspective, Sloan and Thompson express their vision of the future as if we, in 2004, were viewing it in 2014.

Click here to stream the fascinating eight-minute EPIC 2014 newsreel video.

Excerpted highlights from EPIC 2014 include:

Year 2006: The Google Grid
"Google combines all of its services—TIVO, Blogger, Gmail, Google News and all of its searches—into the Google Grid, the universal platform that provides a functionally limitless amount of storage space and bandwidth to store and share media of all kinds, always online and accessible from anywhere."

Year 2008: Formation of GoogleZon
"This year sees the alliance that will challenge Microsoft’s ambitions. Google and Amazon joined forces informed GoogleZon. Together, they use their detailed knowledge of every users social network, demographics, consumption habits and interests to provide total customization content and advertising."

Year 2014: Welcome to the EPIC World
"The Evolving Personalized Information Construct is the system by which our sprawling, chaotic mediascape is filtered, ordered and delivered. Everyone contributes now – from blog entries to phone cam images to video reports to full-fledged investigations."

Further Learning:

  • EPIC 2014 | transcript
  • Web Talk Radio Show | article | interview with Robin Sloan (mp3)
  • The Sloan+Thompson blog | Snarkmarket
  • February 18, 2005

    Disparaging Gladwell? ... on Brand Autopsy?

    Brand Autopsy has given lots of digital ink to Malcolm Gladwell.

    Okay … it goes beyond giving him digital ink to outright pimpin’ Gladwell. [Brand Autopsy Pimp One. Brand Autopsy Pimp Two. Brand Autopsy Pimp Three.]

    When pimping Gladwell’s take on Big Pharma from an October 2004 New Yorker article, I received some grief in the comments section.

    Now, I never officially supported Gladwell’s assertion that higher prescription drug prices may be a result of how we, as a society, have become more aggressive in the treatment of diseases and we are spending more on drugs because we are using more drugs. I merely highlighted another side to the story … a story I found to be unconventional and thought-provoking.

    Recently I read in BRANDWEEK magazine that Gladwell may have had a conflict of interest. (Ugh.) His business guru status has led Gladwell to being paid by pharmaceutical companies to deliver speeches to the drug industry. Jim Edwards of BRANDWEEK writes,

    Not every media outlet has blamed Big Pharma and its marketing for the high cost of drugs. One of the more sympathetic articles, published last October by The New Yorker, was penned by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point.

    The piece did not mention, however, that Gladwell has been paid by pharmaceutical companies on numerous occasions in recent years to give speeches on his marketing theories. Gladwell denied a conflict of interest. He says he has previously disclosed giving the speeches, and has not advocated a position that supports Big Pharma’s interests.

    “Did [my actions] create a bias in favor of the pharmaceutical industry?” he writes on his web site, “The evidence is for all to see.”

    I’m not sure the evidence is definitive enough for all to believe. Maybe it is because Gladwell is such a compelling writer that I believed his take on high drug prices went beyond being just an article ... to being his belief.

    Great writers can make us believe they believe. Dig?

    Blogger’s Grotto

    Does your Blogger’s Grotto look like this? While not as cool as Po Bronson’s Writer’s Grotto … it’s just as practical.


    [Photo from Shawn Zehnder Lea of the Everything And/But Nothing blog.]

    Nice Shawn ... very nice!

    February 17, 2005

    Eureka! Presentation Shareware

    Here's a recent find...

    Doug Hall... founder of the Eureka Ranch, innovationist, entrepreneur, and author ("Jump Start Your Business Brain", and other books...) has developed what he calls Book Activated Training - a training presentation to support his book "Jump Start Your Business Brain." Posted on-line, his ready-to-go training session - a robust 9MB 110-slide PowerPoint Training Seminar is readily available if you want to help your organization jump start their brains.

    Doug, using the honor system, asks if you use the training to purchase a copy of the book for each of the participants.

    Great idea. It's basically presentation shareware.

    A win-win for everyone...
    a) It makes it easier for changemakers to sell-in to their organization the ideas found in the book...
    b) It drives book sales for Doug by making the book more usable and practical.

    While not technically free, reality is... if you like the book enough to roll the ideas to your organization, you're going to be buying it for your entire team anyhow... (thus meeting Doug's usage request).

    Even better, Doug offers audio versions of his books for free - no strings attached.


    In his words...

    Friends have asked me why I'd give away my secrets, my audio books, etc. The reason is simple-it's the right thing to do.

    It's a belief that I picked up while kicking around in juggling circles. The philosophy among jugglers is "If I teach you a trick and you teach me a trick, we are both enriched."

    February 16, 2005

    Writer's Grotto

    Po_bronson_grotto_3In Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal we learned Po Bronson, best-selling author, has a grotto … a writer’s grotto.

    Bronson began The Writer’s Grotto in a former San Francisco Dog & Cat Hospital. Authors and screenplay writers pay up to $300 per month to work in one of the 21 old examination rooms turned workspaces. This diverse community of writers generously share advice, contacts, and first drafts with each other.

    That’s cool. Anyone up for starting a Blogger’s Grotto?

    Speaking of grottos, we know Hugh Hefner has a grotto … but does he have a blog?

    Come to think of it, if I had a grotto like Hef’s … I’d do more ogling than blogging.

    Throw Momma from the Hughtrain

    Looks like Rich...! is not aboard the Hughtrain.


    [... from the "Hello_World" blog]

    February 15, 2005

    BzzAgent’s Natural Buzz

    Wait … this is not another post where Brand Autopsy slams BzzAgent. We’ve played that card (and some might say overplayed that card) with past posts. Instead, this post shares a mild revelation I recently had about the business of BzzAgent.

    As we know, BzzAgent’s reason for being is to help companies accelerate word-of-mouth. They seed select BzzAgents in the field with a sample product and give them talking points and ideas for how and where to spread word-of-mouth. The result is hopefully increased word-of-mouth and ‘buzz’ for the product.

    Katherine Stone, from the Decent Marketing blog, sums up my core beef with the BzzAgent buzz-making process by writing, “It seems to me that if you need to hire an agency to manufacture buzz then perhaps your product isn’t all that remarkable.” (Decent Marketing | Buzz Kill post | May 6, 2004)

    So how did the BUZZ begin for BzzAgent?

    Did BzzAgent send out BzzGuides to BzzAgents and give them buzz-creating strategies in order to land the articles in Fast Company and the New York Times Sunday Magazine? Did BzzAgent go through the ‘BzzAgent process’ to get mentioned in Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow?

    I’m serious here. BzzAgent is a case study in how to NATURALLY create buzz.

    The company is insanely remarkable. So remarkable that we want to talk about it. So remarkable that the media wants to write about it. So remarkable that companies want to hire BzzAgent to create buzz for their products. So remarkable that bloggers want to dissect it.

    It’s simple … companies and products worth talking about get talked about.

    Which brings me back to Katherine’s quote, “… if you need to hire an agency to manufacture buzz then perhaps your product isn’t all that remarkable.”

    February 12, 2005

    The HB Way

    BeharKnown simply as HB, Howard Behar has had an enduring and endearing impact at Starbucks.

    Howard Schultz, Starbucks demigod, openly credits HB with making the company more customer-driven. My Starbucks Tribal Knowledge tells me it was HB that popularized the now often quoted line of: “Starbucks is not in the coffee business serving people. Starbucks is in the people business serving coffee.”

    HB is also known for spreading the gospel of Servant Leadership throughout Starbucks. Last night while perusing the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble I noticed James Autry’s book, The Servant Leader, is now available in paperback and the foreword is written by Howard Behar.

    For those not in the know, Servant Leadership eschews the classical definition of a leader being a stand-alone hero. Instead, Servant Leadership asks leaders to focus on creating a shared vision for all employees, fostering a spirit of interdependence, and managing with respect, honesty, and empathy.

    In the foreword, HB shares the story of how in 2001, he returned to Starbucks to find the company leadership culture different than what he had experienced before.

    “The pathway of Starbucks phenomenal achievement has been full of twists and hurdles, some of which were unwittingly created by the very partners (Starbucks employees) who were working so hard to make us successful! I retired from Starbucks in 1999, and was enjoying the good life – no meetings, no deadlines – it was great. But in 2001 there was a change in the leadership in our North American business unit, and Starbucks President and CEO Orin Smith asked me to come back to work on an interim basis as president of the business unit.

    Servant_leader_2Orin had notice something different at Starbucks. The passion and values were still there, but sometimes we spent more energy on our individual or department goals than focusing on the greater good. Not just what we could do within the four walls of our offices or our stores, but the greater good that our now-expansive organization was binging to the world – how could we serve each other and people around the globe.

    From an outsider’s perspective, there was nothing to complain about: the company’s financial achievements, growth and innovation were chugging ahead full steam, and partners devoted near-obsessive attention to quality and ethics. But could we sustain our success for the next 10, 20, 50 years without taking a hard look at our leadership practices? We didn’t think so.

    Orin and I began to evangelize the principles of servant leadership … we held trainings, read books, and more importantly, we lived it. And we are still living it. You can see it today as people meet in the hallways. You can feel the power behind the change, and the power that servant leadership gives to everyone it touches, in every aspect of our lives. Servant leadership is truly alive at Starbucks.”

    Besides spreading the gospel of Servant Leadership throughout Starbucks worldwide, HB is also known for spreading weathered truisms, known affectionately as HB-isms, throughout the company. Some of the more memorable HB-isms include:

  • We think rules make us safe. They don’t. Don’t give me rules, give me tools.
  • Where we have a problem, we have a problem leader.
  • Profit is what comes when you do everything else right.
  • Customers don’t think about rules. They want what they want.
  • Your customer will tell you whether you are right or wrong – just try it.
  • I’m not smart. I’m just not stupid – I learn.
  • Don’t be lulled into complacency – we will hit the wall.
  • There is no conflict with doing the right thing and making money.

  • February 10, 2005

    The More You Sell, The Less You Make

    Something is not quite right with that headline. As long as a business has sound fundamentals, how can it be the more a business sells ... the less it makes?

    Two words : WAL*MART.

    According to a recent BusinessWeek article, only 9 of the 38 companies generating 10% or more of their total sales volume at Wal*Mart are recording above-average profitability and shareholder returns.

    Proctor & Gamble, which generates 18% of its sales volume through the Wal*Mart channel, is one of the nine. The article mentions P&G has found prosperity at Wal*Mart by not selling commodity goods like paper towels. Instead P&G focuses on selling goods such as Olay skin products which command higher margins and are not easily commodified by private label producers.

    This interesting info nugget dovetails with our posts from last week on how private label brands, diminishing pricing power of packaged good producers, and the Wal*Mart effect may have significantly influenced the Proctor & Gamble/Gillette merger.

    Further Learning:
  • BusinessWeek article | Branding: Five New Lessons (sub. req'd) | Feb. 14, 2005
  • Business Blog Book Tour at Brand Autopsy | Category Killers | January 26, 2005
  • Brand Autopsy post | First serving of Category Killers leftovers | January 31, 2005
  • Brand Autopsy post | Second serving of Category Killers leftovers | January 31, 2005
  • Brand Autopsy post | Third serving of Category Killers leftovers | January 31, 2005
  • February 08, 2005

    "While You Were At Lunch"


    PREMISE: Co-workers lure you away from your desk to lunch. While you're away from your desk... the building facilities team partners with designers from Hold Everything, the Container Store and Office Max

    They have 55 minutes to totally re-do your cubicle. A total cubicle make-over...


    Imagine the mahem as the victim tries to get back to their desk early... Colleagues stall with excuses like - "Let's stop for a latte first!" or... "Hey... let's take the stairs..."


    The REVEAL will be the high point of the show... when all the work builds up the crescendo... with comments like... "I've always wanted an ergonomic chair!" or "Wow! A lamp from IKEA!"


    Potential Hosts:

    - Scott Adams, creater of Dilbert
    - Ron Livingston, who played the role of Peter Gibbons in the movie "Office Space"

    Potential sponsors:

    - Liquid Paper
    - Swingline Stapler Co.

    Then there is always the blooper show...

    Super Bowl Ad Relevance Study

    Brand Autopsy’s exclusive Super Bowl Ad Relevance Study reveals startling connections between today’s Super Bowl commercials and yesteryear’s television icons.

    With the assistance of independent marketing research firm RPS Systems (Rock, Paper, Scissors), we assembled a representative sample of iconic television characters and electronically charted their second-by-second reactions to ads airing during the Super Bowl. The tabulated results clearly show the deep associations iconic television characters had with particular Super Bowl XXXIX commercials.

    Each Super Bowl commercial resonated especially well with a select group of television icons. Some television icons gravitated to particular spots while others felt distanced.

    Highlights from the study including the following strong associations between particular Super Bowl commercial and certain iconic television characters:

    Anheuser-Busch: "Standing Ovation"

    Gomer Pyle (Gomer Pyle - USMC) and 'Radar' O'Reilly (M.A.S.H.) both associated themselves strongly with the this spot.
    While Balki Bartokomous (Perfect Strangers) and Dr. Bombay (Bewitched) did not resonate at all with the 'Standing Ovation' commercial.

    Ameriquest: "Romantic Dinner"

    Jack Tripper, Larry Dallas, and Mr. Furley (from Three's Company) connected strongly with the premise of 'misundertsandings.

    Diet Pepsi: "P Diddy" (Pepsi Truck)

    Because of their on-screen occupations, BJ (BJ and the Bear) and Doug Heffernan (King of Queens) felt a bond with the P Diddy 'making big trucks hip' commercial.
    MasterCard: "Brand Icons Together for Dinner"

    Still clinging to their aspirations of one day becoming widely recognized icons, the Great Gazoo (Flintstones) and Gleek (Superfriends) reacted positively to this spot from MasterCard.
    ************************************************************************** "Cubicle Monkeys"

    Lancelot Link Secret Chimp, Jim Fowler (Tonight Show), and Alf felt this spot from CareerBuilder played off stereotypes but nevertheless, they connected strongly with the ad.

    Go Daddy: "Booby Trap"


    Barney Gumble (Simpsons), Paul Pfeiffer (Wonder Years), and Eddie Munster all became overly excited while ogling the Go Daddy spot.

    February 05, 2005

    Gladwell Steps in the Arena

    In this way worthy read from Page 2 of, Malcolm Gladwell steps in the arena of professional sports and applies his BLINK ideology. My key takeaways were:

    Gladwell on Play Calling During Super Bowl XXXIX…

    “ … I've always been so surprised that more NFL teams don't use the no-huddle. It's not just that it forces your opponent to keep a specific defense on the field. It's that it shifts the game cognitively: it forces coaches and defensive captains to think and react entirely in the instinctive "blink" mode … Andy Reid has to know that Belichick has an edge when he can calmly and deliberately plot his next move. But does he still have an advantage when he and his players have to make decisions on the spur of the moment? I'd tell Andy Reid to go no-huddle at random, unpredictable points during the game -- to throw Belichick out of his comfort zone."

    Gladwell on the ‘Warren Harding error’ and the NBA…

    “The Warren Harding Error is in honor of our best-looking president ever -- a man so handsome and distinguished and with such a barrel chest and broad shoulders and commanding voice that people would just look at him and be convinced that that he would make a wonderful leader. Unfortunately, Harding turned out to be our stupidest and most incompetent president ever. (And there is some stiff competition for that title). The Warren Harding Error is what happens when our first impressions are so powerful that they cloud our better judgment.”

    “I always think about this when I hear basketball people talking about how high a player can jump. People fall in love with leaping ability, because when you see someone soar so far above the rim its an almost emotional experience. It's like looking at Warren Harding. But, of course, what does leaping ability really tell you about a player? Not much. Most rebounds are taken below the rim, and the key to getting your shot off is really how quick your release is and how you shoot, not how high you jump.”
    “Who suffers the most from the Warren Harding Error? Well, I'm an embittered New Yorker so I'd say Isiah Thomas. He's brought together a group of marvelous athletes -- Crawford, Thomas, Marbury -- all of whom look the part of basketball players, without being able to actually play the game with any great skill or discipline.”

    Gladwell on How Too Much Data can Undermine Decision-Making During the Super Bowl…

    “I think that the worst thing about the Super Bowl is the two-week layoff. I think teams get over-coached in the second week. In Blink, I talk about how we can turn ER doctors from terrible decision-makers when it comes to diagnosing chest pain into great decision makers simply by limiting the amount of information they are given about a patient. Load them down with every conceivable piece of data, and they have real difficulty distinguishing patients with heartburn from patients who are experiencing a real heart attack. Limit them to three or four crucial pieces of data, though, and they do a great job. How can that not be true of football players as well? It's quite possible right now that Tom Brady or Donovan McNabb simply know too much about each other."

    [Takeaways excerpted verbatim from this article.]
    Thanks to the Fast Company blog for the find.

    February 03, 2005

    Bigger Burgers. Bigger Sales.


    Last November, Hardee’s introduced the MONSTER THICKBURGER. While the 1,418 calorically-dense burger and its 107 grams of fat may not be healthy, sales at Hardee’s sure are healthy.

    According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Burger sales at the roughly 2,050 Hardee's outlets have climbed 20% since the 2003 introduction of the first Thickburgers. CKE (owner of Hardee’s) has posted 19 consecutive months of same-store sales growth, after years of the opposite.” And the company’s stock price has zoomed to near $15.00 a share, up from a low of $3.69 two years ago.

    I found the story of how Hardee's edgecrafted its way to sales success quite remarkable. Below is an excerpted abstract of the article ...

    The order sounded like heresy to Bruce Frazer, chief architect of hamburgers for the Hardee's fast-food chain. While Hardee's rivals were making menus leaner and greener, Mr. Frazer's boss ordered him to build a "bigger, better burger."

    First, Mr. Frazer delivered the Thickburger, topping out at two-thirds of a pound of Angus beef. Good, his boss said, now make an even bigger one. In November, Hardee's unveiled Mr. Frazer's Monster Thickburger: a pair of 5.7-ounce patties, four strips of bacon and three slices of American cheese on a buttered sesame-seed bun slathered with mayonnaise. It weighed in at 1,418 calories -- 600 calories more than Burger KingCorp.'s Whopper with cheese, or the equivalent of more than two of McDonald's Corp.'s Big Macs.

    Consumers have long told fast-food chains that they want burgers with mayonnaise, but many chains eschew mayo because it is expensive. Mr. Frazer went with it anyway. Working with a development team in the Hardee's test kitchen, he increased the thickness of dill pickles on the sandwich and switched to a tastier, more-expensive American cheese.

    The designers considered using a single thick tomato slice, but "it was just too tomatoey," Mr. Frazer says, so they settled on two thinner slices. Four slices of bacon overpowered the original Thickburger, so three were used, although the Monster Thickburger was big enough to handle four. Bigger burgers required a firmer bun, which required more dough -- at still more cost. Mr. Puzder wanted butter on the buns, so Hardee's commissioned the creation of a "butter wheel" that the bun's bottom is rolled over before it's popped onto a grill. Finally, Hardee's made franchisees pay for $7,000 grills with bigger flames that reduce cooking time and give burgers a "char flavor," Mr. Frazer says.

    "The costs were pretty heavy [but] we had to do something," says Bill Boddie, chief executive of Boddie-Noell Enterprises Inc., the Rocky Mount, N.C., franchisee of about 320 Hardee's units. His sales had fallen throughout the late 1990s, he says, but are now climbing again.

    Hardee's then splurged on advertising that cost $55 million last year. All the spending showed up in the price that Hardee's recommends franchisees charge for a Monster Thickburger: $5.49. By comparison, the most-expensive McDonald's sandwich, the Double Quarter-Pounder with cheese, is $3.60 in the Chicago area, while Burger King's Angus Bacon and Cheese sandwich runs just over $4.

    The high price has helped boost the average guest check at Hardee's by 5% to $4.58 in the past year. Annual average sales per restaurant have risen nearly 19%, from a low of $716,000 in fiscal 2001 to $850,000 in the third quarter of fiscal 2005, but are still below the $1 million industry average.

    As Hardee's had hoped, Thickburgers have done especially well with men aged 18 to 34 years old. Recently, at a Hardee's in Niles, Mich., a working-class town, Ben Townsend, 27, bit into a Bacon Double Cheese Thickburger -- all 1,300 gooey calories of it, plus fries. Was he worried it might endanger his health? "I've never even thought about it," said Mr. Townsend, who builds homes. "And to be honest, I don't really care. It just tastes good."

    [SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (article)| Thursday, January 27, 2005 | subscription required]

    February 01, 2005

    Enrichment or Entrapment?

    Shouldn’t customer loyalty programs be about enrichment and not entrapment?

    From my perspective, the Washington Redskins decision to require season ticket holders who purchase seats by credit card to use a Washington Redskins Extra Points™ MasterCard® is more about entrapment than enrichment. However, the team is positioning this program as a way to increase fan loyalty and ease ticket distribution.

    I’m aghast less than 10 fans have so far complained about this. I would've thought this marketing maneuver would have created more customer vigilantes.

    Snippets from the Washington Post article (reg. req’d) include:

  • The Washington Redskins are for the first time requiring season ticket holders who buy their seats with a credit card to use a Redskins Extra Points MasterCard, a move the club said will ease ticket distribution and increase fan loyalty, but others said could enhance the team's profits over the long term.

  • The team will continue to accept cash or checks for seats next season, team officials said.

  • Redskins spokesman Michael Sitrick said … "The purpose of the Redskins reward program is to build brand loyalty and have field passes and have other things that increases your fan base and obviously hope to sell other Redskins-related products."

  • The cards, issued by league sponsor MBNA Bank, also will enable the Redskins to track their customers' spending habits, allowing more targeted marketing.

  • "Where the Redskins benefit is by creating another branded product and offering the fans an inducement to use it," said Chicago-based sports marketer Marc S. Ganis. "If many more people sign up for MBNA credit cards, they likely will use them for non-team related purchases such as groceries, department stores or whatever it is. That can have a modest financial benefit to the team through the sponsorship fee paid by MBNA."

  • The credit cards are part of the NFL's new Extra Points program, which began in the 2004 season. The NFL earns revenue from league sponsor MBNA Bank for the cards and distributes that money to the 32 teams. Also, each team can earn income based on the number of fans who sign up for the cards and the frequency of their use, according to the league.

  • It could not be immediately determined whether any other NFL teams are requiring fans to use a team-branded credit card when they buy their tickets. The New England Patriots do not, but they accept only Visa cards, spokesman Stacey James said. Baltimore Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said the Ravens have no restrictions of any kind on such purchases.

  • The Redskins said they had received fewer than 10 complaints about the new requirement, though several fans contacted late last week said they were unhappy with the system.

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    Tony Kornheiser, Washington Post sports columnist and television personality, wrote the following in his Monday column …

    Season Ticket: $2,350 . . . Redskins MasterCard: Priceless
    Maybe if the Redskins were like the Patriots, and contending for the Super Bowl every year, this credit card thing wouldn't seem so smarmy. Or maybe if the Redskins were like the Packers, and making the playoffs every year, this credit card thing wouldn't seem quite so snarky. Heck, maybe if the Redskins were simply finishing above .500 once in a while this credit card thing wouldn't seem so totally cheesy.

    But the Redskins aren't winning.

    Year after year, they aren't winning.

    And while I'm not for a second questioning the owner's desire to win or his commitment to win, it just seems like this is not the time to tell your loyal fans that they'd better use a certain kind of credit card to pay for their season tickets.

    With a winning team you could say, "Ahhh, that's just business."

    With a losing team you say, "That's crapola."

    [Click here to read the rest of Tony’s comments (reg. req’d)]