business news in context, analysis with attitude

We commented yesterday that all of Wal-Mart’s “spy games” seem to suggest a certain paranoia, which led one MNB user to make a very canny observation:

It sometimes seems, from reading your newsletter, that half of the Western world is taking shots at Wal-Mart. How, exactly, does that qualify as "paranoia"?

This is, of course, a variation on the old truism: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

And it is an excellent point.

But let us suggest that maybe if Wal-Mart spent more time focusing on the stores and less time conducting espionage schemes, maybe it wouldn’t be suffering some of the problems that it has been encountering lately.

Another member of the MNB community wrote:

I disagree with you that Wal-Mart is showing signs of corporate paranoia. First, it's quite common for large retailers to recruit security personnel from government agencies. This is no different than a major airline recruiting pilots from the Air Force. I doubt Wal-Mart is really worried about minor scandal among its employees but more worried about terrorist attacks on it's facilities and its employees. Protecting the assets of a company the size of Wal-Mart is a huge responsibility and requires a highly sophisticated task force.

Maybe. We still think it is over the edge…and that Wal-Mart’s efforts to prevent people from knowing how far over the edge it is will, eventually, be the bigger scandal.

Another MNB user wrote:

In response to Spy Games. I see it in very simple terms. Old Sam sucked us in for years spouting "Buy American", then outsourced the whole shebang. So if a few folks are angry, I mean really, really angry, then WM needs to be paranoid. The boss used this one on us last week concerning the new Bloom stores in our area, "If the neighbors dog poops in your backyard more than once, grab the rifle, not the shotgun, its quicker." I can see the same analogy applied to WM management.

On the subject of Marsh’s changes under new management, one MNB user wrote:

FYI … Marsh hired Roy Kip as Senior VP of Merchandising only a few months ago. He’s a solid guy with the force to make things change. I worked for Roy at Clemens Markets, and although we didn’t get along, I respect the hell out of him. He’s extremely intelligent and knows the business. I suspect his merchandising touch is involved here. If Jack Clemens had let Roy apply his talent and be a force of change, Jack would still have a supermarket chain where he could look out the window. Now the North Penn community hates him, and he sits in an empty office.

Good for Frank and Roy. I look forward to great things at Marsh.

It’s when the people who don’t like you offer kudos that you know that you’ve made it.

Another MNB user wrote:

I believe that Frank Lazaran was the best thing that could have happened to Marsh, my hat’s off to the folks who made the decision to put Frank into Marsh. Given no restrictions he will get the job done!

We had an interview the other day with Thornton May, executive director and dean of the IT Leadership Academy, in which he looked at how the industry should respond to a time of extraordinary change (a subject he will address in depth at the upcoming FMI and MarkeTechnics Shows).

May maintained that “we are migrating from the ‘4 P’s’ of industrial age marketing - Product, Price, Placement & Promotion - to the ‘4 C’s’ of post-Internet/pre-cyborg customer service - Communication, Customization, Collaboration, and Clairvoyance.”

But one MNB user made an excellent point:

The Four P’s are still very valid. People still want a good product, at the price they are willing to pay, where they wish to shop, and you have to advertise to get them to notice. None of that has changed.

I would assert that 4Ps are the primary stimulants of consumer behavior, yet they are still the basics of good marketing. In our ever fragmented and highly competitive market place, the Four C’s could be viewed as advanced tactics aimed more at the shopper experience.

But neither the 4Ps or the 4Cs mention ethics or business morals. Ethics continues to have ever-increasing shopper awareness that have nothing inherently to do with the products themselves. Sustainability, Environmental Stewardship, and Fair Trade top those lists of increasingly required business ingredients, demanded by the youth of this country through an awakening being driven home by our “global warming” awareness.

4Ps = Good
4Ps + 4Cs = Great
4Ps + 4Cs + Ethics = Category Killer

Finally, regarding the death of the legendary journalist David Halberstam, MNB user Paul Schlossberg had a personal memory:

My favorite book (of his) is "October 1964." While I was in college, I worked at Yankee Stadium selling beer in the stands. I worked at all the World Series games in New York – wow, does that date me. The way he described the games brought me back to Yankee Stadium. Game 5 went in to extra innings after the Yankees tied it up with two runs in the bottom of the ninth. That made me a few extra bucks. We got another inning to go out and hawk our products.

Tony Kornheiser had an excellent interview with David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker and a longtime friend of Halberstam’s, the other morning on his radio program in which they both recalled Halberstam as someone who simply couldn’t wait to get his pants on in the morning so he could get to work – interviewing and researching and writing, immersing himself in the people and worlds that he portrayed so evocatively. He was all energy and enthusiasm, Kornheiser said, someone he simply couldn’t imagine at rest.

Paul Schlossberg, of course, makes the other salient point about Halberstam and his work.

He got it right.
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