business news in context, analysis with attitude

Before I took some time off, I delivered a not-so-enthusiastic assessment of one of the combined Amazon Go-Starbucks stores in New York City, judging that it seemed to be suffering from nobody-gives-a-damn disease.

One MNB reader responded:

Spot-on assessment in that Amazon + Starbucks video. The Amazon Go stores were originally something of a Pret crossed with a convenience store, and I've watched over the past five years as they've deteriorated into sad little micro markets with gaps on the shelves, poor product mix, odd merchandising choices, and the saddest hot food cases I've ever seen. 

And MNB reader Joe Axford chimed in:

How many times do we have to say it? "Retail is detail!"

Apparently more than we've been saying it.

Responding to my vacation FaceTime about how United Airlines seems to be embracing Tom Stuker,  who has flown 23 million miles on United by using a lifetime pass he bought in 1990 for $290,000, and how this illustrates the enduring power of shopper loyalty, one MNB reader wrote:

I work for a sales and marketing agency, more commonly known as a broker.  The only thing we sell is ourselves.  Our customer and client relationships are my company’s assets.  We don’t own inventory and we are paid only for what we do for our clients and customers.  Both can be demanding and it is not always easy to be as responsive or friendly as I would like.   Still, I try to respond promptly respond to all requests, even if the answer is undesirable.  This quote, posted at the front of Stew Leonard’s stores sticks in my mind. “Rule #1: The customer is always right.  Rule #2: If the customer is wrong, see Rule #1.”

I got a lot of email reacting to my criticism of a new national advertising campaign for Francis Ford Coppola's wines - a first for the company - that struck me as hitting the wrong notes, focusing on the winemaker's travails rather than how the product address customer concerns.

MNB reader Joe Jacober wrote:

Couldn’t agree more.  It’s interesting, but doesn’t make me relate to their wine. It’s an as agency who is infatuated with “the emperor”. 

MNB reader Pat Smith wrote:

Agreed about Coppola wine ads. Not one thing in the ads indicated a value to me, as a consumer. Don’t where they are from, or available varietals. Heartily agree that you never make your problems your customers problems. 

MNB reader Mike Moon wrote:

I think the marketers of Coppola's wine may have had a good idea, but missed the mark badly in execution. I think they were trying to draw a parallel between the pressure it takes to make diamonds (and therefore, his DIamond Collection wines), and the pressure it takes to make great movies. They showed a lot of his stress and challenges while making movies, but didn't connect it back to making wine. 

And, from MNB reader Bob Wheatley:

There is an irony in here that deserves a bit of visibility: some of the best storytelling guidance we can secure comes from the movie business where the (always) flawed hero encounters a sage guide who helps them on their journey (Luke to Yoda) to overcome obstacles and conflicts on the way to prevailing in some way in the end. Respect for the hero and their path is always paramount for a successful film. In the same way, food and beverage brands would be wiser to take note from how these stories are constructed. Specifically, the consumer should always be the hero of the brand story. The brand should never compete with the consumer for that role. Consumers believe they are the heroes of their life journey. What they seek is guidance. Thus the role of the brand is as coach, guide and enabler of the consumer’s aspirations and desires. Ironic that the master movie storyteller violates the rule and is positioned as the hero of his own story. This embeds the ad with an automatic disconnect for the consumer who is looking to see themselves in that role. Poignant in my view…

And from another MNB reader:

Well said. Their ad was depressing.  You should contract to storyboard a new one for them.

Thanks.  But I think I probably should stay in my lane.

I also did a vacation FaceTime about the working from home trend, arguing that most companies are asking the wrong question - and the right question has less to do with worker motivation and productivity, and more to do with leadership's value and priorities.

One MNB reader wrote:

Kevin, great topic today, “Working from Home”.  Like you, my first “Work from home” situation was 1986 while working in Philadelphia for a company based in Minneapolis.  Remote employees was a new concept at that time and my boss was quote unquote taking a risk with hiring me.  At first they required me to seek out a shared office facility, which was also a new concept, to secure an office.  They offered me a receptionist that answered the phone with my company name and on behalf of me, although they did this for 20 + different companies in the shared office facility.  I had access to a conference room, and a 8 by 8 cell I could call an office.  This gave my employer and my customers comfort in knowing I was physically in an office, and wearing appropriate office attire.

In my opinion, this was really just a mask for what I was really dong, but it was acceptable.  That morphed into a move to a home office once they figured out how much they could save on the rent of a shared office.  Since then, I have worked for various out-of state companies that are very comfortable with my working from home.  Now mind you, I am in Sales, which I believe lends itself a little more to working remote a long as I have a good internet connection and a phone.  In these various roles I always travel to the home office on a frequent basis as required.

In my humble opinion, I am 100% more productive working from home than in an office.  Because an office lends to multiple distractions; lunch, birthday celebrations, the water cooler gossip, being pulled from meeting to meeting even thought you may not have to be involved.  I also believe that working from home is not for everyone, which I think Covid showed us when many employees did not have the discipline and/or needed human interaction to function.  It is and always will be a debate but I am a very strong believer in the productivity of working from home brings me.  I don’t have to pick up every phone call, or attend every meeting, or go tho the lunchroom for the celebration of the day, etc.

And, from another reader:

Regarding the complex Work remotely/Work in an Office issue: in my mind, organizations need to build an environment that fosters teamwork, and in most cases that requires a fair amount of face-to-face relationships. (Especially Managers/Supervisors to associates.) Any business with day-to-day customer facing obviously needs associates to be at work where the consumers are—ie: RETAIL Stores. The businesses that support Retail with services can be more flexible in their approach, however, team goals must be established which in my experiences requires physical meetings together. Granted the pandemic drove remote work. I do believe a successful organization can achieve results with work remote integration, however, that requires managers to be on top of their game.

Complex—YES, Solvable---YES. 

By the way … the traffic and the email seem to suggest that you liked the daily FaceTime videos while I was on an extended vacation.  If so, let me know, and I'll make that a regular MNB vacation feature.