business news in context, analysis with attitude

We took note yesterday of a New York Times piece about how New Haven pizza seems to be having a moment.

I commented:

I'm a cynic about these things - I think it is inevitable as this kind of growth occurs, the product gets watered down, and the Epcot-ization of a trend takes place.  

This generally occurs because people and companies make cashing in on a trend their highest priority.  As opposed to making quality a differentiating advantage.

Few things in the world are better than a New Haven white claim pizza.  But the older I get, the more I realize that almost everything is, if not illusory, temporary.  I don't like it, but there it is.

MNB reader Phil Censky wrote:

I’ll take a slightly contrarian  point of view on this. New Haven pizza is not the first regional American pizza to transcend its borders. New York, Chicago, and Detroit each have disciples of that style far from its origin. While I’ve absolutely had poor facsimiles of these styles, I’ve also had some incredible deep dish nowhere near Chicago, and my first experience of the Detroit pan style was in Colorado. The Neapolitan style was adopted and adapted, paving the way for incredibly innovative pizzaiolos. I, for one, look forward to the adoption and adaption of the New Haven style in my midwestern city. There will be some clam-handed attempts to make a quick buck, but what I think we’ll see is a strengthening, codifying, and broadening of what New Haven pizza means.  How else will we guard against “always-done-it-that-way syndrome”?  

Another MNB reader wrote:

I was unaware of the difference between New Haven & other pizza styles until the pandemic, when we started trying new pizza places in our Portland home for “Thursday Night Take Out.”  You are correct about the dominance of white clam vs other pizza combinations (shout out to Pizza Jerk in NE PDX).  You’re also correct that not all New Haven style joints are created equally.  The hack for beating the watered down results you may find is by making your own!  For father’s day last year my family got me an Ooni home pizza oven and now we can make our own perfectly charred delicacies whenever we want.  Best gift I’ve ever received.

I love making my own pizza - though I'm perfectly happy with a pizza stone on my grill.

One of my favorite places to get pizza is Serious Pie in Seattle - still a place I visit every time I get to town.


Reacting to Michael Sansolo's column yesterday, one MNB reader wrote:

I attended Hip Hop Nutcracker in Chicago with my wife, daughter and her boyfriend. The tickets were a Christmas gift from our daughter. We also saw Disney’s Fantasia at Symphony Center with the musical score by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The audience at both events included a full spectrum of Chicago families with dancing and singing adding another layer of fun and enjoyment for us.


Responding to our story yesterday about how Coca-Cola has launched a new ad campaign embracing all the various drink brands in its portfolio, MNB reader Howard Davidson referred me to his LinkedIn posting:

The Coca-Cola Company's new "portfolio" ad "The New Guy" is terrifically-executed nod to the "Seven Fishes" episode from The Bear, season 2. But before it gets lauded for being revolutionary, it's actually one in a long line of solutions-based ads that have attempted to speak to the consumer in an authentic way, presenting branded products that are part of a relatable human experience. 

Back in the 90's I was privileged to help usher in such commercials (shoutout J. Brown/LMC) for the Campbell's portfolio, Kraft and even P&G (Tide+Downy), all within the context of co-branded retailer spots (what we now call shopper). While apparently Coke had some "discomfort" with executing a portfolio spot (different beverage brand managers all needing to be in alignment I suppose), there is clearly great power in naturally and emotionally presenting multiple products in use in an engaging setting. I'd argue from experience that the miss here is many other product categories (snacks, baking, cooking) that were so obviously not featured while multiple brands of soft drinks were.

The marketing potential of a cross-category, cross-company execution grounded in emotional story-telling - maybe even with links to retailer carts - is huge in my opinion. Yes the "discomfort level" ratchets up exponentially when different brand companies engage, but if viewed through the lens of how people build a list, shop, cook, serve and enjoy, it can be wholly truthful and potent (just ensuring there isn't brand overload in the process!).

And MNB reader Howard Schneider chimed in:

It’s wise of Coke to take this approach – as one of many, while conventional campaigns support the individual brands. Soda gets a (at least somewhat deserved) bad rap, so identifying the master brand with a broader line of products is smart. But on a broader level, the strategic point that resonates with me is, what Coke sells is refreshment, not Coca-Cola. The specific product is just a means to a more basic end: satisfaction. That’s an insight many brand managers have yet to realize.


We pointed out a piece in The Verge about how "Amazon is making plans to produce hydrogen fuel at its fulfillment centers. The retail behemoth partnered with hydrogen company Plug Power to install the first electrolyzer — equipment that can split water molecules to produce hydrogen — at a fulfillment center in Aurora, Colorado … "Hydrogen is supposed to be a cleaner-burning alternative to fossil fuels, which is why Amazon is using it at its warehouses. But the potential environmental benefits are still hard to measure, and depend a lot on how policymakers and companies like Amazon shape the supply chain for hydrogen."

One MNB reader responded:

In November I was in Burbank to pick up my son at the airport and I needed gas.   It was late so I stopped at a Chevron station that caught my eye.   #1 It looked new, clean, and well lighted and #2 it had a blue pump I hadn't seen before.    It turns out the pump is hydrogen.

While filling up I saw a guy filling up his hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.  It was a Toyota I think.   I went over and checked out the car and he gave me a full tour and run down.   He had mixed feelings about the car.    My one take away is that he said it cost him $186 to fill up the tank and the range on that full tank was 216 miles.   Yikes!  I said that is horrible and asked him how he can afford to drive the car.   He said the car came with a prepaid credit card worth something like $20,000.  That makes sense to help early adopters buy the car but I still cannot get over the low full tank range.'

I’m certain if the production technology improves the hydrogen fuel cost will come down.  Back to Amazon and Hydrogen powered fork lifts in their Aurora Colorado fulfillment center - Low range means more frequent fuel stops.  That increases labor costs.    Amazon has deep pockets so they can cover the higher labor costs and higher fuel costs but for how long?  


Finally, the other day The Information reported that ""Amazon will start showing commercials to Prime Video viewers in the U.S. beginning on Jan. 29, the company started telling customers this week. It will also start showing ads to customers in the U.K., Germany and Canada on Feb. 5, a spokesperson said.

"Viewers who don’t want to see commercials on the service will have the option of paying an extra 2.99 in their local currency on top of the standard Prime fee, a spokesperson said. Amazon is hoping that ads on Prime Video will help diversify its ad business, which took in more than $30 billion during the first nine months of 2023 primarily from search ads on its e-commerce site."

MNB reader Andy Casey wrote:

I’m thinking back to a time before cable when ads on TV were the way it worked but at least the service was free.  Part of the allure of cable was the promise of no ads, of course and the same with all the various streaming services.  Inevitable I suppose, but now it seems we have come full circle, both paying for content and enduring the ads.

Two things which really annoy me, however, are the repetitive nature (an hour show might have the same ad 5 times) and particularly how generic the ads still are. I actually enjoy a relevant, well-made ad (I’m not sure what is wrong with me) and Google, Netflix, et al know what I watch, search for online and presumably what I buy so how about serving up something a little more relevant to my life?

A very good question.