The Coffee Subjugation

I’ve been sitting for 25 minutes at Soho Coffee Co in Bristol Airport. And here’s the thing: every single empty table is filthy.

Covered in the crumbs, unidentified liquids and waste packaging of the previous occupants.

I was surprised that the upscale-looking franchise (sandwich = £5.10) did not jump on this — after all it takes seconds to run a cloth over the table — and then I observed something.

Customers sitting down were so appalled by the mess that they were cleaning up before enjoying their own purchases.

And Soho had realised this was happening and figured out they did not need to hire someone on clean-up. The customers would do it for free as a result of horror/good citizenship.

Now …

There is a valid argument that it is not Soho Coffee’s job to clean up after lazy, messy, entitled consumers. After all, a self-service environment includes self-clean-up, right? Those who refuse to clean up after themselves are not really living in a civilisation.

But what happens when the behaviour of customers leads to a dirty food service environment? That’s when you have to weigh the moral high ground with food safety and customer experience.

So here’s the math:

Brand equity resides in the experience. Marketers call it the second moment of truth.

We can educate customers about how we’d like them to behave: McDonalds manages this. But in the long run, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the job of consumers or the job of the restaurant. If clean-up isn’t happening then you’re the filthy café. For a coffee franchise, clean-up is not an expense, it’s a marketing investment.

Extrapolate to all other under-the-bonnet jobs that add to the customer experience.

Spotify: I know where my friends are, thanks

Spotify has upset users by asking them to share address book contacts, photos and GPS location with the app and cede control of their device’s microphone in order to use the service. A Twitterstorm — and high-profile criticism from vocal netizens such as Minecraft co-founder Markus Persson — forced the streaming music service to apologise and clarify its position. Users can opt in to divulging this data, it seems.

Spotify is already hated by recording artists and labels, because of its derisory royalty payments. The users were the only people rooting for it. Now they hate it, too.

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facebook,deal,new york times

Why the New York Times doesn’t need Facebook

Know the value of your assets. 

I was reading this article on TechCrunch about the New York Times making a deal to allow Facebook to “host” its “content” for free. And I had multiple problems.

The writer (Tom Goodwin, no less) asks:

“So does the New York times [sic] see this as free content marketing to gain subscribers, or as incremental advertising revenue? Only time will, and maybe they don’t even know?”

Once you’ve parsed that into English it seems very clear the NYT doesn’t have a clue. If it did, it would not be giving away its prize assets and brand equity to someone else.

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Shopper insights and the case for burritos

Six ways to win that don’t require a pie-chart …

Consumer insights are big business for those that sell them. At conferences we crowd around the data, frantically snapping powerpoint slides with our iPhones (don’t tell me you use a Samsung) and craning our necks to hear interviews with amusing couples bickering about their shopping habits. While this is fascinating, I’ve always found it curious. Don’t we shop?

The case for intuition

The market for consumer insights is based on the fundamental MBA school mantra that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Because this error is drummed into us early in our careers,

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Buffett fires £500m warning shot to Tesco CEO

If you’re as influential as Warren Buffett, all you need to do to raise the value of an investment is increase your stake. But it’s not enough to recoup his Tesco losses …

US billionaire Warren Buffett has swiftly raised his stake in Tesco from 3.21% to 5.08%, spending around GBP 500 million. Markets and analysts alike have chosen to see the move by one of the world’s most respected investors as a vote of confidence in the retailer. Shares in Tesco fell by 16% last week, when the UK retailer issued its first profit warning in 20 years, following porr Christmas trading. That news shaved GBP 5 billion of the retailer’s market capitalisation. But the stock rallied slightly on the revelation of Buffett’s increased commitment, edging up by 1.87 %.

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Troubled Fnac unveils new strategy

Fnac’s chief defect is that it sells things people no longer buy …

French retailer Fnac has seen its operational profits halved, according to a release. The retailer blamed a lack of elasticity in its cost structure along with pressure on margins due to a strong drop in sales of electrical and electronic goods. To address this, Fnac has announced a new plan, which it is calling Fnac 2015. The plan involves cost reduction moves as follows:

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Delhaize loses its Bloom, and other US stories

A&P in purgatory, Fresh & Easy struggling. And now for the news: Bloom is closing …

Last time I tried to take a couple of weeks off, India agreed to retail FDI. Luckily, by the time I was back at work the government had performed a swift U-turn, so I’m glad I didn’t bother panic-writing something about it. This time, a few major US retail stories slipped out of the net while I was still mainly eating brandy butter. And I don’t see them becoming non-stories by tomorrow so here goes.

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Premier offloads Brookes Avana

Clock is ticking as first divestment barely diminishes Premier’s debt …

Beleaguered UK food manufacturer Premier foods has managed to sell its lossmaking chilled foods business Brookes Avana to 2 Sisters Food Group (owned by Boparan), for GBP 30 million. The maker of Hovis Bread and Mr Kipling cakes said the divestment was an important first step towards streamlining its portfolio. Brooks Avana posted a loss of GBP 13.3 million.


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70% of brands useless, report claims

If marketing is about selling a dream, have consumers finally woken up? …

A majority of consumers would be perfectly happy if 70% of brands disappeared, according to new research from Havas, a media buying group. The survey, which polled 50,000 consumers in 14 markets, aimed to chart the extent to which consumers felt brands had a “meaningful impact” on their lives. Factors such as health, happiness, values, financial security, society and the environment were considered. In developed markets, the perceived impact was minimal: consumers in the US said only 5% of brands positively expanded their quality of life. In Europe that figure was 8%. In developing markets, brands had a higher resonance, with 30% of brands in Latin America deemed meaningful to consumers. The report said that “positioning brands as socially responsible” had a “moderate impact” on consumer sentiment towards the brand.

Comment: Havas comes to the conclusion that the marketing isn’t working and better investment is needed. That’s to be expected, since Havas sells media. I think there are conclusions to be reached in addition to this. If traditional marketing is based on selling a dream, it looks to me as though consumers have woken up. Either: the reality fell short of the myth, or: there’s a dwindling appetite for myth at a time when hard realities are coming knocking for an increasing number of consumers. Either way, the revelation that consumers have no time for 70% of brands will be welcome news to retailers and their private label partners.