Monthly Archives: May 2013


Foodie Friday Fun time! Today our topic is a sauce many of you have had with crab cakes, french fries, cold beef filet, or many other dishes called remoulade. Other than spelling, and the fact that it’s good, that’s about where the agreement ends.

Français : Sauce rémoulade faite sans mayonnaise

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I was chatting with a dear friend and fellow cook on the topic (we had dined at a place with excellent remoulade years ago and were trying to figure it out) and realized that we didn’t even know where to start.  Unlike many dishes, remoulade is a bit of a chameleon, changing itself based on its enviroment.

Cajun remoulade is different from French, which varies from Belgian.  Is it mayonnaise-based or more of an aioli (I know – splitting hairs bit still…)? Is there ketchup in it or not? Anchovies? Do we use French cornichons or a dill pickle? Capers – in or out (is that a master’s thesis topic or what)?  In fact, maybe it’s more of a condiment than a sauce?  Tell a cook to make a remoulade and you’ll get one of several things, each of which is “right” based on the cook’s background.  It’s unlike one of the “mother sauces” which are very specific. Which is the business point.

Most business issues are like remoulade – there is more than one right answer.  As my friend said, “there are so many different ways and you don’t know which one is right for the job, maybe you should just give them a list of options and let them pick the one that suits their needs the best.”  Good advice for consultants like me and other business folks like you.  What can hamper our business success is thinking that there is just ONE way to accomplish the goal.  We need to focus on “a” right answer, not “the.”

We haven’t quite deduced how this restaurant made their remoulade – they’re out of business now so we can’t go back and ask – but we’ll keep trying.  What we do know is that their answer to the remoulade question was unique and worked for them with their food.  That’s just like the answers to most of your business questions are.  You with me?

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The Grind

When you’re done reading this, how about you try writing your own screed?  You don’t have to jump on a fancy CMS or anything – just whip out a pen and your old-fashioned pad or open up a text editor and bang away.  See if you can get to 300 words or so.  Go ahead – I’ll wait.

photo by Randall Niles on Flickr

Done?  That wasn’t so hard I’ll bet – most of us have a thing or two on our minds or at least can assemble a few cogent thoughts about what we had for breakfast or a work-related project.  Maybe it was even fun.  Now do it again.  And again.

Here’s the thing: doing something once can be fun. Doing it day after day can be crushing, especially if it’s not something you enjoy.  Writing isn’t easy for some people just as public speaking terrifies others (and I’ve even known folks for whom speaking to two other people counts as public speaking!).  I enjoy writing almost as much as I enjoy the interaction and feedback I get from lobbing it out there day after day but I’m not going to lie and say that it’s always easy to crank out the screed (which I consider part of my work).  The fact that I enjoy it makes the grind of doing it bearable.

I suspect that what ever “grind” feelings we might harbor about our daily lives they’re compounded by the almost universal feeling that THERE’S JUST NO TIME.  Work never stops since we’re always plugged in.  Social media is a time suck.  Then there’s the other media – TV, music, reading books (remember those?) .  So how does one deal with it?

  • If you’re not happy with your job, start to think about another one.   I know that’s easier said then done but if you don’t start the journey you’ll never get to the destination.
  • Unplug.  Seriously.  Even for a day.  It’s like a big gulp of oxygen and it will all be there when you get back.
  • Change your perspective.  If you’re reading this on a laptop, flip it upside down.  Completely different experience  right?  Look out a window from which you never look out.  Sit in the back seat of your own car and let someone else drive you.  You never know what silly little perspective change will be a major life adjustment (trust me as a guy who’s had a couple).

If it’s not fun more than once,  stop doing whatever it is before it becomes a grind.  You see, at some point anything we do over and over does become one.  In my mind, what’s getting ground is our spirit and our souls and we need to keep those around.  What do you think?

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Death Or Chichi?

There is an old joke about three missionaries who are captured by a warrior tribe.  The chief gives the first two missionaries a choice – death or chichi.  Not wanting to die, each chooses chichi which involves all kinds of physical abuse.  The third missionary chooses death.  The chief smiles and says “DEATH!  But first, chichi!”

Harris Interactive

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I thought of this when I read a piece in the Marketing Daily about a recent Harris study:

According to a recent Harris poll of more than 2,000 adults, nearly two-thirds (63%) said they would prefer to sit next to a crying baby than a smelly adult.

“It’s not like either is preferable,” Regina Corso, senior vice president at Harris, tells Marketing Daily. “No one likes the crying baby, but you can understand it’s not the baby’s fault.”

Like the missionaries, neither choice is a particularly good one.  However, there is a lesson in the study and it’s really not about the fact that the baby isn’t at fault.  It’s about the consumer being in control.  The sound of a noisy baby is easy to deal with – noise-cancelling headphones and a little music can fix the issue pretty quickly. A smelly adult is out of your control and is not something you’re going to mask.  Spraying air-freshener on a plane isn’t really an option (assuming you carry air freshener) and is possibly just as disruptive to your neighbors as the stench is to you.

Let’s visit the thought again.  Consumers want to be in control almost more than any other demand they make of your business.   They already control the brand image via social and other media and are comfortable with less than optimal choices as long as they are the ones making the decision.  The days of imposing your will on consumers are long gone.  You with me?


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Dylan On Managing

I said a couple of weeks ago I was going to try to incorporate more music into the screed.  Today I thought I’d bring in one of my favorite artists who is also (apparently) a management guru to answer a question:  Is managing a business and other people an art or a science?

English: Bob Dylan performing in Rotterdam, Ju...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suspect it’s some of both. There are data points and studies over time which point towards the scientific method: we tested a theory and this is what we found. There are scientific journals devoted to management which report on best practices and help managers to operate in a sound manner. Science at its best.

I happen to lean the other way, and it’s because of a quote from that great businessperson Bob Dylan:

“The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but to inspire them?”

I believe that’s how one manages as well.  Businesses can be inspirational and I’ve worked for people who have been as well.  This notion is a lot more obvious when we’re talking about motivating and guiding a staff.  Sure, sometimes we have to use “scientific” methods to make that inspiration real, but I’ve found over the years that the best moments happen when we just stand at the head of the line and pull the folks behind you along via inspiration.  It’s art.

Many businesses are becoming involved in the Corporate Social Responsibility movement – giving back to the communities and people who support them and taking responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare.  That can be inspirational as well (assuming it’s not faked) and done well it’s art too.

Where do you come out on this?  Art or science?  While there is no “right” answer, do you think trying to inspire is part of a corporate credo?

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Brands Out Of Control

A Foodie Friday that begins a long weekend here in the US. Today, however, we’re doing Foodie Friday Fails, and actually they’re kind of fun because of their inherent stupidity. Our fist bit of joy comes to us courtesy of the folks at Nutella.

Deutsch: Ein Glas Nutella-Nussnougatcreme

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A big fan of the hazelnut and chocolate concoction decided to celebrate the product by creating a “World Nutella Day” celebration and used social media and the web to promote it. Want to guess what happened next?

Sarah Rosso, the principal organizer of World Nutella Day, says she received a letter from Ferrero demanding that she stop using the Nutella name and logo. Since it’s a little hard to celebrate Nutella without using the word “Nutella,” that essentially spells death for any sort of World Day. Rosso, who described the letter as “a bit of a surprise and a disappointment,” will have to shut down her Facebook page, Twitter, and website — or, I guess, make them into blind items. “World Day to Celebrate An Unnamed Hazelnut Spread” doesn’t have as much of a ring, but at least it’s not actionable.

That’s right:  in a time when hundreds of brands are spending millions of dollars to create social virality, the geniuses at Ferrero shut down something that does nothing but celebrate their product in a positive way.  They’ve since recanted and are now supporting the effort, blaming their lawyers who reacted reflexively to use of a trademark.  Right.  In an event, the damage has been done but the lesson is worth repeating.  We no longer “own” our brands.  Our customers do and we need to support nearly everything they do unless it’s hurtful or illegal.

Then there are the folks at  TGI Fridays in the great state of New Jersey.  13 of their outlets were caught filling premium liquor bottles with cheap booze and charging top shelf prices for it.   Obviously, the brand takes a hit as a bar, but it also has to make customers wonder what’s going on in the kitchen if the bar is so out of control.  One bad apple and you can write it off to a rogue bar manager.   13 outlets and clearly no one is minding the store (or bar) by watching inventory and sales reports.  Maybe they’re not watching what’s being served or how it’s being cooked.

While the Nutella case shows someone paying too much attention, Friday’s shows the opposite   Managing is often a balancing act and here we have two food brands that have fallen off the wire.   Thoughts?

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Off The Social Rails

One of the things I made a note to rant about was some data that came out of the 2013 Doremus Decision Dynamics study.  This is an annual survey of senior marketing executives and one of the things it found is that these folks aren’t that enthusiastic about social media marketing.  In fact, 51% of respondents feel that advertising in social media is more intrusive than advertising in a magazine or newspaper, while only one-third believe that a social media presence enhances a company’s reputation.  I find  a certain amount of irony in those results since the respondents are, in most cases, the people responsible for their company’s efforts in social.  If those efforts are lacking, maybe we ought to think about it for a second before we shoot the messenger?

My thinking is that marketers don’t like any medium they can’t really control.  Social media is a mirror and I suspect that a certain portion of the negativity about social is the result of some poor effort on the brand‘s part which is just being reflected.  As we used to say in TV, “due to circumstances beyond our control” Facebook pages get hijacked, Twitter feeds get overwhelmed, and other channels are filled with comments from consumers that may not be on brand message (to say the least).  Yes, ads in social are more intrusive but unlike those other media they’re not viewed as welcome because they’re not easily avoidable.  Which is entirely the point.

Social media evolved as ways for people to connect with one another.  Smart brands spotted that and began to use the various social channels to interact.   They listened and replied when appropriate with useful  helpful information.  In other words, brands became humanized and engaged in conversation.  At some point, it went off the rails and social became just another place to fire up the ad megaphone.  This is the equivalent of using a shoe to drive a nail.  It might work but it’s clearly not as effective as using the right tool in the right way.

I’m not surprised most marketers don’t think social is helpful.  It’s resource intensive, it’s out of their control to a large extent, and most are using it badly.  Would you agree?

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Butterflies Or Blips?

A report came out yesterday afternoon which got me to think again about the changing television business. Coupled with a few other things going on, I wonder if they’re the harbingers of some sort of butterfly effect in the media business or if they’re just aberrations. Let’s see what you think.

Cable tv

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The report is from the Leichtman Research Group (LRG) and it showed that video subscriber gains in the first quarter of 2013 by top U.S. service providers were not enough to avoid a first-ever net subscriber loss in the category over a four-quarter period.  In other words, fewer people signed up for pay TV – which is pretty much any kind of cable or other video service – than cut one off.  As Multichannel News reported:

Leichtman attributed the downward trend to a combination of a saturated market, an increased focus by service providers on acquiring higher-value subs, and seeing some consumers opt for a “lower-cost mixture of over-the-air TV, Netflix and other over-the-top viewing options.”

So that’s one thing – cord cutting.  Is it overemphasized by many at this point?  Probably, but when you see something happen for the first time ever, you need to pay attention.  Then there is the bill submitted by Senator McCain to use regulatory incentives to encourage programmers and distributors to unbundle their channels and offer a la carte programming.  This means that if you don’t watch a channel you wouldn’t have to buy it as part of a bundle.  So if you’re effectively paying $5 for ESPN as part of a basic cable package and don’t watch it or want it available, you might get a price break.  Then again, those of us who do watch it might be paying substantially more each month as the user base diminishes.  Do I think the bill will pass?  Probably not since the idea has been around for years.  However, it might just be another butterfly flapping its wings, especially given that there are many more options for video (see point 1!).

Finally, ESPN cut staff yesterday despite record profits.  One would assume they know what their projected P/L looks like and they have committed a lot of money to rights over the next few years.  Making cuts now ahead of the new rights kicking in can help maintain that profitability   Again, another butterfly but pair it with the potential for ala carte cable and fewer pay TV buyers, and then ask if these are butterflies or just blips?  What do you think?

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