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Not sure if this is an apocryphal story or not but it certainly sounds legit. There is a 10 A.M, Delta flight out of LaGuardia weekdays that flies into Bentonville, AR home of Walmart.  Anybody who is anybody in retail, I’m told, has been on this flight known as the Bentonville Bus.  If you want to sell to Walmart, you need to meet their buyers which is best done in Bentonville. 60 Minutes did a report recently in which they stated Plattsburgh, NY gobbles up a lot of electricity used to power server farms mining Bitcoin, but I’m guessing the computing power churning in Bentonville is equally massive. 

Bentonville computer nerds spend their days running sales reports, projections, analyses and other retail magic, which they send to the desks of the buyers in preparation for hour-long meetings with sales VPs arriving daily on the Bentonville Bus. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of those meetings. The marketers on the Bentonville Bus are a Who’s Who of American industry. You can bet they have a story or two. (Might make a a great book.) The Bentonville Bus is to American business what the All-Star game is to baseball.



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It’s great that Walmart wants to create greater shareholder value by getting into the groceries-to-the-home business, but I’m not so sure it’s good for the planet.  I recently spoke to a younger mom who energetically juggles her work and family lives — she uses Walmart’s delivery to the curb service.  She drives to Walmart and pops the trunk, they fill it. Another nice service to help us get more done – while doing less foot shopping (not a “food” shopping typo).  But having groceries and perishables delivered to the home in advance makes me wonder what will happen to all the waste.

As a society we’re already tossing out too much food. Ask a restauranteur. Ask a homeless person.  It’s mega tons.

You can argue that driving to the store to pick up just-in-time groceries is bad for the planet and I won’t disagree. I need to do better, even in my fifteen-year-old, 42 MPG Prius. My gas mileage is prob way better, though, than any Walmart van or Uber Ford Focus.

Walmart has a tough time ahead competing with Amazon.  Bricks, steel and mortar are costly. Groceries will only provide incremental help to Walmart’s bottom line. They best look elsewhere. They best look for a whoosh.


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I was shopping at a Sam’s Club in NC a month ago and speaking with a couple of lovely ladies at the customer service desk. Both had holes in their smiles. (I wondered if they smiled as effortlessly as the rest of the population.) Missing teeth is a cue for poor or no insurance. And Sam’s Club, in my community, appeared to index high for workers with poor dental health. Sweeping statement I know.

I’ve spent weeks and weeks at BJs and Costcos in NY and seeing gap-toothed employees was uncommon. Not unheard of, but very uncommon.  It may sounds snooty but I like my food servers and customer care people to have a full mouth of teeth. (Let’s make America great again.)

As a brand guy, I’m thinking employees who exhibit improper dental health in front of customers impacts the brand preference. I’m not going to go too deeply into feelings and associations, e.g., hand washing, personal hygiene, etc. but this employee health oversight must be worth a couple of points of annual revenue. (Read millions of dollars.)

If you don’t care for your employees, why would you care for your customers. 

Come on Sam’s Club. Help a worker out.


PS. I do not know for sure that Sam’s Club doesn’t offer dental insurance. I do know, in a research study of one, employees seem to need better dental health.  



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Walmart’s mission, I just read on, is “We save people money so they can live better.” Is this an endemic or non-endemic mission? I would normally say non-endemic, in that anyone selling anything can talk price strategy, but since Walmart is selling just about everything it might work. It might be endemic. Nah. Not falling for it.

And the whole “live better” is so done. It’s like we help you “sleep better.” Done.  The fact of the matter is much of the low cost stuff one buys at Walmart it not built to last. It’s built for now and next year.  Like products at BJs. A Coleman cooler, for instance, with cheesy plastic hinges is not long for this world.  You’ll be buying another in 22 months. That’s not living better.

Walmart is about the transaction. Volume. Turnover. China. It’s not about living better.

This mission is internal. It’s for the 2.2 million employees at the world’s largest private employers. To make them feel better.

Walmart has a lot to offer. It just needs to be more straightforward and perhaps smarter about its positioning. If you want to do good, do good. Especially when hawking value. Study ConAgra’s Banquet brand.




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Two titans of retail are facing off and it’s going to be wild.  Walmart and Amazon. Amazon and Walmart. There will be only winners: the businesses and the custies.  Amazon continues to kill it in online retail. So much so, in fact, that they’re looking into some brick and mortar places to make product access near-instantaneous.  Walmart is beginning to get that 800 lb. monkey off its back (low price, low-esteem, box store with bad vegetables), by ramping up its online offering. It quintupled online SKUs in one year thanks to purchases like and others.

The real war zone, when it comes to customer marketing, will be brand-side.  Amazon has an amazing brand that is maturing. An overdog I like to call it. Walmart in a heart brand that many people view as high-traffic but low-value. Don’t get me wrong, the retail product has value, but the brand is a little lacking in the amygdala, as brand expert Megan Kent might say.

Both brands have the money and leadership to innovate. Both have the dough to execute. Now it will be up to the brand leaders to create some excitement. Walmart faces more of an uphill challenge. One any brand strategist would love to tackle. But we all know what happened to the overdogs.




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If you visit big box stores like BJs, Costco and WalMart, no matter where you walk outside the food aisle you are going to find some really low cost products. Izod shirts for $16. Patio furniture for $399. Plastic hose winders for $14. Most of this stuff shares one thing in common.  It has a shelf life of about 3 months. Then it will be put out with the trash. You just know the colors will fade, the nylon  unravel, the legs will be uneven and the handles fall off.

When all this stuff — imported from other countries, stuff that low earning families buy to fill the American dream — breaks, they go out and buy more.  Because it’s so cheap. When the new administration puts a border tax on this “stuff,” adding, who knows, 40% more to the price, what will people do?  No longer will they be able to send their kids out in the snow in a $22 ski jacket.

It will change consumerism. It will force to people to spend more wisely. On better quality. I will force makers of dreck to become makers of goods. (There’s a reason they were once called goods.)

This isn’t a political statement. It’s a quality statement. We need more quality. We need less crap in the land fill. Less is more.




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Food Addictions.

Food is big business.  And not just the selling of it, we know how big that is.  Just look at all the restaurant and grocery stores in your town. But food has now become an important content area too.  Magazine publishing is way off. Way off. Without food related properties, there would be Car And Driver, Sports Illustrated, Better Homes and Garden, The New Yorker and that’s it.  Bucking the trend, Walmart and Hearst launched a magazine called Delish late last year. It’s all about food and doing well. People are into food.

The number of TV shows about food preparation is growing. Many chefs are more famous than news reporters. One third of U.S. adults are obese.  Food.

What our nation needs, however, is an obsession with healthy food.  What is healthy food? In what part of the store does it reside (the outside walls, typically)?  We also need to change our palettes. Our expectation of what is tasty.  Today the masses crave sugar and salt.  The country would alter the course of healthcare were it to remove these cravings from the national palette. Rather than clothe ourselves in 650 million yards of fabric each year, we could shrink that to 450 million yard – with slimmer figures. The billions in Medicare spent on diabetes would shrink — as would our dependence on blood pressure med. Dominoes all tied to the collective palette of Americans. Our taste in clothes and hair change, why can’t we change our addiction to sugar and salt? Oh, and there’s a market for it. Peace.

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I’m a man. Here’s how I shop: I go to a store, walk around, talk to a salesperson, maybe another shopper and I buy.  If the store doesn’t have what I want, I either go home or visit another store.  More often than not, it’s a one store and buy experience.  Price is important, but usually only when comparing choices in the store.  Convenience.

As technology wends its way more and more into the shopping process and the best price on a skew (product number) is only a click away, (#bestpricesamsungTV) many of the shopping choices we make will be made for us. And price variation will be minimized.

There will be Amazon for eshoppers and for those who want instant gratification there will be SuperRetailStoreCo or something.  Variability will be minimized in marketing. All that will be left, variability-wise, will be the brands. But marketers who spend too much on branding, will have reduced margins and will likely fall off.  Will it be a brand new marketing world in 2050?  Oh yeah. Should be exciting. Peace!

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I say Best Buy, you say what?  “Lot’s or products.” (Good) “Low prices” (A core value.) “Twelpforce and Twitter.” (Oooh, sorry.)  That’s right.  Best Buy and CMO Barry Judge have been in the spotlight and awards show klieg lights for months due to its so-called leadership in social media.   Best Buy used to was (Southernism) all about being the best buy.  Well they took their eye off the brand prize, found technology, and have now lost market share in laptops, TVs and videogame software in the quarter just reported.

I looove social media, but it’s not a brand strategy. It’s a media strategy and a marketing tactics. Had Mr. Judge focused more of his efforts on ways to provide a more competitively priced product than Walmart, Target and Amazon, the klieg lights would still be shining.

Alas.  Peace!

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What’s the idea with @15


You’ve got to give Best Buy credit for trying to do something in social networking. And Cause Marketing. And Market Research. And Customer Relationship Management (CRM.) And Youth Marketing. But this effort is going to be a million dollar dud. As my drunken mentor Dick Kerr once said though, “The idea to have an idea is often more important than the idea itself.” (I told you he was a tippler.)


Best Buy may indeed extract its million back thanks to some unforeseen consumer insight, but targeting 15 year olds with a “what’s important to you” social net, is not the way. It doesn’t support a viable branding idea.


I know Walmart and the big box stores like Costco are dinging Best Buy and (RIP) Circuit City, but slapping a social net together isn’t going to win the youth market. And yes, kids aren’t exactly price shoppers and they do care about brand, but there are other ways for Best Buy to earn brand points than positioning itself a generic one-stop entertainment and technology shop. They need to dig deeper and not go all tactical. Peace!



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