Posts tagged “groceries”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Innovations Like Instagram Are Tough for Large Companies [NYT] – Large companies try so many different ways to create subsets of their culture that is somehow more free. Ray Ozzie did it at Microsoft, through architecture and interior design. I do wonder how many leaders treat this like a cultural problem, though, and bring the appropriate solutions to bear.

Leica, Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Olympus didn’t build Instagram, either. Michael Hawley, who is on Kodak’s board, said the answer could be summed up in one word: culture. “It’s a little like asking why Hasbro didn’t do Farmville, or why McDonald’s didn’t start Whole Foods,” said Mr. Hawley. “Cultural patterns are pretty hard to escape once you get sucked into them. For instance, Apple and Google are diametrical opposites in so many ways, have all the skills, but neither of them did Instagram, either.” Neither could Facebook. If it could, it wouldn’t have paid $1 billion to acquire the small team of engineers and access to the program’s 30 million users. The challenge of creating something small and disruptive inside a large company is one that many face today.

Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies – A nice library of dark patterns for persuasion, manipulation, and bluster. Available in a printable poster, too.

A logical fallacy is usually what has happened when someone is wrong about something. It’s a flaw in reasoning. They’re like tricks or illusions of thought, and they’re often very sneakily used by politicians and the media to fool people. Don’t be fooled! This website and poster have been designed to help you identify and call out dodgy logic wherever it may raise its ugly, incoherent head. If you see someone committing a logical fallacy, link them to the relevant fallacy to school them in thinky awesomeness.

The Outsourced Life [NYT] – Arlie Hochschild with an insightful and slightly alarming perspective on the consequences of a service society. How does the increasing possibility for outsourcing (also: buying our way into something) change what we bring, expect, or get out of our lives?

The very ease with which we reach for market services may help prevent us from noticing the remarkable degree to which the market has come to dominate our very ideas about what can or should be for sale or rent, and who should be included in the dramatic cast – buyers, branders, sellers – that we imagine as part of our personal life. It may even prevent us from noticing how we devalue what we don’t or can’t buy. A prison cell upgrade can be purchased for $82 a day in Santa Ana, Calif., and for $8 solo drivers in Minneapolis can buy access to car pool lanes on public roadways. Earlier this year, officials at Santa Monica College attempted to allow students to buy spots in oversubscribed classes for $462 per course. Even more than what we wish for, the market alters how we wish. Wallet in hand, we focus in the market on the thing we buy. In the realm of services, this is an experience – the perfect wedding, the delicious “traditional” meal, the well-raised child, even the well-gestated baby.

As we outsource more of our private lives, we find it increasingly possible to outsource emotional attachment. A busy executive, for example, focuses on efficiency; his assistant tells me, “My boss outsources patience to me.” The wealthy employer of a household manager detaches herself from the act of writing personal Christmas-present labels. A love coach encourages clients to think of dating as “work,” and to be mindful of their R.O.I. – return on investment, of emotional energy, time and money. The grieving family member hires a Tombstone Butler to beautify a loved one’s burial site.

Snack makers’ “Red Caviar” Lay’s and “Mango-orange” Oreos appeal more to global tastes [Winnipeg Free Press] – Some possible acquisitions for my Museum of Foreign Groceries.

After noticing sales of Oreos were lagging in China during the summer, Kraft added a green tea ice cream flavour. The cookie combined a popular local flavour with the cooling imagery of ice cream. The green tea version sold well, and a year later, Kraft rolled out Oreos in flavours that are popular in Asians desserts – raspberry-and-blueberry and mango-and-orange…To get a better sense of what Russians like, PepsiCo employees travelled around the country to visit people in their homes and talk about what they eat day-to-day. That was a big task. Russia has nine time zones and spans 7,000 miles, with eating habits that vary by region. The findings were invaluable for executives. In the eastern part of the country, Pepsi found that fish is a big part of the diet. So it introduced “Crab” chips in 2006. It’s now the third most popular flavour in the country. A “Red Caviar” flavour does best in Moscow, where caviar is particularly popular. “Pickled Cucumber,” which piggybacks off of a traditional appetizer throughout Russia, was introduced last year and is already the fourth most popular flavour.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours [BBC News] – Technology changes work boundaries and work patterns. Will a technological solution work? The article suggests that they will stop people from receiving email after hours, but will they stop people from sending email after hours? Is the demand for after hours work coming through the email messages or are there other pressures? So many questions about this one!

Volkswagen has agreed to stop its Blackberry servers sending emails to some of its employees when they are off-shift. The carmaker confirmed it made the move earlier this year following complaints that staff’s work and home lives were becoming blurred. Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees’ shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work. “It’s bad for the individual worker’s performance being online and available 24-7. You do need downtime, you do need periods in which you can actually reflect on something without needing instantaneously to give a reaction,” said Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation.

Manischewitz Creates Kosher Food for Gentiles [NYT] – Having grown up with the traditional meaning of the brand, I find this a bit challenging but am intrigued by the potential to reframe and expand their story.

“Instead of taking the older products we have out of the kosher aisle and forcing them into the main aisle, we’re creating new products that have a place in the main aisle,” said Alain Bankier. A new line of broths, for example, is being shelved in many supermarkets not with most Manischewitz items but rather in the soup aisle. A new line of Manischewitz gravies also will be stocked with other mainstream brands. Manischewitz ads traditionally have emphasized Judaism, showing yarmulke-wearing celebrants at, say, a Seder. But new ads, by Joseph Jacobs Advertising in New York, the Manischewitz agency for more than three decades, take a decidedly more secular approach. “Don’t miss the boat,” says a print ad for beef gravy, which shows it being poured from a sauce boat onto mashed potatoes – no shofar or Star of David in sight. New ads “make little if any reference to any Jewish holiday,” said Elie Rosenfeld, chief executive of Joseph Jacobs. “There’s a tagline we use, ‘Bringing families to the table since 1888,’ and we want to be part of that family with you whether it’s Rosh Hashana, Hanukkah or Easter.”

Samoa Sacrifices a Day for Its Future [NYT] – A massive change in infrastructure and function, revealing time (or at least our documentation of it) to be more arbitrary than fixed.

The Pacific island nation of Samoa and its even tinier neighbor Tokelau are skipping Friday this week, jumping westward in time across the international date line and into the shifting economic balance of the 21st century. The time change is meant to align Samoa with its Asian trading partners; it moves the islands’ work days further from the United States, which dominated its economy in the past. In this giant-step version of daylight saving time, the island’s 186,000 citizens, and the 1,500 who live in Tokelau, will go to sleep on Thursday and wake up on Saturday. The government has decreed that those who miss a day of work on Friday will be paid all the same.

Portable Cathedrals [Domus] – Dan Hill’s epic articulate review of the Nokia N9 isn’t a gadget review, it’s a (tl;dr) cultural critique of design, where culture is within the producer organizations as much as – if not more than – the consumer society.

Yet the skeuomorphic nonsense that incomprehensibly pervades apps like Apple’s own Contacts, Calendar, iBooks, GameCenter, Find My Friends et al-all awkward faux-leather, wood and paper stylings-is is of such questionable “taste” it threatens to damage the overall harmony of iOS with its discordant notes. You cannot derive value from the idle suggestion of such textures on screen; they are physical properties and should be experienced as such, or not at all. Yet Apple’s design team will not explore those physical properties, merely sublimating their desire for such qualities into a picture of leather, a picture of wood. It recalls Marcel Duchamp’s critique of ‘retinal art’ i.e. intended only to please the eye.

For a Corn Chip Maker, the New Spokesman Is the Product Itself [NYT] – The argot of advertising is hilarious and depressing all at once. Zany and authentic spokesbag?

At the Fiesta Bowl on Monday, the game’s sponsor, Tostitos, will have a new endorser – a “spokesbag” puppet in the form of a chip bag with arms, a mouth and a generous dollop of swagger – to humorously convey the message that it is the tortilla chip brand that enlivens social gatherings. The new life-of-the-party campaign resurrects the top-selling snack’s 1990s theme. ” ‘Tostitos Knows How to Party’ means we are returning to our roots,” said Janelle Anderson, the brand’s senior director for marketing. Tostitos returned to the ’90s theme after marketing research over the last year found that its customers wanted reasons to celebrate and have fun in economically lean times. Tostitos chose a zany character “to get the message across and make it authentic,” said Ms. Anderson. “We wanted something that was magnetic, fun and approachable.” The brand’s new advertising agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, decided to “bring personality to the brand, and, in one of those rare cases, have the actual product be the actual spokesperson,” said Brett Craig, the group’s creative director for Tostitos. Working with Legacy Effects, a Los Angeles special effects company, the agency developed the hand-manipulated puppet with movable parts and special effects to convey energy, said Mr. Craig.

Bart Imitates Life

I was quite amused to see two topics near to my heart appear on The Simpsons last weekend. This this episode, the Simpsons travel with Ned Flanders and other Springfieldians to Israel. Ned gets very fed up with Homer and explodes: “You come all the way to Jerusalem, the happiest place on earth, and all the photos in your camera are of funny soda pops!” Yes! My Museum of Foreign Groceries (including Israeli beverages)! Here’s Homer’s pictures:





The episode also hits on another favorite topic – bad surveys – when Marge is asked to evaluate her tour guide:

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • This isn’t the page of a magazine, this is my desktop [Reddit] – (With link to screenshot of PC desktop at http://imgur.com/QIhqe.jpg) The tv plays youtube, the middle speaker controls volume while the one on the left and right open up Rhythmbox and VLC, the cabinets are notepads, the trashbin is clearly a widget, the clock and alarm clock actually work, the books also serve as launchers, the top bar with the date lets me know of future events. I created the desktop for fun, but don't really recommend it as screenlets seem to use a lot of RAM.
  • Bob and Beyond: A Microsoft Insider Remembers [Technologizer] – [Tandy Trower relates several – ultimately unsuccessful – attempts at Microsoft to ship a UI that leverages key research from Nass and Reeves about the social interactions people have with any technology. In his view, there is tremendous value if it's done right and it wasn't ever done right.] The Office team picked up Microsoft Agent for their next release, but opted not to use the characters I had created as they preferred their own unique ones. To avoid the past user-reported annoyances, they gave users more control over when the character would appear, but did little to reform its behavior when it was present. So, you still had the same cognitive disconnect between the character’s reaction to your actions in the application’s primary interface. The character just became a sugar coating for the Help interface, which, if it failed to come up with useful results, left the user unimpressed and thinking that the character was not very useful.
  • Japanese Food Companies Seek Growth Abroad [NYTimes.com] – [What will this mean to collectors/fans of Foreign Groceries 🙂 ] Ichiro Nakamura, spokesman for Lotte in Japan, said that the 400 versions of Koala’s March cookies — some smile and some cry, some hold musical instruments and some play sports — are much more challenging to manufacture than people might think. “We have a special technology that puffs up the koala-shaped cookies so there is hollow space inside where soft chocolate can be injected later,” Mr. Nakamura said. “And unless you have the right technology, the cookies are going to break easily when packed into boxes.”

Influencing customer behavior

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We Need Your Help, Vancouver, February 2009

The Killarney Market in Vancouver, B.C. accepts the inevitable: customers will take shopping carts in order to transport their groceries home. Rather than scolding customers or making the behavior illicit, they give permission and provide an extra service: cart retrieval. Sure, this could be better presented and better implemented, but it’s an interesting response to the common behavior, giving permission and supporting the obvious instead of demanding or forcing it to stop.

And a refreshing contrast from the increasingly common post-design solution (using our friend, technology) that locks cart wheels if they leave the property boundary, deterring removal in a rather unsubtle fashion.

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Carts and Borders 1, Oakland, August 2006

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Carts and Borders 2, Oakland, August 2006

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Oh no, Oakland, August 2006

See also:
Curb Appeal
There is Nothing New Under the (Rising) Sun

Crock Addict

I’ve developed a taste for expensive yogurt.

It started as a lark a few days ago, in a natural foods store near my home, when I saw Saint Benoit Yogurt for the first time. This single-serving yogurt comes in a miniaturized stoneware crock, colored and shaped like (what I imagine to be) a traditional European crock.

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I figured I’d throw down the $3.99 for a Saint Benoit once-it seemed luxurious, and worth doing for the experience.

But lo, the Palmetto Organic Grocery has just opened directly across the street from our office, and guess what they carry?

As it turns out, Saint Benoit only costs $2.49 if you return one of the used crocks. Compared to the usual $0.99 for many other organic yogurts, this price is still awfully high, but if the reusable crock and local, sustainable production are an ecological improvement over the usual disposable plastic container and cross-country transport, that’s one inducement to pony up.

The bottom line for me is sensory, though. There’s something about the “old world-like experience” of holding that little crock and hearing the spoon clink on its side that is proving to be quite seductive.

It’s a triumph of interface design.

Veggie Tales

Two favorite topics – groceries and stories – collide when the NYT profiles a Cleveland-area grocery chain

“One of the things Whole Foods taught us is the need to tell stories” about our products, Mr. Heinen said. In fact, Heinen’s has 50 stories that it trains employees to tell customers about its meat, produce, baked goods and other items.

This month, Whole Foods took another step forward on this front, designating one employee from each store as a “value guru.” Those employees now give regular tours highlighting sales, local and seasonal items and popular selections from its private label brand.

With all the scaremongering over Americans not taking vacations this summer, perhaps the Whole Foods tour will be substituting?

Swallowing innovation

Coca-Cola is running a three-page ad in the Sunday paper.

As part of our ongoing commitment to finding new ways to suit your changing tastes and needs, we’re always working to develop innovative options. We’d like to say thanks for the inspiration. And please stay tuned, because it’s just a taste of things to come. To learn more about our latest innovations….

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I noticed the use of innovation twice in their copy and as much as I like to throw the word around, I’m often troubled when I see how it’s being used by others. I think most of us find new brands or new products or new packages interesting (granted, some of us more than others!), but the small can (for example) isn’t new.

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Mini cans of Pepsi, Burlington, ON, 2004

The ad also reminded me of an image from 2005, showing just the diet beverages sold by Pepsi.
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That’s a lot of choice! But good luck trying get a handle on how many different things Coke sells. It’s impressive and overwhelming. Their huge list of brands (worldwide) is here and a virtual, global vending machine is here.

Meanwhile, Oroweat is doing their small-packaging bit with new smaller bags of bread.
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I wondered what has changed that necessitates this new package? Are breadboxes getting smaller? According to their site, the smaller bread package came out at the beginning of 2007 (emphases mine)

New Smaller Loaves Fit with Industry Trend of Reduced Size Options

The unique line of mini-sized variety breads are perfect for smaller households or families that like to buy several different varieties of bread. Although the loaves are smaller in size, they deliver the flavor and quality known from Oroweat.

“We all like the freshest bread and many consumers have told us they cannot finish a full size loaf of bread before its expiration date. Oroweat Mini Loaves are the perfect solution for smaller households that typically toss away a portion of a loaf of bread,” said Dan Larson, Oroweat Marketing Director. “Mini Loaves also make it easier to enjoy a variety of breads for different occasions; including 100% Whole Wheat with whole grain nutrition, and Country Buttermilk, a favorite for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich! Now you can have both. This is one more example of Oroweat’s innovative thinking to offer new options that are important to our consumers.”

With the average number of people per household just over two in the United Sates, smaller size offerings are gaining attention in the food industry. Keeping an eye on trends and listening to consumers, Oroweat is one of the first bread companies to introduce smaller loaves. Last year, Oroweat successfully introduced premium buns in four-count packages.

Oroweat confirms it, then. Small packaging is innovative thinking.

Sustainability Biz

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The Loft store in Tokyo has an entire section that offers a huge range of reusable grocery store bags. Do the Japanese values around “choice” and “sustainability” collide? Does it make sense within that culture? Does it make sense to outsiders?

I had an uncomfortable reaction along the lines of “Oh, crap, something else to buy.” It seemed to contradict my expectations of restraint in a product category that carries a meaning of “sustainable.” Of course, that may not be the meaning that these bags have in Japan.

Foreign Grocery Sp@m

Hot on the heels of my Foreign Grocery Museum article in Ambidextrous Magazine, I received a piece of spam informing me of the availability of Poppins cereals in Kuwait.

I really like their enthusiastic descriptions of the benefits provided: true value for the money, great morning start, all the energy it needs, essential for the growth of children, etc.

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And if we needed further proof that they were watching this blog, the email asked me to take a survey about Poppins. We [heart] surveys!

Germs are in the details

I’ve blogged here and here about good and bad implementations of wipes in grocery stores.

I found another one in Coupeville, WA, the other day.
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Despite the rather industrial graphics, there’s a few improvements. It’s very clearly for cleaning the cart, not your hands (as Safeway suggested).. It’s right next to the carts, so when you take a cart, you use it (rather than located near the exit, at Safeway). And should the Red Apple employees fail to maintain the display, there’s at least an encouraging reminder to the customer that they should ask to have it replenished.

This is no iPhone, it’s not a radical innovation, but it’s a definite response to a need, and tracking how it is and isn’t being dealt with is enlightening. First, one has to understand the need. Then one has to develop a solution. Then the solution must be implemented. Properly. Effectively. And throw in iteration, for fun. The fact that something as simple as this fails around solution/implementation at a major chain like Safeway tells you something about the organizational barriers to even the most mild of innovations.

Safeway Update

A quick update on the lame hand-wipe station at Safeway (blogged earlier here) – an unattractive display that cleans hands (not cart handles), and doesn’t really address the perceived problem.

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It’s been shoved further against the wall, the container for the wipes is sitting open, and is empty.

Add neglect to the problem, I guess.

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