Sunday, November 30, 2008

What If Wal-Mart Had Been in Banking?

Wal-Mart: Your New Banker?
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How would our current financial crisis be different if Wal-Mart had been allowed to operate a bank, as outlined by the above Business Week article from 2005? Would things be different?

Because Wal-Mart has built-in profit from retailing and a conservative management style, I suspect its tactics would have been vastly different from the Wall Street financiers who collateralized subprime mortgage obligations.

Instead of preventing Wal-Mart from entering the banking industry, we should have welcomed its competition and learned from its ideas. Shame on traditional bankers for fearing Wal-Mart's rivalry. Good competition should force rivals to focus on serving customers better.

Saturday, November 29, 2008 Cashes In

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The simplest way to share files online

Use to create drops and privately share your files by web, email, phone, fax, and more. Drops are protected from search engines so you can conveniently share what you want, how you want, with whom you want. Check out our 'How To' video.

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On the recommendations of PC Magazine and my tech-savvy relative Jim B., I started using, which is a free drop service where users can store/share all kinds of files (documents, photos, videos, what have you). Now I have at least 10 separate drops, because the maximum storage is 100 MB per drop.

I always wondered where the money angle came in . . . till now. Two weeks ago, the functionality slowed and changed. Last week, the look changed. Voila! A new look and a new push toward "premium" (meaning "fee-based") services. The nifty flash feature for uploading multiple files simultaneously is not, alas, available for free.

A quick news search showed me that the company raised money not long ago. I can certainly understand investors wanting to cash in by monetizing a popular site.

Here's the question: How many users who were accustomed to the wonderful free functionality will upgrade to premium? Hard to say, but I know one user who will be dropping away from It's been a handy tool and I'll miss it a little, but I'd need a lot more added value to go the fee-based route.

UPDATE Jan 2009: Apparently the multi-upload feature works fine in I-net Explorer but not so fine in Firefox (maybe because of FlashBlock, a handy add-in that keeps those flash ads away from view unless and until I click to watch). So I'm back on the free sites while running IE.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Corporate Reputation

The Most Respected U.S. Companies 2008 - A Study of Corporate Reputations in the United States

Cisco's corporate reputation was measured by the following seven dimensions:

Leadership - Company is a company with strong leadership, it has visible leaders and is managed effectively.
Innovation - Company is an innovative company, it makes or sells innovative products or innovates in the way it does business.
Workplace - Company is an appealing place to work, it treats its employees well.
Citizenship - Company is a good corporate citizen, it supports good causes and does not harm the environment.
Governance - Company is a responsibly-run company, it behaves ethically and is open and transparent in its business dealings.
Performance - Company is a high-performance company, it delivers goog financial results.
Product/Services - Company offers high quality products and services, it offers excellent products and reliable services.
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Whether it's the Reputation Institute's global study or Fortune's Most Admired Companies, corporate reputation is a hot issue these days. Measuring reputation is tricky, however. Here are the Reputation Institute's dimensions (with Cisco as its example--notice the "goog financial results").

My take: Corporate reputation is not a small consideration when deciding who to buy from or who to work for (or who to invest in). I want to align myself with a reputable firm, not one known for questionable ethics or poor products. It makes good business sense to uphold a good reputation because it smooths the way for effective marketing, recruiting, and investor relations.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Minute Marketing for Minute Clinic

MinuteClinic — Home Page

Hello. We’re MinuteClinic.

We’re doing what we can to make healthcare a little easier for people with a lot going on. Our board-certified practitioners are trained to diagnose and treat common family illnesses, such as strep throat, bronchitis and ear, eye and sinus infections.

  • No appointment necessary
  • Open 7 days a week
  • Most insurance accepted
Click here to find a clinic near you.
Flu shots available every day.

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Minute Clinic opened in my local CVS a few months ago but few people knew it was there--until flu shots became available. Suddenly it's drawing customers (including me) because it's quick, convenient, and reasonably priced. Minute Clinic hasn't done much marketing in my area, yet more people would use it if they were aware of its services. Even a small ad in the weekly newspaper would get the place on our radar screen and maintain awareness.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Linens N Things Goes Away Forever

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So many retailers are closing their doors forever. Circuit City is going away, Linens N Things too. Probably many more chains will announce bankruptcy plans before this challenging year is over.

But within a couple of weeks, I expect that huge markdowns will spread to nearly every retail firm, online as well as off. Deflation is going to be with us till 2009, yet the race is on to get prices as low as possible before Christmas and Hanukkah so stores can capture some share of holiday sales and avoid being stuck with inventory.

Even retailers who eventually report a .5% increase in same-store sales won't be talking too much about their lower profit margins--the real result of deflation that begins at the consumer level and spreads back into the supply chain.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Quebec

Official web site of Québec City Tourism

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Quebec was founded 400 years ago and its yearlong birthday party has brought millions of tourists (including me) to this New France city. Most of the storefront businesses and restaurants sport the official 400th birthday graphics. Curiously, I found almost no birthday souvenirs--perhaps all sold out now that the celebration is drawing to a close?

The official tourism site has separate sections for visitors, meeting planners, travel professionals, and the media, recognizing that different groups are looking for different information. The videos and photos show both old and new city scenes but they can't convey the friendliness of Quebec's people. The exchange rate is more favorable for Americans than it has been for years--an advantage that the tourist site alludes to with a link to a foreign exchange calculator. Clever and practical at once.

Go and enjoy!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Goodbye Clamshell, Hello Friendly Packaging

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Packages You Won’t Need a Saw to Open
Today's NY Times reports that Sony and Microsoft, among other manufacturers, are finally doing away with those impenetrable plastic clamshell packages on electronics items. "Shrink" (aka shoplifting) is an undenial problem, as I know from my years in retail management. However, making 99.5% of the people suffer because of the thievery of .5% (I'm approximating here) doesn't make sense. Using cardboard or plastic packaging (with a zipper-like opening, perhaps, as the Times article noted) is more customer-friendly.

Last year I complained about how overpackaged the iPod is. Now have a similar complaint about the Samsung YP-K3 MP3 player. The itself player is very slick, light, tiny, and fun. It accepted a downloaded e-audiobook with no fuss at all. Its packaging, however, is reminiscent of the iPod. And of course, since it came (via DHL) from an electronics store, it was encased in clamshell plastic. Can't wait to say goodbye to the clamshell, an environmental nightmare as well as almost impossible to open without trauma to the product or the opener.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marketing of a President-to-Be

This week's Business Week explains how "better marketing elected Barack Obama." Sizzle counts in marketing--but so does substance. Senator Obama marketed himself AND his ideas--as well as his ability to listen to citizens, seek out experts, ask their views, and enlist their aid in proposing solutions to the country's tough challenges. He forged relationships with many stakeholders and encouraged two-way communication to shape the ideas and proposals that backed up the sizzle. Beyond bumper-sticker political marketing!

How Better Marketing Elected Barack Obama

Obama's defeat of the heir apparent in his own party and his victory over the much-vaunted Republican machine is a remarkable achievement that owes a lot to his instinct for marketing

First, Obama's personal charisma, his listening and public speaking skills, his consistently positive and unruffled demeanor and his compelling biography attracted the attention and empathy of voters.

Second, Obama converted this empathy into tangible support. More citizens volunteered time and money to help the Obama campaign than any previous presidential candidate. Indeed, he attracted more donors than the entire Democratic or Republican party nationwide. Almost half of Obama's unprecedented $639 million in funds raised from individuals came from small donors giving $300 or less.

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