How Michael Jackson Killed Jingles

The Atlantic: “What killed the jingle? It owes its demise not only to shifts in the advertising business but also changes in the music business, and how the two industries became more entwined than ever … But if there needs to be an individual to blame—or thank—for the death of the jingle, Michael Jackson would be a good candidate. His 1984 Pepsi campaign pioneered the complete melding of pop stardom and product promotion.”

“For one ad, Jackson eschewed singing a traditional jingle and instead adapted his hit single ‘Billie Jean’—an innovation that was his idea—by revising the chorus to ‘You’re the Pepsi generation, guzzle down and taste the thrill of the day, and feel the Pepsi way’ … (Jackson, though, reportedly didn’t even drink Pepsi.)”

“In the realm of licensing old music, again, Michael Jackson had a role. In 1985 he bought the publishing rights to the Beatles’ catalog for $47.5 million. When the band’s song ‘Revolution’ appeared in a 1987 Nike ad, thanks in part to Jackson … the surviving Beatles sued Nike. An undisclosed settlement was reached, but the signal was clear: Not even the most sacrosanct counterculture bands of one’s youth were safe from advertisers.”

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Hotels Scramble For Nickels & Dimes

The New York Times: “Unfortunately for travelers, fees and surcharges are a growing moneymaker for hotels and not likely to go away anytime soon. New research from the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University indicates that hotels in the United States will tack on $2.55 billion in fees this year — the highest amount since Bjorn Hanson, a professor at the center, began tracking them in 2000.”

“Hotels all over the country are adding fees for … late checkout or early check-in, or a request for a room on a high floor or one with a king-size bed. Some are adding bellhop charges for help with bags or for holding luggage — fees separate from the tips travelers already give the bell staff.” Resort fees “typically cover amenities like pool towels, beach chairs, fitness-center access and a daily newspaper — and guests are required to pay whether or not they actually use any of those things.”

“Although rates and fees at hotels have been rising for a number of years … hotels have been adding perks like upgraded breakfast offerings, free Wi-Fi and renovated bathrooms and lobbies … The problem now, though, is that prices are still rising, and hotels are running out of ways give guests more for their money.”

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Quinoa & Kale @ Chick-fil-A

Business Insider: Chick-fil-A is testing a host of new menu items featuring ingredients like quinoa, farro, roasted butternut squash, and chia seeds in hopes of attracting more health-conscious eaters. The chain is testing two grain bowls starting Tuesday: the Harvest Kale & Grain Bowl and the Egg White Grill Grain Bowl.”

“The Harvest Kale bowl features red quinoa, white quinoa, farro, roasted butternut squash, diced apples, and kale topped with goat cheese, feta cheese, tart dried cherries, and roasted nuts. It’s served with a new light balsamic vinaigrette dressing.”

“Chick-fil-A has been getting some complaints after replacing classic menu items like cole slaw and its spicy chicken biscuit with healthier dishes. The company stressed that the new grain bowls would not be replacing any of its traditional menu items, like the original chicken sandwich and waffle fries.”

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Walmart: Neighborhood Markets Crush It

Business Insider: “There’s a retail business with 700 stores nationwide that has 22 straight quarters of positive comparable sales growth and 11 straight quarters with comps up 5% or more. It’s not Kroger or Costco, but a division of Walmart that has been quietly crushing the competition — the Neighborhood Market.”

“There are a number of reasons why Neighborhood Market has found success … Grocery now makes up the majority of WalMart’s U.S. segment, and it’s been its best performing one in recent years … Grocery is also one of the few retail categories that rivals like Amazon.com have struggled to penetrate … delivering perishables to your doorstep remains difficult and expensive.”

“Wal-Mart began its life catering to rural customers and has long struggled to penetrate markets … The Neighborhood Market concept, however, has given it the ability to open up in dense cities where real estate may not be suitable for a Supercenter … Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Markets can also take advantage of food deserts in such environments, neighborhoods where residents have little access to fresh food.”

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Dataism: The Next Religion?

Financial Times: “Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data. This novel creed may be called “Dataism”. In its extreme form, proponents of the Dataist worldview perceive the entire universe as a flow of data, see organisms as little more than biochemical algorithms and believe that humanity’s cosmic vocation is to create an all-encompassing data-processing system — and then merge into it.”

“We are already becoming tiny chips inside a giant system that nobody really understands … But no one needs to understand. All you need to do is answer your emails faster. Just as free-market capitalists believe in the invisible hand of the market, so Dataists believe in the invisible hand of the dataflow … The new motto says: ‘If you experience something — record it. If you record something — upload it. If you upload something — share it’.”

“Dataists further believe that given enough biometric data and computing power, this all-encompassing system could understand humans much better than we understand ourselves … It starts with simple things, like which book to buy and read. How do humanists choose a book? They go to a bookstore, wander between the aisles, flip through one book and read the first few sentences of another, until some gut feeling connects them to a particular tome. Dataists use Amazon.”

“In the end, it’s a simple empirical question. As long as you have greater insight and self-knowledge than the algorithms, your choices will still be superior and you will keep at least some authority in your hands. If the algorithms nevertheless seem poised to take over, it is mainly because most human beings hardly know themselves at all.”

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Amazon: ‘Subscribe & Save’ or ‘Bait & Switch’?

The New York Times: What do subscriptions to a newspaper, magazine or Netflix account have in common? Once you sign up, you expect to pay the same rate every month. Yet that’s not the case at Amazon when you subscribe to its Subscribe & Save program, which automatically refills orders for household staples like instant coffee, napkins or trash bags.”

“Buried in the e-commerce company’s terms and conditions is that the Subscribe & Save discount is applied to the price of the item at the time that the order is placed. And on Amazon, prices change frequently — including sometimes rising.”

“In Amazon’s online forums, dozens of people posted about prices of Subscribe & Save items fluctuating, with some calling the program a ‘bait and switch’ subscription scheme. Amazon declined to comment. The company emails people 10 days before a recurring subscription delivery, when it informs customers of a new price of their item so they can change or skip the order. Any sticker shock, analysts said, may be the result of Amazon’s complex pricing system coming into conflict with consumer expectations of a traditional subscription.”

“Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst for Forrester Research who follows Amazon, said the retailer was probably pushing prices up to test how loyal customers are to products and how much more they are willing to pay for them. Yet the sharp price changes on Subscribe & Save items caught her by surprise.” She comments: “It doesn’t seem as customer-friendly as Amazon typically is. That’s what’s unusual.”

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Lowering The Bar: Soap Loses Lather

The Washington Post: “More than half of consumers — 55 percent — say bar soap is inconvenient when compared to liquid varieties, according to a new report by research firm Mintel. Among their chief complaints: Bar soaps leave residue in the shower, require a dish for storage, and aren’t as long-lasting as liquid options.

“An earlier study by Mintel found millennials are eschewing cereal for similar reasons. Roughly 40 percent of those surveyed by Mintel said ‘cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it,’ according to The New York Times. As a result, cereal sales have slipped by nearly 30 percent since 2000.”

“But when it comes to soap, the perception of cleanliness may also be a factor. Nearly half of those surveyed said they believe bar soaps are often covered in germs, a view that was more widely held among younger consumers than older ones.”

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Lovefone: Outside the (Phone) Box

New Atlas: “A smartphone and tablet repair outfit has found a fitting way to breathe new life into the UK’s iconic red telephone boxes. Lovefone is converting the underused booths into the kind of mobile phone repair shop that should probably be avoided by those with a fear of enclosed spaces. Each one will sport workbenches, charging stations and free Wi-Fi.”

“Lovefone is exploring yet another approach. The Lovefonebox takes the firm’s device repair services out of its shop premises and into the 1-sq m (10.8-sq ft) units across London and beyond … Lovefone staff are being rotated across the firm’s lab, shop and phone boxes every three days to provide variety in their roles and to minimize the potential for phone box ‘claustrophobia.’ The rotation also aids the firm’s approach to formal and informal learning for staff.”

“The first Lovefonebox opened last week in the Greenwich area of London, with another eight already planned across the city. Lovefone’s aim is to open around 37 locations in London over the next 18 months, as well as to offer franchise opportunities elsewhere in the UK.”

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Luke’s Lobsters: Rolls From ‘Trap to Table’

The New York Times: “Oil companies have long practiced a vertical integration strategy to track and control the flow of petroleum from the oil field to the gas pump … Now the practice is gaining momentum in the food industry.” Among this new breed of restauranteurs is Luke Holden, co-owner of “19 Luke’s Lobster restaurants, two food trucks and a lobster tail cart in the United States, and five shacks in Japan.”

Luke “holds an ownership stake in a co-op of Maine fishermen, which allows him to track where and how the lobsters are caught, and control the quality, freshness and pricing. He also owns the processing plant, Cape Seafood, that packages and prepares the lobsters for his restaurants.” He comments: “We’re able to trace every pound of seafood we serve back to the harbor where it was sustainably caught and to support fishermen we know and trust.”

“When Mr. Holden agreed to buy all of the co-op’s catches for his restaurants, support its sustainability practices and give the co-op 50 percent of the profits from a Luke’s Lobster restaurant that is attached to the wharf, the fishermen agreed … Mr. Holden is projecting sales of $25 million this year and $42 million in 2018. Plans are in the works to open six new restaurants this year and 40 more by 2020.”

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