LTO: Temptation & The Elusive McRib

The Atlantic: “Despite its list of 70-plus ingredients-—or perhaps because of it—few things galvanize the appetite of the American public like the McRib, the boneless pork-based sandwich, which briefly blooms like a spring ephemeral on McDonald’s menus before disappearing each year … In addition to being a cult favorite, the McRib is the best-known iteration of what the world of quick-service food calls limited-time offers, or LTOs.”

“In general their aim is to stoke excitement for a brand and entice customers to make an extra visit without resorting to discounts or cannibalizing their ordinary regimens … LTOs aren’t necessarily meant as a testing ground for full-time menu items; they’re meant to grab attention … Arby’s—historically known best for its roast beef sandwiches—distills its menu items through a decidedly ‘meat-centric’ prism.”

Jim Taylor of Arby’s comments: “We’re in the temptation business with the LTOs, not the education business. If people don’t really know what it is, they are not going to be attracted to it. But by the same token, if what you’re giving them is something they can get anywhere else, they’re not going to pay attention and come into the store specifically for us on an extra visit.”

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Grocery Outlet: The TJX of Supermarkets?

Business Insider: “Grocery Outlet wants to be the TJ Maxx of grocery stores … Grocery Outlet says it sells items at a 40% to 70% discount off regular stores’ prices by offering surplus items, seasonal closeouts, and discontinued items. While some of its items aren’t up to manufacturer standards, none of what it sells is past the sell-by date.”

“Like TJ Maxx, grocery outlet says it relies on a ‘treasure hunt’ experience to hook consumers. Because customers don’t know exactly what products they will find at Grocery Outlet, they keep coming back for the thrill. Still, Grocery Outlet executives tell Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine that they strive to make stores a place where people can do most, if not all, of their food shopping.”

“While Grocery Outlet doesn’t offer amenities like a deli, it tries to excel in customer service. It also sells wine … workers will carry your bags to your car for you … Grocery Outlet is also making a big push into organic, healthy, and specialty food … It plans to open an additional 125 stores in the California and mid-Atlantic region by 2020.”

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Longevity Market: Boomer Brands Booming

The New York Times: Some companies “are plugging into a wealthy slice of the over-50 demographic called the longevity market, whose annual economic activity currently amounts to $7.6 trillion … With an estimated 74.9 million baby boomers … the biggest market opportunity for start-ups is older Americans rather than hip millennials … The staggering size of the total longevity economy — bigger even than Japan’s — has been attracting more entrepreneurs, deep-pocketed financiers and places to pitch new ideas in the past few years.”

“New business ideas that cater to boomers are nearly endless … and include chefs, online dating sites and yoga instructors for people with health issues … Even businesses with decidedly mundane products are finding ways to capture the longevity niche. Foot care, for example, is a huge market … One of the founders of the Rockport Company, Bruce R. Katz, reinvented himself in 2013 by starting the Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company to sell comfortable footwear to baby boomer men.”

“In a validation of the brand’s appeal to baby boomers, former President Bill Clinton, who turns 70 this month, was even photographed walking a dog, wearing Samuel Hubbard’s sky blue shoes.”

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Brand Promises: Final Sale? Just Kidding!

The Wall Street Journal: “The phrase used to mean a last-ditch promotion, with steep price reductions on end-of-season castoffs and no chance of returns. But lately some brands are using a different sort of ‘final sale,’ strategically discounting slow-moving merchandise in mid-season, even though future discounts may still be possible. The new tactic still means no returns or exchanges … Fickle shoppers, hungry for discounts but accustomed to changing their minds, aren’t pleased.”

“Lauren Taylor Baker, a 31-year-old digital entrepreneur in Atlanta, says she used to get a thrill from finding a great bargain marked final sale … But after several final-sale purchases she regretted, Ms. Baker says she feels burned and no longer believes a final-sale price is the lowest it will go. Now, she says, when shopping for something marked final sale, she ignores the original full price and evaluates it based on quality and fit.”

“Katie Amato, of Buffalo, N.Y., does most of her shopping online. While she likes a sale, she tends to avoid final sale items. ‘Things might not fit, or the quality might not be as expected, and then you are stuck with it,’ says the 30-year-old postdoctoral researcher. Final sales make her feel ‘trapped or manipulated,’ she says.”

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Five Stars: Hospital Hospitality

The New York Times: “While clinical care is the focus of any medical center, hospitals have many incentives to move toward hotel-inspired features, services and staff training. Medical researchers say such amenities can improve health outcomes by reducing stress and anxiety among patients, while private rooms can cut down on the transfer of disease.”

“But a big driver of the trend may be hospitals’ interest in marketing — attracting patients with private insurance who have a choice in where they receive care, and encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations … Competing on the amenities is all the more important … because there is so little reliable comparative data on hospitals’ medical outcomes.”

“At Henry Ford West Bloomfield, scores from federally mandated surveys show that the evolving features at the hospital have helped to improve its customer satisfaction ratings and make patients more likely to recommend the hospital to others … Indeed, a study by Deloitte found that hospitals with higher patient experience ratings were generally more profitable than those with lower scores.”

“Of course, all these new features and services come with a price tag — part of which is billed directly to patients.”

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Saltwater Brewery: Edible 6-Pack Rings

Quartz: “Saltwater Brewery has introduced new, eco-friendly six-pack rings for their beer … The grain-based rings are both biodegradable and edible—so rather than choking on them, marine life can safely chow down on them instead.”

“The brewery makes the rings by shipping grain leftover from its beer-making process offsite. The grain is then bound with biopolymer, a protein occurring in living organisms, and pressed into shape … While the spent-grain compound isn’t super nutritious for sea creatures, it’s not harmful in any way.”

“The switch to biodegradable rings was costly for Saltwater Brewery … Currently, consumers have to pay about 10 cents more per beer for the technology. Right now the brewery offers a mix of plastic rings and the new biodegradable rings … In coming months, the brewery hopes to shift completely over to edible rings. The brewery also plans to make the biopolymer technology blueprint available for purchase, so that other beverage companies can stop using plastic rings, too.”

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Under Armour: Kevin Plank’s Baltimore Platform

The Washington Post: In Baltimore, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank “has plotted a $5.5 billion development project, one of the largest in the country, comprising 45 city blocks and more than two miles of riverfront … Plank’s project, when completed in 25 years, would dwarf Baltimore’s celebrated Inner Harbor, delivering a new Under Armour headquarters, tech and manufacturing businesses and 40 acres of parks. It would also yield hundreds of millions of dollars in projected tax revenue and provide an estimated 25,000 jobs.”

“Plank unveiled a plan calling for 18 million total square feet, including offices, hotels, shopping, attractions and at least 7,500 residences in Port Covington, a peninsula isolated from the city by Interstate 95.”

Says Plank: “We want to shine a light on this great city of Baltimore. I can tell you, I love this city. I love my company. I believe in this city. I believe in what’s going to happen. And ladies and gentlemen, I can promise you, at Under Armour, we are truly, truly just getting started.”

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Dollar Shave & The Digitally Native Vertical Brand

The New York Times: “The same forces that drove Dollar Shave’s rise are altering a wide variety of consumer product categories. Together, they add up to something huge — a new slate of companies that are exploring novel ways of making and marketing some of the most lucrative products we buy today. These firms have become so common that they have acquired a jargony label: the digitally native vertical brand.”

“By cutting out the inefficiencies of retail space and the marketing expense of TV, the new companies can offer better products at lower prices. We will get a wider range of products — if companies don’t have to market a single brand to everyone on TV, they can create a variety of items aimed at blocs of consumers who were previously left behind. And because these companies were born online, where reputations live and die on word of mouth, they are likely to offer friendlier, more responsive customer service than their faceless offline counterparts.”

“It’s striking how few of these online companies could have taken off in the presocial age. At the very least, they would have been sunk by the inability to target ads to the demographics they’re aiming to serve.”

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The Sweet Science of Designer Deodorant

The Wall Street Journal: “Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Soapwalla charges $14 for a 2-ounce jar of deodorant cream. It has the consistency of buttercream frosting … male customers have said they prefer it over a waxy stick, which snags and pulls hair. Cream also makes it easier to apply to other places on the body, such as the feet.”

“Prices for these offerings are reaching new heights, well beyond the old standard of two or three dollars a stick. Sprays and stronger stick offerings, known as clinical strength, come with $5 to $10 price tags. Natural deodorant often costs $15 or more. Tom Ford has two sticks, from his Oud Wood and Neroli Portofino fragrance lines, priced at $52 a piece … … A spokeswoman for Tom Ford Beauty … says the brand’s $52-per-stick price tag reflects the effort it takes to translate a complex, premium fragrance into a deodorant.”

Meanwhile: “Thirty percent of women reapply their deodorant during the day, according to Procter & Gamble Co., maker of Secret, Old Spice and Gillette; 20% of women say they keep it in their car, 25% in a purse and 30% at work. It all stems from a sneaking suspicion that deodorant could work better or has failed altogether. Executives at personal-care companies acknowledge that could be the case, but say many times a shopper has bought the wrong product or is mistaking a weak fragrance for an ineffective deodorant.

“Now more women buy Old Spice, a line typically targeting men, because of how strong its scent is … It is especially popular with women headed for the gym.”

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