Hershey Hugs & Kisses Its Hometown

The Wall Street Journal: “From the roller coasters at Hershey Park to the butterfly conservatory at Hershey Gardens, Hershey, Pa., was literally built on the generosity of its founder, the iconic chocolatier Milton S. Hershey. No wonder, then, that Hershey residents fret the tap might run dry if Hershey Co. is sold or merges with a suitor.”

“Hershey is a holdout from a bygone American era, when some 2,000 towns sprang up to serve one particular coal mine, textile factory or slaughterhouse. Many have faded as factories moved overseas and technological advancements led to job cuts … The same fate hasn’t befallen Hershey, where Kisses-shaped lamps burn bright above the downtown intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues.”

“Hershey’s resilience is due largely to the unusual strength of Hershey Trust … Milton Hershey founded the trust over a century ago, mainly to look after the Milton Hershey School for some 2,000 underprivileged children. It still does that, but today the trust also owns a resort and spa, an amusement park and a real-estate company in town.”

“Brad Reese, the grandson of the creator of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which Hershey bought in 1963, spent his early years in what he calls “this very insular town.” He swam in the pool at the Hershey-built community center, and drank milk from the Hershey-owned dairy. ‘It’s a honey pot,’ said Mr. Reese, ‘the hand that feeds’.”

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Binu Binu: Soap as Body-Soul Exorcism

The New York Times: “For the Toronto native Karen Kim, 36, the memory of her Korean grandmother buffing her body when she was 5 years old left a lasting impression … Something about the purity of a simple “soap and water” beauty routine stuck with Kim. So much so that last spring, she left her job in fashion at La Garçonne in New York City … to try her hand at soap making, reinterpreting the old-fashioned traditions of Korean bath life into a line of modern cleansing goods.”

“Called binu binu (or ‘soap soap’ in Korean), it comprises six restorative bars, all made with a base of boricha, a barley tea that’s prized for its detoxifying powers.”

“Each bar starts with a story, many of which include strong female characters in Korean culture. Her Haenyeo Sea Woman soap, for example, is an homage to the haenyeo deep-sea divers of Jeju Island … Her blend of black Hiwa Kai sea salt, seaweed extract and peppermint oil riffs on the bracing feeling of plunging into the ocean. Others, like her Shaman Black Charcoal soap, conjure up the modern mudang shamans … the essential oils in the charcoal soap — lavender, cedarwood and clary sage — are often used in purification ceremonies and provide a deep cleanse that, she says, is akin to ‘an exorcism’ for the body and soul.”

“Kim cuts the bars by hand, forming monolithic shapes inspired by the severe blocklike aesthetic of Donald Judd. ‘I love the idea of soap being a little sculptural element in your bathroom,’ she notes.”

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Simple Products Beget Simple Packages

The Wall Street Journal: “Instead of burying ingredient lists in the fine print on the back of the package, food manufacturers are trumpeting simpler formulas prominently on the label’s front … More people care deeply about what’s in their food and insist on recognizing the ingredients. The litmus test for many consumers is whether those ingredients might appear in their own kitchen cupboards.”

“Simply Tostitos Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips boast only three ingredients: blue corn, organic expeller-pressed sunflower oil and sea salt. This past June, General Mills Inc.’s Larabar snack bar line launched Larabar Bites. The bites—available in flavors such as double chocolate brownie and cherry chocolate chip—resemble truffles and contain few ingredients which are prominently displayed on the front of the package.”

“New ads for Haagen-Dazs ice cream in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles show a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. ‘5 ingredients, one incredible indulgence’ read ads, which also list the recipe of cream, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla … This fall, ConAgra’s Bertolli Frozen Meals is rolling out a new, reformulated line of meals that feature a shorter ingredient list that reads more like a recipe.”

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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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Misty Copeland: Ballet Megastar as Megabrand

CNBC: Ballet star Misty Copeland “is one of the few dancers who is business savvy enough to have become a brand of her own. She has performed on Broadway, appeared as a judge on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and written a best-selling memoir. She’s picked up endorsement deals with T-Mobile, Seiko, Under Armour, Coach and others — honors usually reserved for high-profile sports figures. In May, she signed on with Dannon to promote its Oikos Greek yogurt.”

“Her next act is a dancewear line ‘for all shapes and sizes’ debuting in August. The inspiration for the line, Egal, stems from her own struggle to find supportive leotards when she was an awkward teen.”

Copeland comments: “Celebrities today make all this money and have all this time to travel and play, go to clubs and get in trouble. But there’s never a moment that a dancer can take off and just be like, woo hoo, I’m enjoying all of the applause that I got in my last show! The work never ends until you retire, and I think that having that structure in place as a classical dancer has really benefited me as a businesswoman.”

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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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The Six Trajectories of Storytelling

MIT Technology Review: “Andrew Reagan at the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington and a few pals … have used sentiment analysis to map the emotional arcs of over 1,700 stories and then used data-mining techniques to reveal the most common arcs. ‘We find a set of six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives,’ they say.”

“The six basic emotional arcs are these: A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.”

“It turns out the most popular are stories that follow the Icarus and Oedipus arcs and stories that follow more complex arcs that use the basic building blocks in sequence. In particular, the team says the most popular are stories involving two sequential man-in-hole arcs and a Cinderella arc followed by a tragedy.”

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The Economic Value of ‘Cool’

Quartz: “Cool doesn’t just explain why people will pay $1,000 for the right sweatshirt. It’s also arguably a factor in why the right logo makes us view some people as more suitable for a job, or worthy of receiving money for charity … Cool is a target that’s constantly shifting. It’s an attitude, a term of approval, and today, as much as any of these things, it’s a game of superficially rebellious status-chasing, centered on consumerism.”

“Steven Quartz and Anette Asp, neuroscience researchers at the California Institute of Technology, have run fMRI studies on the brains of people looking at items that a separate group identified as ‘cool’ or ‘uncool.’ Just viewing these objects activated a part of the subjects’ brains called the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). It’s involved in social emotions, such as pride and embarrassment, that center on how we perceive ourselves and believe others perceive us, and it has strong ties to the brain’s reward and disgust circuits.”

They write: “Cool turns out to be a strange kind of economic value that our brains see in products that enhance our social image … This abstract good—social approval, reputation, esteem, or status—plays a central role in our motivation and behavior, and it is the currency that drives much of our economy and our consumption.”

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Zappos: A Short Story About a Long Call

Business Insider: “A Zappos employee recently had a customer service call that lasted 10 hours and 43 minutes, breaking an internal record at the Amazon-owned online retailer … Steven Weinstein answered a call from a customer who needed some help with an order of a few items. The two began to chat, and even after she was helped, she stayed on the line.”

“Weinstein said he only took one break during the nearly 11-hour period, about two-and-a-half hours on, to go to the bathroom. One of his colleagues brought him food and water during the call.”

“At Zappos, call center employees are trained to use interactions with customers as a way to build relationships, not make a sale. And if a call is going long during a particularly busy time, then it’s up to the employee overseeing the call center to assign more people to calls rather than encourage an employee to end a call early. The last longest customer service call was set by Mary Tennant in 2012, at nine hours and 37 minutes.”

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Meet the Spuglies: Walmart Attacks Food Waste

Quartz: “Shoppers tooling down Walmart grocery aisles now encounter brands that package and sell ugly produce. The ‘Spuglies’ brand markets misshapen potatoes and the ‘I’m Perfect’ brand offers apples that have gone askew. These companies pushing misfit fruits and veggies into the mainstream give consumers a way to fight food waste with their wallets.”

“Since it began tackling food waste within its own system in 2013, the retailer says it has diverted 82% of food that would have otherwise gone to landfills. That amounts to about 2 billion meals. According to ReFED, a food waste advocacy group, a 20% reduction in waste would reclaim the 1,250 calories per capita that goes into landfills each year. That’s enough to feed America’s food-insecure population three times over.”

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