Reinheitsgebot: ‘Purity’ Is an Impure Concept

The New York Times: “A pair of Bavarian dukes came to this pretty town on the Danube River 500 years ago and laid down what Germans claim as their source of beer-brewing prowess: the purity law. Only hops, water and barley should go into beer, decreed the dukes. Wheat, above all, should be spared for real bread for the hungry people … Half a millennium later … Germans, nothing if not careful conservers, still revere their purity law, or Reinheitsgebot, and insist it is the way to make beer.”

“Alexander Grau, a columnist for the political and cultural monthly Cicero, argues for scrapping it. Far from protecting consumers, it is a marketing ploy …More than that, others argue, it has stifled invention and imagination.”

“Even with the purity law, purity is a relative thing. A research group, the Environmental Institute of Munich, caused a stir in February when it tested 14 of Germany’s best-selling beers and found traces of glysophat, a pesticide suspected of causing cancer, in all of them.”

Nevertheless, the purity law “‘is a valuable brand for Germany, which we must keep,’ said Josef Pfaller, 50, the production chief at Herrnbräu, part of which dates back to 1471 … ‘There are few things that enjoy more consumer confidence than beer’.”

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Cadillac House: The Car as a Retail Experience

Bloomberg: “Cadillac House is a coffee shop/retail boutique with an art gallery twist and even a bespoke scent … The 12,000-square-foot space is located on the ground floor of the company’s New York office and will open to the public on June 2 … the point of this new space is not to sell cars … No, this time Caddy has convinced some well-respected fashion-y names to make it more of a destination: Visionaire, the creative firm and magazine, will curate an exhibit at Cadillac House each quarter; the fashion brand Timo Weiland will sell clothing in a pop-up shop; 12.29, which scented shows for Rodarte and Lady Gaga, is concocting a signature ‘Cadillac’ fragrance for the room. New York’s Joe Coffee is providing the beans.”

“We have tried to tell people what you’re supposed to feel from the Cadillac brand,” said Melody Lee, who is Cadillac’s brand director. “But what we hadn’t quite fully established was an environment that you could walk into.”

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Google Paints Murals To Enliven The Cloud

The Verge: “Data centers are boring places. Even Google’s massive facilities — with all the colorful walls and pipes inside — can get a little stale and repetitive. So to liven up the vibe a little bit, the company has invited artists to create murals at several of its data centers. The artwork, already in Oklahoma here in the US and overseas in Belgium, is a great way of showcasing the talent of those participating, but beyond that, Google hopes that it’ll lead visitors to maybe pay more attention to all the technology inside that powers the company’s immensely popular services.”

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The ‘New’ Applebee’s: Hand-Cut & Wood-Fired

Business Insider: Applebee’s “is installing wood fire grills in all 2,000-plus locations across the US — a $40 million investment by the chain’s franchisees. The grills will completely change much of Applebee’s menu’s meal preparation, impacting 40% of items on the menu. It’s a major change that Applebee’s hopes will allow the chain to gain culinary credibility and stand out from the vast array of casual dining restaurants across the US, which have struggled to keep up in an era dominated by fresh fast casual chains.”

“You’re going to see it and hear it,” said Julia Stewart, the chairman and CEO of Applebee’s parent company DineEquity, Inc. “You’re going to literally smell it when you’re in the parking lot, and then you’re going to walk in and see it on the menu, and then you’re going to have a food server talk about it in a very excited way.”

“Beyond the grills, the chain is adding new items like hand-cut wood-fired steaks to the menu, training employees as meat-cutters, and remodeling locations across the US. It is also launching a $120 million marketing campaign, the largest in the company’s history, with a new creative agency.”

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McDonald’s Ritual = Customer Loyalty

The Washington Post: “Surely there are plenty of customers who have traded up from the fast-food standbys for pricier offerings from fast-casual restaurants that they perceive as healthier and fresher. But now that we’re deeper into the fast-casual boom and consumers have adjusted to this new restaurant landscape, it’s worth noting that they tend to stay exclusively in one dining lane.”

“So if Taco Bell, for example, were to slip into a rough patch, it seems more likely that those dollars are being lost to another fast-food player — not Chipotle. And as Chipotle aims to pull out of the sales spiral it has been in since some of its restaurants were closed because of e. coli contamination, it might be better off not trying to emulate Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu, but instead trying to win over the people getting lunch at Panera.”

“McDonald’s still dwarfs the other brands in terms of overall foot traffic, and its customers have very little overlap with other chains … McDonald’s customers also tend to be more loyal than any others in the industry, preferring to stick with the Golden Arches as a ritual instead of bouncing around different chains.”

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American Airlines Is Piker With Points

The Wall Street Journal: “For the third year in a row, free seats open for booking increased in the Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey, a comprehensive look at success at redeeming miles or points at the basic ‘saver’ level. The survey found two seats available at the lowest mileage level on 77% of the booking queries made this year, up from 74% last year and 72% in 2014.”

“Southwest Airlines and Air Berlin had seats available on every request. It was the fifth year Southwest has topped the survey at 100% availability. Value airlines like Southwest and JetBlue, which had seats available on 93% of booking queries, do well in the survey because they let customers earn points based on fare rather than distance. Then they let customers pay for any seat with either cash or points. The payback works out well for customers. Last year, 12% of Southwest’s passenger traffic was award travel.”

“American was among the stingiest of the 25 airlines surveyed, with saver-level seats available on only 56% of booking queries made.”

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Some Men Go Shirtless When Brushing With Crest

The New York Times: “Among the tidbits that Crest, owned by Procter & Gamble, learned from its recent monthlong quest for selfies: There’s a huge spike in brushing from 4 to 6 p.m., probably tied to a desire for happy-hour fresh breath. That knowledge could be useful when Crest decides which times of the day to start future social media campaigns.”

“The selfies are a good way for companies to obtain information that people can’t or don’t articulate in focus groups or other traditional research methods … For example, they could lead to an understanding of which rituals go along with certain types of consumption … About 11 percent of the men in the Crest photos were shirtless, a level of comfort the brand rarely sees when it uses other tools in its research arsenal.”

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Crowdsourced Insights: The New Focus Group

“Crowdsourcing is fast, cheap and scruffy, especially when you need to move quickly,” says Lee Mayer in The New York Times. Chris Hickens of UserTesting, which uses crowdsourcing to get at consumer insights comments: “Crowdsourcing has replaced focus groups. It’s faster and a lot cheaper. Innovation is going so fast that we need faster answers.”

“Josh Gustin, co-founder of the online men’s wear store Gustin in San Francisco, put his own twist on crowdsourcing. He was searching for a better way to sell his handmade wares, which include jeans from denim woven on vintage shuttle looms … The company’s new approach is simple, yet deeply cost-effective. A garment is designed and then posted on the site. If 100 people order it, for example, it goes into production. The result: zero inventory and zero waste.”

Gustin comments: “We suffered through the old retail model and the capital requirements. You can never guess right.” The efficiency realized via crowdsourced insights also enables him to “offer jeans once priced at more than $205 for $81, and a $200 Japanese cotton button-down shirt for $69.”

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365: Like A Playroom for Foodies

The New York Times: 365, “the much anticipated new grocery concept from Whole Foods Markets …feels like a sort of foodie playroom. Shelves, racks and refrigerated cases are splashed with bright primary colors and surrounded by exposed insulation and polished concrete floors. All the fixtures are low profile — the highest shelving rises just 72 inches. Electronic terminals are lined up, ready to accept orders.”

“Instead of a human sommelier, there’s Banquet, a wine app developed especially for 365 stores by Delectable. Want a bottle of special Frankies olive oil for $9.99? That’s a so-called green-and-gold product, the name for goods procured and sold exclusively at 365 and only temporarily available.”

The 365 stores will stock roughly 7,000 items, compared with 35,000 to 52,000 for a traditional Whole Foods. Meat is sold only in packages, lowering the cost of offering specialty cuts of meat served up by a butcher. The store will still sell a wide variety of organic produce, though its selection of conventional produce is wider … The 365-branded locations will have about 100 employees, compared with 250 to 500 in a traditional Whole Foods.”

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Web ‘Brutalism’ Makes a Comeback

The Washington Post: “There’s an interesting trend in web design these days: Making websites that look, well … bad. Look at Hacker News. Pinboard. The Drudge Report. Adult Swim. Bloomberg Businessweek features. All of these sites — some decades old, some built recently — and hundreds more like them, eschew the templated, user-friendly interfaces that has long been the industry’s best practice. Instead they’re built on imperfect, hand-coded HTML and take their design cues from ’90s graphics.”

“The name of this school, if you could call it that, is ‘web brutalism’ — and there’s no question that much of the recent interest stems from the work of Pascal Deville. In 2014 Deville, now Creative Director at the Freundliche Grüsse ad agency in Zurich, Switzerland, founded brutalistwebsites.com. He meant it as a place to showcase websites that he thought fit the ‘brutalist’ aesthetic: Design marked by a ‘ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy’ in ‘reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today’s web design.’

“Look at Craigslist,” Deville says. “This is totally a brutalist website … and commercially, very successful.”

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