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Jorre van Ast's resusable Jar Tops (designed for Royal VKB) do this quite well:
Designed to screw onto standard glass containers (mayo and mustard jars, salsa jars, jam and jelly jars, and almost any other kind of jar you buy in a supermarket), these plastic lids convert what would otherwise become waste into a variety of useful kitchen containers.
There are a lot of advantages to this product solution: the uniformity of appearance keeps the repurposed containers looking like an attractive matched set, even if different jar shapes are used. Different tops accommodate different sized jars and the variety of uses (which includes two varieties of pour spout, an oil and vinegar cap, a powder shaker lid, and a sugar pourer) pretty much guarantees anyone with a kitchen can use the full set.
I can see only a couple of minor issues that might be considered:
- The tops are made from polypropylene, which isn't the most recyclable material (commonly known as #5 plastic, the most accessible way to recycle it for most is through Preserve's Gimme 5 program). Luckily, the useful life of this product is extremely long, so that isn't too significant of an issue.
- I'd also like to see the pour spouts come with a closed lid. As they are, they can be used only to serve food products, not to store them.
I wonder how many grade schools still teach kids about media literacy and critical analysis. I also distinctly remember a mathematics filmstrip featuring Donald Duck that taught principles of geometry using a pool table.
And then there's this 1971 gem about the emotional buying habits of consumers (who is that encyclopedia salesman, anyway?):
Be sure to peruse the AV Geeks online archives; it's a celluloid goldmine!
If I ever find myself in Albany, the Hotsy Totsy Club will be my first stop. Tin ceilings, ample pool tables, a free 45-rpm juke, and Old Overholt behind the bar. That's my kind of joint.
Enjoy your weekend, kids. And remember: if you're drinkin', don't drive and if you're drivin', don't drink.
Water is a $400 billion industry—the third largest behind electricity and oil. My mind kind of explodes at that statistic. We're talking about water. The slow commodification of the natural resources most fundamental to human existence should raise alarm bells in every human being. And yet, one in five Americans refuse to drink anything but purchased bottled water; even though a four-year study by the NRDC found over a third of the tested bottle brands were contaminated with synthetic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic.
This isn't just an "over there" issue impacting the lives of underdeveloped or developing countries: as of May 2009, over 30% of America was experiencing "abnormally dry or drought" conditions. Public water supplies are being handed over to private corporations, who are then denying entire populations access to clean water supplies—and frequently contaminating the remainder.
We can each participate in the changeOne of the strengths of Flow is the movie's focus on solutions. There is a growing movement of ordinary citizens across the globe who are banding together to demand safe access to clean water. Here are just a few easy things you can do to help:
- Watch Flow, and talk about it with people you know. Information needs to spread, and you're how it happens.
- Sign the petition to add "the right to clean and accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family" to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This simple act will enable those struggling for safe water a powerful tool in the struggle for access.
- Delve deeper by exploring the various resources and groups working on this issue.
"A declining economy has helped bring about a sudden proliferation of cart-carried delicacies that has elevated street food beyond the bacon-wrapped hot dog. In recent weeks, the Misson's food carteros—generally considered outside the high-tech realm—have been Twittering all the way to the bank, or at least to a following...Selling everything from an "amuse bouche" of bite-sized strawberry tarts for $1, to a $5 curry plate, to spring rolls and créme brulees, these unlicensed vendors are creeping up all over the Mission. Interesting that they're relegated to this most hipster of neighborhoods; I wonder how this fare would fare in, say, tony Cow Hollow (not enough foot traffic?) or Pacific Heights. I suspect that the SF police would be far quicker to respond to the lack of proper licensing.
Low on cost and high on quality, in just a few short weeks the carteros have created a new Thursday-night dining venue as the carts are joined by other vendors and a rapidly expanding network of customers."
In the very next breath, John Emerson from Social Design Notes points us to what looks like a very cool advocacy project in NYC. The Street Vendor Project supports New York street vendors, providing education, political action, and a general community (there's strength in numbers).
The organization just released Vendor Power! (pictured above), a publication aimed at educating vendors about the city's vending laws, with the intention of preventing infractions and thereby reducing the number of tickets vendors are likely to incur for otherwise overly complex or arcane laws.
In other words, NYC cops are citing street vendors up and down, while SF cops haven't much noticed the growing number of non-Latino vendors. Familiarity breeds contempt, of course, so perhaps an SF crackdown is imminent (it sure will be as soon as SFPD discovers it can milk these vendors for a few extra dollars for the city coffers).
"The reality of it is that a small group of employees, (Yes, PR people, imagine that, communications people communicating!), who thought we should be part of the online dialog. The anti-Monsanto crowd seems to feel threatened by this. We felt it was important to start offering counterpoints to some of the more factually challenged assertions about us being spread online." (full comment)Needless to say, the Ethicurian's readers had plenty to say back. What's so intriguing to me about this exchange is not that Monsanto is using social media in their public relations efforts (every smart corporation is these days). And it's not the content of the dialogue (are we surprised that ethical eaters hate Monsanto and Monsanto is indignant that they're hated?). No, what I find so interesting about all this is that Monsanto's PR department figures it can reframe the company by appearing human.
Chris Paton, Social Media Director for the company, is careful to dissociate himself from his company, which is odd given the purpose of his role. He frames himself as an earnest, can't-be-bought free-thinker:
"Myself and the other team members in my area who are starting to participate in the blogosphere, twitter, facebook, etc.. are doing so in addition to their regular workload. It does indeed take some man(and woman) hours to do so. Even more as we're starting to attract attention for even showing up to the discussion and the cyber-pile-on starts up. I don't dispute that Monsanto has spent a good chunk of change on the ad campaign, but I'm not responsible for that, not involved with that, and wish I had a fraction of a fraction of that budget for what I personally think is a more useful effort, engaging our critics in a dialog to see if we can't make some progress...Monsanto has been struggling with their image of a monolithic, international, bully of a corporate conglomerate for years, and their reputation among so-called ethical eaters is only getting worse as our country's food issues gain coverage in the mainstream. So it's interesting to see their public relations department using social media ("a level playing field," Chris calls it) to reframe the company's brand image. Hell, maybe they are just another group of concerned individuals working for what they believe in.
...I'm not an expert on every thing Monsanto may or may not have done. If I make a comment one way or another about lobbyists, funding, cow health issues, etc.. it can be torn apart by people...
...I commend you for being committed to speaking out for what you belive. I'm just disappointed that people cant belive that i'm saying what i actually believe. My paycheck doesnt buy my beliefs or my soul. If i belived that Monsanto was guilty of the things i read online on a daily basis, you couldnt pay me enough to be a part of it..."
It's what they believe in that scares me so much.
(As an aside, is it too much to ask of corporate America to at least attempt a little literacy when it comes to posting online?)
The trick is to embrace the changing atmosphere and use it to your advantage. Honestly look at how new dining habits are impacting your business, and allow them to inform your business model. A trend report released at the end of last quarter by restaurant research group Technomic names five trends that, if handled properly, can serve your business well during the downturn. Here are the trends, and a few of my own ideas for capitalizing on them:
- Experimentation and innovation will flower.
Although experimentation without context or careful financial analysis is a recipe for disaster, this is a great opportunity to look at your income streams and identify areas for change. Pay close attention to unlikely operational changes that may save money. San Francisco restaurants who compost their food scraps, for example, can reduce their garbage collection bills by up to 75%. Also look at your food costs (an area almost every restaurant can improve), supplier arrangements, menu structure, etc.
- Ethnic flavors continue to star.
Populations are changing, which means so are the preferences of your potential customer base. You don't need to run a strictly ethnic restaurant to take advantage of this, though. But you should use your menu as a differentiator. Do you feature ingredients from local vendors? Seasonal flavors? Organically-produced ingredients? Emphasize these features in your marketing so the public knows you're the go-to restaurant for this kind of food.
- “Local” is the magic word.
As consumers take active interest in where their food comes from, restaurants can use this to pull away from the crowd. Support local suppliers and communicate your support to your customers. You might even consider offering a special "Meet the farmer" night, or plan a menu around a particular supplier and provide customers with the full back story. Use press releases, targeted email blasts (no spamming!), and other methods to publicize the heck out of these events.
- Goldilocks serving sizes: big, little and just right.
More small plates and family-style meals are cropping up to accommodate diners' preferences for budget-friendly meals. Consider offering multiple portion sizes, and price them carefully. Look carefully at recipe costs, and offer a small and large version of popular dishes (if you price carefully, your small, budget-friendly version may very well provide better profit margins than the larger option). Some of the most low-tech research methods are called for here, like inspecting the amount of uneaten food coming back into the kitchen and frequency of doggie bags being sent home with guests.
- Kids’ menus will be up-scaled and expanded.
This is an interesting trend that points to parents who want to include their children in the dining out experience. Traditionally, the kids' menu (if there even is one) features a lot of grilled cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, and pasta with red sauce. Why not allow the kids' menu to reflect the adults'? Or better yet, include non-food options—why not let them order off a list of free activities to keep them busy? Imagine how much fun it would be if they could order from a menu featuring crayons, puzzles, or Matchbox cars? Remember: the happier the kids are, the happier their parents will be.
The Sincere and Concerned Approach
King Arthur Flour knows its brand. The company has been around since 1790, and has always stayed true to its core product. As the oldest flour company selling such a basic food staple, King Arthur has closely aligned itself with the notions of family values, nourishment, and responsibility. These ideals are reflected consistently throughout the company's marketing copy, whether online or off (for example, on the side of every bag of flour is printed the company's money-back guarantee—written as a letter directly from the company's president).
The latest newsletter (shown above—click the image to read the whole thing) is no exception. King Arthur has stuck with its brand identity and framed the financial crisis according to how it actually impacts its customers.
"OK, let's face it: the world is in financial turmoil...To many, it means figuring out new ways to put food on the table. And that's where we can help. King Arthur has been putting bread on American tables since 1790. Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, and countless financial downturns, King Arthur has been a steady, solid presence.The copy is conversational, intimate almost. It addresses the reader as a confidant. King Arthur can get away with this because of the brand it's already built that reinforces this approach. More than that, it can get away with it because all the claims are true.
King Arthur isn't glitzy and glamorous, not the brand du jour. We're just there. Always. To help you sustain your family with good, homemade meals..."
The truly remarkable piece of this e-newsletter is not, however, the style or tone of the writing. The real kicker is that the e-newsletter isn't selling a single thing. In fact, it's doing the opposite—it contains a free recipe for coffee cake, and links to free services provided by the company (free baking classes, a free baking hotline, and the company's blog). This reinforces the email's message: King Arthur is a trusted friend here to help you in a time of need. Yes, we're just talking about flour. But the company has managed to remain human despite such long-running success. Perhaps that's why it's had such long-running success.
The Exploit It For All It's Worth Approach
And in the other corner, we've got an email I received the day before King Arthur sent me their offer of help. It's worth noting to start that this email was an unsolicited spam ad for an e-course on marketing. I'll never understand marketers who insist on using spam to try and sell their junk. The email amounts to a press release from two "intellectual property experts" who share a blog and are now trying to cash in on the current financial crisis.
"The same economic meltdown that is wiping out stock portfolios like a Category 5 hurricane is going to open opportunities for savvy bloggers, both entrepreneurial and corporate, to generate revenue that may have been elusive during better times. Two innovation entrepreneurs have developed a way for bloggers to learn how to thrive even when the market dives.
'These eCourses will help bloggers identify the numerous opportunities around them and embark upon a path of making money from those opportunities,' says Monroe. '...We put these eCourses together to help bloggers develop those skills and game plans so they can sail in smooth waters when many others are still in that Category 5 hurricane.'"
Let's start with the tone of the copy, which uses a hurricane metaphor (and not just any hurricane, either, but a category five hurricane) to raise alarm bells. That kind of fear-mongering is just flat-out exploitative, particularly given the significance of what's at stake for the reader. The rhyming phrases are a nice touch copy-wise ("learn how to thrive even when the market dives"), but entirely inappropriate for the subject matter. Adding levity to a crisis is one thing, but this is just belittling.
Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by this kind of copy, given the subject matter. The pitch, after all, is written to appeal to the reader's profit motive, pure and simple. But isn't unchecked profit motive what got us into this mess in the first place? Don't get me wrong: selling a course to teach bloggers how to capitalize on the economic crisis isn't unethical in and of itself. These folks are consultants (like me, in a sense), and selling ideas is a perfectly legitimate way to make a living. But how you sell matters as much as what you sell.
These are two dramatically different approaches to acknowledging the financial crisis. Both are legitimate in their own right. The question becomes: what kind of message do you want to send to your audience? Or better still: what kind of message does your audience really want to hear?
Now, this audience does not exactly ooze design sophistication, as noted by such lovely trade pubs as Progressive Grocer and Supermarket Today, so I couldn't exactly go trendy. Given the "how to" nature of the book, and the title, the solution was pretty clear. I designed the 160-page interior along the same lines, though the photos are lousy so you don't get to see them (you'll just have to wait for the site redesign for full shots).
The book was printed on 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper (30% PCW for the cover stock). Our printer for this job is a locally-certified Green Business, who uses only soy inks, chemical-free plates, and wind credits to power their plant. The paper stock alone saved the following natural resources:
- 5 fully grown trees
- 1,865 gallons of water
- 3 million BTUs of energy
- 215 lbs. of solid waste
- 420 lbs. of greenhouses gases
Poor font choices aside, experts (thankfully) seem to understand the benefits of legible menus, as well as how best to produce them:
"Allen [CEO of Quantified Marketing Group] recommends using sans-serif fonts and few capital letters. He instructs managers to draw diners' eyes to the most profitable items on a three-panel menu by positioning those golden dishes in three key places: the center of the middle page and the top-right and top-left corners, which he calls the sweet spots. In addition to avoiding bad translations, Allen says chefs should use simple language when possible."Of course, typeface is a fundamental piece of a restaurant's visual identity. As the study shows, it communicates specific characteristics about a restaurant's personality and food. But you don't need to rely on elaborate fonts for the sake of using elaborate fonts. Professional designers understand how to specify and use typefaces with character (pardon the pun) to influence customer perception and behavior, without sacrificing legibility.
If anything, the study makes a good case for leaving typography in the hands of the professionals - otherwise, you end up thinking Mistral is the answer to slow sales.
Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.
This really is the perfect example of how the strength of individuals can benefit business and the environment. It bridges the typically hostile gap between activists and Big Corpo. It appeals to the everyday shopper. It has the potential to make real change. And they've even got a business plan (okay, not yet). If you're an angel investor looking for the next perfect project, this might be it.
It seems I'm not alone. The Washington post reports that the Green Restaurant Association is experiencing the most inquiries it ever has, while individual restaurants begin integrating greener ingredient and materials sourcing, and other techniques.
Key resource: Green Restaurant Association (note: they seem to be having server issues)
Whether large chains or independent operators, the fact that hotels deal in volume means they consumer more resources and produce more waste than many other business models. The American Hotel and Lodging Association recently compiled a series of green hospitality case studies to encourage hotels to implement new practices.
Key resource: Green Hotelier's selection of "Practical Solutions"
Food & Beverage
Hospitality isn't the only area focusing on these issues, though. F&B manufacturers continue to move toward organic ingredients (for all the labeling controversy that stirs up), and event planners work towards offering more sustainable options and reducing their own environmental impact. The San Francisco Chronicle discusses the rising organic food trend, which seems to be driven largely by consumer demand. Manufacturers keep turning out more organic options, like Square One Organic Vodka, as well as making sustainability a corporate priority.
Overall, the outlook is good and benefits continue to flow in. Over the weeks ahead, I'll be providing some practical solutions for hotels and restaurants who are interested in greening up their operations.
"While Heineken’s general objective is to maximize its positive impacts and minimize its negative impacts on society, the company has established clearly defined targets for its sustainability program. They are a mix of quantitative goals for key indicators and measurable actions to be accomplished. Progress against these goals is monitored through an internal reporting structure and other review processes."
The chart above represents the way sustainability has been integrated structurally into the business. But executive buy-in isn't the only requirement; a company must set realistic goals, apply appropriate change techniques and, even then, remain flexible. When Heineken acquired a series of high energy consuming companies, they watched their overall reduction in energy consumption slow to frustratingly low levels, making it harder to meet their target reduction levels by 2010. The plan they had implemented to address Heineken's own energy consumption didn't necessarily account for converting new company acquisitions.
It's this sort of holistic thinking that must expand if sustainable practices are going to take hold throughout big business. The beauty of it is, looking beyond immediate ROI, accounting for "what-if" scenarios, and being able to consider what hasn't happened yet are things we can all do in businesses of any size.
[Note: the case study linked to above suffers from poor editing; several paragraphs are repeated verbatim.]
I've just pulled the book off my shelf after being reminded of it by the furoshiki instructions posted the other day.
You should see some the stuff in here, it's beautiful:
The idea of packaging something in a reusable container is a brilliant one. It's at once luxurious and—provided the package is produced thoughtfully—sustainable. I can think of several products in the contemporary marketplace that do this...I'll have to pull together some images and do a post dedicated to them.
"To make their products stand out, many winemakers are taking clever, daring, and sometimes even radical approaches to labeling. They’re putting as much attention into what’s on the bottle as what’s in it, turning to labels that shout 'Buy me!' or, in some cases, 'Touch me!...'
...Though winemakers must take on the expense—and time—involved in designing such labels, they often cost only slightly more than conventional stickers. (One winemaker said they’re cheaper than the better-quality labels he uses on his more expensive wines.) Even the Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz label costs just $1.43, close to the $1.20 price of the cork. Many winemakers, though, are simply using playful labels that don’t add any extra expense."
[via Megan at HOW Blog]
"A recent transfer of a lease for a restaurant property in Chambers street, near Broadway, brings back memories of a family who for fifty years or more catered to the eating and drinking appetites of some of the best known men in New York. It was the house of Schmidt—headed by the father Louis, and his two sons, Ollie and George. They actually put the liquor or saloon business on the business map and conducted it as one might conduct a banking institution.
Louis Schmidt opened and ran for many years the place at 6 Center street and it was known far and wide as Pier 6. Just why this name became attached to the place is not of record. It was in this place that two sons were instructed into the mysteries of drink mixing. From the start they liked the business and stuck to it as long as Andrew Volstead kept his ideas to himself.
It must be conceded that the Schmidt menage was good when it had upward of a dozen competitors in the triangle on which now stands the Municipal Building. It was then bounded by Tryon Square on the south, on which the Staats-Zeitung Building faces; Center street, Chambers street and Park Row. In the newspaper building there was a famous rathskeller. Next door was Pier 6. Then came Leggat's hotel and bar. Two doors away was Humpy Hanover's Curio and on the corner Paddy Shea's.
While all these places were going full blast, the Schmidt boys and their father kept right on selling good things to eat and drink. George, the younger son, was born over the saloon on Center street and has been in business barely three blocks away from there during his life. Ollie, being older, took over the burden when his father died and continued the name of Schmidt in the purveying business.
Not far away from the Schmidt domicile was the home of the Stender family in William street, just around the corner from Spruce street. Ollie was a live wire and so was Emma Stender, the niece of the elder Kate, who established the famous Kate's, which ran until a few years ago and which went out of business because liquor was taboo in the premises. Good food could be had until the day the key turned in the door for the last time. Some years ago Ollie died. His wife, Emma, assisted by sisters, Kate and Frieda, tried to carry on. Many of the old customers stuck, although they had to forgo their accustomed whisky sour or the seductive cocktail or a schoppen of Rhine wine with their meals.
Ollie had died and Emma had followed in a few years and the load was left for Kate and Frieda. It was too much of a load with only a few hours of eating each day, and they closed the place.
But to get back to the Schmidt boys. Ollie had a following. The Center street place was not magnificent as far as appointments went, but the bottled goods were of the very best. The small priced luncheons were tasty and the free lunch good. So when the place was forced to close the boys looked about to see what could be had to take over the trade who constantly reminded them they should stay in the neighborhood.
The place at 81 Chambers street long had been an established place and they took it over. Then the difference of opinions of the two brothers became known. Ollie thought the place should be closed at 7 o'clock each evening. George thought a later hour would be better. But the hour was 7 o'clock, and if a customer happened to be in the bar at that hour he was asked to take a "nightcap" on the house and everybody started away from 81 Chambers street, but the records do not show they always went directly home.
From the start the Schmidt ownership prospered, but Ollie thought he should have a place of his own and he therefore opened on Park Row at the apex of North William street, one of the handsomest cafes then to be seen in lower Manhattan. It was not a success and Ollie lost practically all he had saved and dumped into a place that was not wanted on a street of people who were rushing to catch subways and elevated trains. Brooklyn Bridge terminal was in those days a wonderful railroad terminus, but the Schmidt place did not seem to appeal.
Ollie therefore took over the William street place made so famous by Kate. City officials and newspapermen of note of other days congregated here and pleasant hours of reminiscence often brought to light interesting news stories that found their way into print. The Schmidt boys as well as the Stender girls were known to writers and public officials generally, but their support was not adequate to pay the overhead when the Volstead law became a part of the dictum of the day.
But George Schmidt stood his ground. When the law against the sale of intoxicating liquors became operative he stood by the law and never sold an illegal drink. But he did try to make his restaurant stand up a little straighter and reorganized hi place with full restaurant equipment and with this he has gone along until he decided he had been in the purveying business long enough and barely a stone's throw from the place he was born.
The Chambers street place had a couple of things to its credit that did not call for the use of alcoholic stimulant. True the corned beef and cabbage on Wednesdays have tasted a little better with a glass of real beer, but George's customers knew the value of the food and were satisfied to forgo the stimulant. On Saturday's he had a dish of pork and beans that attracted men from far and near. Men who had never called except on Saturday could be counted in the throng, for such it was, during the bean season, which seemed to run the year round.
George Schmidt has not served a drink behind a bar for many years and he probably will never mix another, but he has fond memories of his lifelong experience catering to men in public life in New York city. He has known personally Mayors and their cabinets and the writers followed him around as they did Kate and Ollie. Now he plans to retire from active daily routine and take a rest that may eventually take him up to Connecticut, where he has his eye on a cozy place that will be his home for the rest of his days.
Many years ago the Schmidts—father and sons as well as sisters-in-law—wrote their names into the hearts of good eaters and drinkers. All sorts of men—and no women—found their way into 6 Center street and the other places. One of the customers wrote a piece of poetry of fourteen verses which he had printed on good paper and was distributed to the patrons of the place. The man was retiring enough to withhold his name, but the author was known to those on the inside. On the first page titld "Pier 6" is a cut of Ollie and George Schmidt. It points out that Ollie is the owner and that George and Fred and Ollie Curtis are 'a brave quartet of bartenders, who only serve the best.'"
Now please, go out and celebrate.
On top of that, the taste receptors on our tongue also help out; there's lots of crazy little scientific experiments going on inside your mouth at any given time. So without further ado, I give you a few examples of how these smells and tastes have been classified depending on what it is you put in your mouth.
The last one's the kicker.
The Coffee Flavor Wheel:
The Beer Flavor Wheel (Mielgaard):
The Wine Flavor Wheel (Noble):
The Devil's Flavor Wheel (Rowe):
"Effective Jan. 1, dairies selling milk in Pennsylvania, the nation's fifth-largest dairy state, will be banned from advertising on milk containers that their product comes from cows that have never been treated with rBST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin."That's right—dairies are no longer allowed to let their customers know that they don't give rBST to their cows. The result is that customers will have no way of knowing which dairy products they buy are hormone free (unless they buy certified organics).
The law is likely going to spread (New Jersey and Ohio are next) as Monsanto, the country's largest producer of agro-chemicals used on our nation's food supply, lobbies state governments to increase the ban. Their logic? Letting customers know what's not in our milk "implies that competitors' milk is not safe."
There is something excruciatingly perverse about this ruling, and it's not just that agribusiness and government are trying to keep information from consumers. What's really perverse is that dairies are labeling their milk "rBST free" because consumers want them to; it adds value to the product. Monsanto recognizes this, and instead of adapting their business paradigm to meet this dramatic shift in consumer demand, they are forcing consumers to conform to their standards. That's not really how the free market is supposed to work, though, is it?
Update [11.28.07]: "...early last week Gov. Ed Rendell's office initiated a review of the decision...Chuck Ardo, press secretary for Mr. Rendell, said the governor's office heard complaints from elected representatives of rural districts and agriculture lobbyists, prompting the review." [full story via The Ethicurian]
Update [01.17.08]: The ban's been reversed! [References via The Ethicurian]
Full story from STLtoday.com
Bovine growth hormone information from the Organic Consumers' Association
List of rBST free dairy producers
"We hope you enjoyed the very special trend briefing we sent you yesterday. If you didn't, then please pour yourself a strong cup of coffee and take another close look. It's a SPOOF. Fake. Not to be taken at face value. Even most of the sites we referred to are, well, ours—and entirely fictitious.So, take my criticism of the trendwatching.com report referenced below with a large grain of salt. Dammit.
We thought it would be fun, just for once, to mock overzealous marketers, crass consumerism and—above all—ourselves. :-) So please don't ditch your pet, stay in ugly hotels, pollute the earth, paint your walls turquoise or start marketing to unborn babies, OK?..."
Sustainable innovation is really rolling now, and the naysayers are already crying foul. A particularly short-sighted trendwatching.com report describes consumers' growing impatience with green marketing as a cry for "authenticity."
Trend watchers, style dictators and pop culture aficionados all insist that sustainability is nothing more than a passing fad, and as such can and should be summarily dismissed. By falling into the sustainability trap, these critics complain, companies "bend over and take the fun out of robust, honest products."
This is where trendwatching.com (and the consumers they supposedly mirror), show a remarkable and unforgivable short-sightedness. Who says that sustainable products can't be "robust" and "honest," and hell, even sexy? Since when did "robust" and "honest" come to mean destructive? When companies charge a lot of money for their "insights" into consumerism, it behooves them to dig a little deeper and ask the less obvious questions.
What the trendwatching.com report fails to really identify is the underlying cause of "eco-fatigue." Consumers aren't sick of having eco-options at all; in fact, every day they're buying more "green" products and asking (no, demanding) more from their vendors. What consumers are fed up with is disingenuous marketing tactics that attempt to paint every new product and service with a greener paintbrush. They're also sick of being treated as though being informed is somehow a bad thing (which is itself a side-effect of the Bush Administration's insistence that we all just sit down and shut up).
One of the most telling lines in the report describes the eco-fatigued as being "treated like unruly infants by Al Gore and his ilk." The irony of such a knee-jerk, inaccurate depiction of this market segment just highlights the laziness of the writers/researchers. Have they really been listening to what Gore and "his ilk" are actually saying? I think, rather, they've been putting their hands over their ears, squinching their eyes real tight, and singing "Mary had a little lamb" so as not to actually have to listen to a viewpoint that might make them really think. People, it's okay to think.
I don't believe there is anything wrong with wanting to buy stuff, or have fun. Sure, there are pious, preaching "greenies" trying to shake their finger at the big, wasting consumerists. But who really gives a shit? The idea is to build consumer interest so that business must take notice. Because business and government (which are pretty much the same thing in this country), will never act in the best interest of the people unless the people demand it.
And so we talk to the people. Gore tries to light a fire, to educate. The beauty of our freedom here is that we're constitutionally granted the right to pursue happiness. But that doesn't mean we're granted the right to ignore the consequences. Because we can play head-in-the-sand all we want, but mother nature's going to catch up with us eventually.
If the eco-fatigued, those in favor of bald-faced consumerism, really want to keep consuming without thought, than more power to them. But those folks better remember that if we want to consume without limits, we all need to find a way to keep us in the stuff. Because stuff will run out, unless we start making sustainable stuff. So shut up already about green products being somehow less fun. 'Cause it ain't gonna be too much fun when your favorite nightclub starts charging $24 for a beer because the brewery is facing a shortage of hops and water.
After all, I want my beer to be cheap and delicious as much as the next girl. And if sustainability is the only way to ensure that it stays that way, quit yer whining and get sustainable. Let's try to have our beer and drink it, too.
Fads, Frames and the Environment
Businesses Prep for Green Fad to Fade
Campaigns against the "scourge" of alcoholism, whether it be Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries, or the U.S. during Prohibition, are nothing new. Russia, of course, is no exception; the country has persistently fought high rates of alcoholism, as evidenced by these fascinating posters.
It's not surprising that public campaigns such as these get off the ground. Alcoholism does nasty things to people. But the problem with these campaigns is that they fail on two levels:
- They equate alcohol consumption with alcoholism, and;
- They blame alcoholism for many of the very things that feed it: violence, depression, job loss, etc.
Widespread spikes in alcoholism rates typically correspond to increased levels of poverty and socio-political oppression. So is poverty and oppression the result of alcoholism, or vice versa? The answer is not as simple as most temperance movements make it out to be.
[via Jay Brooks]
Although these are sexy, I'm not one for overpackaging. And I can't help but feel this kind of stopper is overpackaging (what advantages does it really offer the consumer?).
But imagine if this was a wine bottle—a recorkable wine bottle. Now that would be something.
12/14/07 update: I received an email from Mike at Wild Bunch, who explains that this is not a retail package. It's used to stock their on-premise Organic Shot Bar, and both the bottle and stopper are reusable. Changes everything, don't it?! Turns out this is an ingenius little device, great branding and environmentally preferable to boot.
I still think it would be great on a wine bottle (with built-in vacuum pull?).
"...more than 70% of processed foods on grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered or biotech ingredients."Without some seriously conscientious shopping habits, it seems close to impossible to avoid eating this stuff. Organic farmers' market, here I come!
[Full article from the LA Times]
The first of those food chains was the mainstream industrial one (organic agriculture and hunting/gathering being the other two). Turns out the lifeblood pumping through our nation's veins isn't blood at all—it's corn. So you already knew that. Well, in case you'd like to know more, there will soon be a movie exposing all: King Corn looks to be the big screen answer to The Omnivore's Dilemma.
- Delivers all the necessary information that a beer drinker might want (beer name, brewery, geographic origin, beer style, general flavor profile, and alcohol by volume)?
- Is easy to scan?
- Makes familiar/national brand beers easy to locate?
- Conforms to the clean, simple style of the Four Points style guide?
Luckily, my client had spent years creating a system for categorizing wine by flavor profile. Could we apply this same approach to beer? we wondered. In theory we could, but WineQuest's flavor profiling relied on an intricate database of thousands and thousands of wines. Amassing a similar database of such detail-level information for beer would never be done soon enough.
The solution, I found, was to create five straightforward categories that any customer could easily understand:
- Draft Selections
- Crisp Refreshers
- Smooth Thirst-Quenchers
- Robust Brews
- Low Calorie and Non-alcoholic
- Beer Name (Style, ABV%): Region
- Example: Sierra Nevada (Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV): California
A menu like this accomplishes several things. First, it forces the drinker to focus on the beer's general flavor profile (I wrote in-depth training courses for the staff to familiarize them with the various flavors of their core beers and beer styles in general, so that the menus would be accurate). Placing the name of the beer first in each line is the logical placement, allowing brand-loyal drinkers to easily find their beloved (cringe) Bud. Providing secondary details like place of origin and beer style serves a twofold purpose: it lends a uniqueness to each beer, and it helps educate more casual beer drinkers. Finally, the simple presentation prevents those who just want a cold brew from feeling like they have some hoop to jump through, while beer geeks get all the info that helps to reinforce their geekiness. It's a beautiful, though delicate, balance.
The piéce de resistance of the menu has been stripped down in its final form, sadly. My original design called for an additional key of icons to indicate particularly hoppy, fruity and malty beers for those who are looking for more specific flavor guidance. I was also insistent that Four Points include an icon for high ABV beers, to ensure hotel guests, many of whom would likely be driving, would know what they were getting into. I think (though I'd have to double-check this at an actual Four Points bar), they ended up using icons only to indicate recommended beers and high ABV beers.
I have to admit, I'm really proud of the final menu. The look and feel is all Four Points, thanks to their in-house team, but the structure is all mine. It makes it really easy to select a beer from what can be an otherwise daunting list, regardless of how much beer knowledge you might have. So the next time you're traveling, don't forget about this incredible beer goldmine!
I like that they aren't overdone; nothing fancy, just a little flare here and there. And you gotta love a client who appreciates white space.
Only one question remains: will Stella's elaborate marketing campaign (have you explored that site link yet?!) really elevate the beer's reputation from the Pabst of Belgium to high end import lager?
"The warm reception the Japanese gave Ice Cucumber is just one manifestation of a national obsession with the ephemeral. Millions turn out every spring to view delicate cherry blossoms that open and then fall to the ground in just a week. And a word that sends consumers flocking to stores is gentei, Japanese for 'limited edition.'"But I wonder how much of this attraction is a Japanese thing and how much of it is in response to the ubiquity of Stuff these days. When every experience and information byte and thing that can be purchased is there for the taking, it's not surprising that some people might begin to remember the beauty of the ephemeral.
I was thinking about this very idea a couple of weeks ago while reading about how digital photography has vastly altered the nature of the human experience. The SF Chronicle quotes artist J.D. Beltran:
"It's really changed the way we think of photography to have this literally instantaneous image of something that just happened, and it dramatically changes the way we experience things."That we no longer live in the moment but in the technology is significant. I continue to be stunned by friends and colleagues who feel it's entirely appropriate to answer their cell phone in the midst of a face to face conversation. The sense that human contact should supercede technological experience seems to have been almost entirely lost.
Or has it? Is Pepsi's limited edition schtick a sign of new times, of new appreciation for fleeting moments and unrepeatable experiences? After all, what cell phone feature or computer algorithm can really beat that impermanent burst of flavor from a ripe strawberry just picked? We love the idea of capturing our fading memories, memorializing them in bits and bytes, but what about the warmth that spreads through you when you simply close your eyes and remember your loved ones who've passed on? Is it really possible for the sense of not-there to be so powerful that it trumps the need for constant access? The Japanese seem to think so, and I think they're onto something.
Take wine glasses. Thomas Pellechia recently described his own disbelief that one really needs to match a specific wine glass to each varietal in order to enjoy it:
"Perhaps glass manufacturer executives read the same wine industry trade magazines that I read. If so, it’s likely that one of those articles about consumer acceptance of unfamiliar wine varietals gave an idea to a suit in the office of a high-end glass producer somewhere in Europe, and perhaps it was a prescription for perpetual success in wine glasses."The wine glass industry is not the only culprit of inventing consumer needs only to invent an invention to fulfill said needs. Prescription drugs have been flying off the shelves as pharmaceutical companies point out that you, too, might suffer from brand-spanking new syndromes like Intermittent Explosive Disorder (um, anger issues, anyone?).
A company should, of course, be innovative. But the needs your products fill should be needs your target customers really have. And if you're not sure what those needs are, consider asking them instead of just inventing what you think they should need.
So how can an owner help his or her bartender sell more? Stop stocking crap, for one thing. Quality tools allow the bartender to do a quality job; and when a bartender is proud of the drinks s/he's mixing, s/he'll be more likely to get the customer excited about it, too.
The other—and most important—way to help your bartender sell more and up is to give them the information they need to sell product. The survey's respondents support this idea that "familiarity and product knowledge are key influencers in what they sell at the bar." That means training them on proper mixing techniques, setting up regular tastings, and getting them involved in menu creation.
Sadly, there was one thing this study revealed that sent a chill down my spine: it turns out that a lot of bartenders actually prefer working with "fewer ingredients and convenient mixers." But perhaps this is less of an indication of laziness, and more of a cry for help. Maybe with a little extra training and exposure to higher standards, these bartenders will learn to appreciate the joy of freshly squeezed juices and carefully prepped garnishes.
[Cross-posted to Bar Stories.]
You know what a McJob is: dead-end, low-paying, unstimulating, unskilled. The word has been in use for nearly 20 years, and in the Oxford English Dictionary since 2001. But according to a recent Times article, Ronald and the rest of the McDonald's crew want the meaning changed to "reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding ... and offers skills that last a lifetime."
That's quite the turnaround, isn't it? And it begs the question: who controls a company's reputation? Clearly, McDonald's has invested millions of marketing dollars into building their brand. They've largely succeeded, too: they've been the top-selling quick serve chain for years and you don't get that way without convincing a few customers to spend their dollars.
But a quick glance at McDonald's marketing campaigns over the decades reveals an interesting trend. Every single marketing "theme" (as listed on the company's website) focuses on the individual customer experience. McDonald's has spent all their marketing karma, it seems, on convincing the consumer that it's all about them. This isn't a bad idea—when you're choosing a fast food restaurant, you're looking for immediate gratification at your own price point. Appealing to this consumer drive makes perfect sense.
But "marketing" doesn't happen in a vaccuum. It's not simply slogans and logos and slick brochures. Marketing has to take into account the company as a whole, and particularly the values and principles behind the product or service. But wait, you might point out, what about all those McDonald's commercials with smiling employees who seem so darn happy to be working for the multi-million dollar chain?
Like I said, marketing isn't just about the consumer-facing collateral (whether print, broadcast, online or whatever). Maybe if McDonald's spent a little more effort actually making employees happy—from the bottom up—they wouldn't have to paint a rosier-than-real picture of what it's like to work there. And then, just maybe, they wouldn't have to fight so hard against the public's entirely organic perception of the dead-end McJob.