Man Bites Dove –A dessert so good it needs no advertising

I am thinking about ice cream and not only because we’re past Memorial Day here in the U.S, which is the unofficial beginning of summer… I just really love ice cream, but I also know that ice cream is a treat and best consumed in moderation.

SAID NOBODY EVER!

So with that in mind I wanted to let you in on a secret vice of mine. “Dove Bar Minis” – dark chocolate coated mini ice cream bites with either chocolate or vanilla ice cream inside. They also make milk chocolate-coated ones, since I know you are wondering, but IMHO they are not nearly as wonderful. At 60 calories each you can eat two or three (my max at one time has been five) and still feel as if you have satisfied a totally guilty pleasure.   They are in an overused word these days – AMAZING!

It’s interesting when you find something that is not advertised or found in restaurants. We have always called them Dove Bites, so perhaps at one time that is what the packaging said, but now they are named Dove Minis. These treats can be found in many supermarkets although from my experience they do seem to run out more often than one might expect. I notice boxes in other people’s carts and smile knowingly. One time at a friend’s house in Florida we had finished dinner and he asked if I wanted something sweet. And out came the Dove Bites. All I could think about was to wonder how he found out and guessed that he found out the way I did – by looking in the frozen ice cream novelty case many years ago.

There are 14 Bites in a box and they cost around $4.50 per box. So at $.30 each they are reasonably priced, satisfying yet not a calorie bomb and did I say they were amazing? You can’t easily buy Dove Bites on Amazon or Wal-mart/Jet.com – a recent check on both said they are ‘unavailable’.

Why isn’t M&M Mars promoting Dove Bites more? Surely it’s not because they can’t make them fast enough? And even if they raised the price a little, aficionados like me would still buy them.

One last thing, when I visit Costco (another favorite of mine), I always look to see if there might be a giant box of Bites so I could not run out and pay less per unit. Sadly, I never find them (hint hint Costco & M&M Mars!) If there were 60 in a box I’d buy them and in our house they might not last much more than a month.

Try them for yourself but don’t tell too many of your friends. I hate it when the store runs out.

 

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Sometimes an airline gets it right – A Southwest story


The ad above is from 1992.  For me it’s appropriate right now.  Given the recent tragedy aboard a Southwest Airlines jet my timing might have been better but since my experience happened last week it is more relevant now that it will be in the future.

If you travel enough your destiny is to have both good and bad experiences. Prior to boarding any flight hope springs eternal for an on-time, low-stress, pleasant (and as I like to say boring) experience.

Last Thursday evening I had one of the bad ones – four-hours on the tarmac due to bad weather up and down the East Coast. Having never flown on Southwest Airlines (how was this possible?) I had my first experience with lining up for boarding, tight seating, and free-Wi-fi (although I am not sure why since the Southwest website notes it is $8 on domestic flights – maybe the flight crew knew something about the trip beforehand).

It was mind-numbing to be 2nd in line for take-off only to roll back to a remote runway when Air Traffic Control (LaGuardia) placed a total stop on flights in and out of the airport. Airline personnel and passengers had no idea if or when the flight would leave. Finally the plane returned to an open gate. It took about an hour before hungry passengers walked off the plane to try to find something to eat (it was 10:30PM).

The flight crew was patient as were the passengers. Even understanding the situation, I was having a terrible overall experience through no fault of the airline. At least that’s what I kept telling myself although I really wanted to blame someone or something other than the weather.

Finally the flight departed almost four hours late and of course when we arrived in the NYC area we circled for half an hour more before finally landing. There were so many flights in the same boat that LaGuardia was midday busy at 1:30 in the morning.

I was tired and cranky and certainly while not blaming Southwest, not in any hurry to choose that airline again unless it was the best time and price option. I’ve tried cutting airlines off in the past but always end up going back since always seems to end up costing me more someplace else.

The following day I received two emails from Southwest. The initial one apologizing for my first and as it turns out, poor weather-related travel experience (Southwest seemed to know I had not flown it prior), and that a LUV coupon for a future flight discount was to be issued in a separate email – which it was only a few hours later.

I was impressed and tweeted that Southwest did NOT have to do that and their response was swift and appropriate. Period. End of story. But, I am glad Southwest did make the extra effort and what’s probably most significant is that it changed my viewpoint of the airline and how I might evaluate a future flight option to now include Southwest.

For fans of good social media practices and customer service, this is how you do it right folks.

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U.S. Healthcare begins to go back to go forward – the return of the house call

As an agency working in a variety of aspects and segments of healthcare marketing, our team has acquired a broad view of healthcare marketing. One trend that seems clear is that with the continued growth of healthcare EHR (electronic health records), medical professionals will have access to a central repository containing the prior personal medical history of their patients.

Regarding EHR, if you worry about the security of your personal patient data, include me in that pool. But I also acknowledge that there are also substantial patient benefits when medical professionals all read off the same patient chart. I am representing this in an ideal sense here. It will take too many years for the electronic data records to become the standard.

Those of us old enough to remember TV shows like Dr. Kildare , Petticoat Junction, and Marcus Welby M.D., well-remember that sometimes the doctors would go to the patient’s house complete with the little black bag and all the trimmings.

An excerpt from a 2015 Forbes article: ‘House calls used to make up 40 percent of U.S. doctors’ visits in the 1940s, before going into decline in the 1960s. These days, they comprise less than one percent of consultations. Many believe that more house calls would increase quality of care at low cost, which led Medicare to launch an “Independence at Home” demonstration project for seniors with multiple chronic conditions in 15 states. Starting in 2012, the project has had promising results.’

As healthcare trends moved the patient visit out of the home and into practice offices, house calls became a thing of the past. Less compelling is the suggestion in the article that:

This invites the question: Why did house calls decline? In a recent tweet, Jay Parkinson, MD, founder of the extremely innovative Sherpaa medical service claimed: “There’s a reason why house calls went out of fashion. Grossly inefficient use of very expensive doctor time + extremely limited capability.”

“Dr. Parkinson’s identifying house calls as an inefficient use of doctors’ time is a very limited view of costs in health care. The almost complete elimination of house calls has not increased efficiency, it has only transferred the cost of travelling and waiting from doctors to patients.”

Most people prefer to avoid extended stays in the hospital and to only go the hospital if it’s absolutely necessary. After all, hospitals are where all the sick people are as is the risk of an acquired infection. This has led to the rise of non-hospital surgical procedures and services, at places like Ambulatory Surgical Centers, rehabilitation centers, and convalescence facilities.

Treating patients outside of the hospital is less expensive and quite often much more effective for everyone – insurance companies, hospitals, and PATIENTS. This is where the house call can return to deliver more effective healthcare.

Don’t picture the kindly old doctor with the black bag. It could be a doctor making the house call, but it also could be a nurse or home health aide. We know that patients in general are more comfortable at home. With the development of Telehealth services, EHR’s and a growing legion of healthcare professionals (the category is booming), house calls are again becoming a viable and valuable aspect of medical care.

I wonder how people will feel about allowing health professionals to enter their home more frequently? I wrote about the development that healthcare providers already are contacting patients a lot more frequently via email and mobile apps,  (after patients only receiving postal mail for so many years), it will take some time to become accustomed to the no longer old-fashioned house call.

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Use Google Alerts to be in the know first

I am actually surprised that most people I know, don’t use Google Alerts to keep up with their employers, clients, prospects, and competitors.

Google Alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your search term. You can use Google Alerts to monitor anything on the Web. For example, people use Google Alerts to:

  • To read about their company or product.
  • Monitor a developing news story.
  • Get the latest news on a celebrity or sports team.
  • Find out what’s being said about themselves
  • Search for job openings in their industry.
  • Help find new employees.

It’s about the easiest tool you can ever use. Go to Google Alerts, log-in if you are not already, enter in the company name, person’s name, or subject of interest. Choose the frequency of the alerts (once per day, once per week), and that’s it. You’ll receive alerts on the named companies, people or subject whenever ‘news’ or mentions have occurred.

The Google Alert service tool is not without imperfections. Since it scrapes words and names of companies and not necessarily context, I do receive some irrelevant updates for companies that are spelled similarly, or partially. But that’s a minor annoyance given that I feel I have a better chance of staying on top of developments as they relate to companies that interest me of which there are many.

As a resource for our clients, part of our responsibility is keeping up with what the competition is doing. Whether it’s a specific company or category you can create alerts for just about anything. Setting up variations on your name or company’s name also can yield some interesting updates.

Bloggers use Google Alerts to point them to relevant content about which they are writing. Here’s a link to an article that does a nice job of evaluating the service.

I like knowing things first don’t you?

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Is it all over for Chinese companies doing business in the U.S.?

The recent and present tariff war between the U.S. and China (but not only China), is the most counter-productive thing that could have happened to Sino-American business interests. Yet it’s not as if it’s been clear sailing for Chinese companies doing business in the U.S. Colleges and universities all over the United States have been beneficiaries having thousands of Mainland Chinese attend schools often at full tuition. Chinese student enrollments are beginning to decline in response to a general feeling that they are not as welcome as they have been. Getting cash out of China via real estate purchases for Chinese students attending college in the United States is not the panacea it was five years ago.

That Chinese technology companies looking to establish a market in the U.S. will be under increasing scrutiny is clear under the current administration.   Huawei keeps trying and keeps hitting roadblocks.

My own quest to create understanding between China and the United States by helping Chinese companies in the U.S. has had some success. Yet I had expected that by now there’d be an overall greater sense of understanding amongst Chinese companies on how to do business in the United States. From my view not much has changed in the 8 years I’ve been working with Chinese companies. So it was difficult enough already without a stack of tariffs that will only make Chinese companies less interested in expanding into the U.S. market.

There are undoubtedly multiple reasons Chinese entrepreneurs have not advanced their efforts in the United States. The misunderstanding of how to invest in the U.S. would be just one. As I’ve mentioned before in the U.S. there’s risk that an investment in a business in the United States may not work out. This is a difficult concept for Chinese businesspeople particularly those over 50. In my experience there’s lots of talk about ‘Win-Win’ and plans, but too often opportunities seem to just die on the vine. I can’t tell if it’s due to natural or unnatural causes. I am not going out on a limb when I mention that lack of committed funding to U.S. market expansion is at the root.

So is it all over for Chinese companies that were or are thinking about the U.S. market?   After all there’s so much opportunity in China and Asia itself, is the U.S. market still desirable for Chinese companies? Even if it’s all a negotiating ploy, the welcome mat for China in the U.S. has been rolled up and it might be a long wait while the U.S. and Chinese governments are engaged in a game of tariff chicken in which there will be no winners.

I wonder if U.S. companies are going to in turn become less interested in doing business in China?   I doubt it since the market opportunities in China are still enormous. Expect more scrutiny of U.S. companies trying to do business in China. For those still willing to try. This could take a while to sort out.

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What’s so wrong with being a niche business?

I’ve written about Blackberry a number of times since I started this blog but not since 2012 when I wrote – I’m waving bye-bye to Blackberry. I noted the features were awful, the battery life was poor, and the two-year contract at the time was off-putting. The mobile device business has changed greatly since 2012 with data being paramount, yet battery life for most devices is still an issue. What I did not realize at the time was that Blackberry’s major advantage was in SECURITY. Research in Motion always was at or near the top when it comes to secure networks and platforms. And over the past few years Blackberry has morphed into a somewhat more nimble and niche-y company focused on offering e-mail and network security. Companies sometimes give a Blackberry to their employees in the interest of having a more secure communication environment. That’s not without good reason these days. In a recent article from CNET,

“Francois Mahieu, the chief commercial officer of BlackBerry Mobile, has high expectations for where the brand can go. Mahieu, speaking to journalists at a briefing ahead of Mobile World Congress 2018, said he hopes to capture 3 percent to 5 percent of the market for premium phones. “It doesn’t have to be a niche business,” he said. “I would not be satisfied with market share in premium (phones) that is sub-1 percent forever.”

That’s exactly where it is. Neil Shah, an analyst at Counterpoint Research, estimates that BlackBerry sold just 170,000 phones in the fourth quarter. With the total market for premium phones (defined as above $400) estimated at 320 million units last year, Shah said BlackBerry Mobile would have to sell at least 10 million units a year, or 2 to 3 million per quarter.”

Not every company can directly compete with Apple and Samsung. Not every company should try. Nokia and Blackberry had their moments in the spotlight. Both still exist today and have found their respective markets. Things may not have worked out the way that management and shareholders hoped for Blackberry, but having a defendable market position in offering one of the most secure environments.

If Blackberry doesn’t make it to 3% of market share is that reason to consider it a failure? MySpace is still around and does more than $800M annually. And Pandora, which does more than $300M. Are they niche businesses? Not quite although in comparison to Spotify and Apple Music some would beg to differ. Both are not on an upward arc that’s for sure. I think Pandora is trying to figure out its own point of differentiation from Spotify. Even though Pandora came first! Sounds familiar when you think about Blackberry and Nokia.

Being a ‘niche business’ is a term that’s sometimes used in a pejorative sense. Sure you can have a ‘nice little niche business’ but more often ‘niche business’ suggests limitations on growth and success. Personally I love the idea and position of niche businesses even if they are limited in terms of what others would consider to be substantial market success. You have to be aware of what is the ethos and what are the overall goals of the enterprise (aside from increasing shareholder value which would be the obvious one).

Would it be so terrible to have a successful niche business that could never become Apple or Amazon?

Posted in Best business practices, Devices, Mobile Communication | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The benefits of working remotely outweigh the disadvantages

I had a friend tell me that it seems my blog often touches on the experiences of driving automobiles. When I started writing this blog nearly 10 years ago I called it “The Way I See It”. Not the most original title I’ll admit but it did offer me a wide berth in terms of subjects. As a lifelong marketer I am fascinated by human behavior and human motivation, not only as it pertains to why people buy or don’t, but how people come to their own view of things.

This winter I worked nearly 3,000 miles away from my regular office. My wife and I drove across the country (yes both ways), and put on 7,000 miles on our leased sedan (no plug here). I wrote about the trip out west in a post entitled, “A Portable professional life” . But that was before I spent 6 ½ weeks away from the NYC office.

Overall the driving was easy and predictable. Google Maps continually proves itself to be a worthy additional co-pilot and the only thing worse for wear is my back which 10 days after returning is still a little twitchy.   My productivity was similar and my attitude vastly improved because the weather was better and I love the experience of being in new places and having different and ever-changing views. I am also very conscious that I am fortunate enough to be able to work remotely (I have a very understanding business partner), as most people do not have the choice.

Once ensconced in the desert of California I quickly fell into a routine that time-wise was not all that different from what I do when I am home. Working on east coast time was less of problem than I’d imagined and having hours of non-work daylight to burn in winter was something I’d never experienced as a professional. I was WAY more physically active, slept well or better than at home, and was generally happier in winter than I’ve been in while. Clearly I’m not a skier any more and winter in the northeast has little utility if you don’t participate much in winter sports.

On the drive back east we listened to Ray Dalio’s book Principles which has a focus on corporate “Idea Meritocracy”, but also stresses that doing things that are unfamiliar and difficult are paramount in helping human beings continue to learn and grow. As predictable as driving has become with the reliability of automobiles and the advent of GPS maps, there’s still some daily uncertainty when you are on a 3,000+ mile drive. Like when should we stop for gas? (Since we got close to running out of gas at one point driving through an Indian reservation). Where should we stop? (Hotel Tonight is a useful app when things are unplanned). Is that truck going to hit us? (This happened more often and supports the reason for self-driving trucks that don’t do stupid people things).

Some drive highlights:

Marfa, TX where we were not lucky enough to see the Marfa lights but did see the International Space Station race right overhead on a frigid late January evening.

On the drive west we drove through Texas Hill Country and its wineries, which before I did not know even existed. More than 50 wineries are along the road west of Austin deep in the heart of Texas. We rolled through in the early morning and regrettably did not sample any of them.

On the return trip we stopped in Santa Fe, NM never having been there before and were surprised at how the high desert altitude (7,200 ft.) affected us at first. A pretty little artsy town we had a great meal from a renowned chef out of Mexico City who has been there for more than twenty-five years.

There were many other nice moments particularly in the early morning drives as sunrise over the highway no matter where you are has a promising feel. Since we drove for longer days on the return trip (750 miles per day back, only 500 per day on the way out), working was more difficult and I was more about responding to people than initiating things with people, which is not my norm.

I can give you a short list of reasons why you should consider driving across, around and all over the United States.

  1. It’s BIG and BEAUTIFUL! The Mandarin name for the United States is ‘Mei Guo’ which means ‘Beautiful Country’. It’s both flattering and correct. There’s so much open space in the United States. You have to see it to appreciate it.
  2. Experiencing new places and having the ability to stop when you want and change your plan at the last moment is energizing and sometimes very rewarding.
  3. Do it now. Road trips with self-driving cars will not be the same. For us the journey truly was its own reward.

Disrupt thyself. You might be surprised and glad you did.

Posted in Driving, Living in the World Today | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments