Tag Archive: Starbucks


Comparing one year to another in a different era is always an inexact science.

It’s easy to poke holes in any comparison and thus attempt to render the point meaningless, but this author will not go down easily.

The “perfect storm” of volatile factors in 2020 reminds Almost DailyBrett of a terrible year … 1968.

Certainly, there are no direct equivalents of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy (and let’s keep it that way).

Neither is there a similarity to the eye-opening Tet Offensive nor directly related deaths of US soldiers, which exposed that America was systematically misled and deceived about the Vietnam War.

Consider that 2020 and 1968 will always be remembered as election years with flash-point incumbents.

Americans have been cooped up indoors for months, way too many losing their livelihoods in a provoked recession, and then the weather grew hotter and George Floyd was senselessly murdered by a Minneapolis criminal cop.

And similar to 1968 (e.g., Chicago riot), legitimate protesters had their voices and actions drowned out by organized anarchists (sounds like an oxymoron, but sadly it’s not) who want to hurt people, steal, burn and create havoc. If one Googles “Antifa Portland,” 619,000 results pour back in 0.33 of a second.

Reflecting back on 1968 — your author was 13-years-very-young — it literally took another decade-plus until America settled down again in the 1980s. Will it take that long after what is setting up to be a rotten, 2020?

There were more than a few, who detested the violence on university campuses and in the streets back in 1968. They became a political force of their own: “The Silent Majority.”

Is it deja vu all over again?

The Rebirth of the Silent Majority?

What about the overwhelming majority of Americans, who are sickened by what happened to defenseless George Floyd … begging for the right to breathe on Memorial Day? They want the officers responsible, particularly one in particular, to face severe music. Justice must be done.

Having said that, the preponderance of Americans are staying away from the streets. They are incredulous by what they’re seeing on television and social media.

Didn’t the overwhelming number of voters elect and re-elect the first-ever African-American president, Barack Obama, in 2008 and 2012? We were internationally celebrated for being open and fair-minded. Are Obama’s historic elections now irrelevant?

The George Floyd murder comes across as an exploited opportunity by many who just want to destroy communities. They are looters, stealing from expensive stores. There are trigger-happy Yahoos with assault weapons — allegedly protecting places of business — just looking for any excuse to open fire.

Cable television and the Internet in 2020 are delivering these horrific videos and placing them in our collective faces. Didn’t television in 1968 bring the carnage of Vietnam into our living rooms on a nightly basis? At the time, the U.S. military drafted literally thousands to fight in rice paddies in a war, which was never explained, much less declared.

Then-candidate Richard Milhous Nixon called for a restoration of “law and order” on the 1968 campaign trail. Do we want another officer putting his knee on the neck of an unarmed man? The answer is an easy, ‘no.’ This abominable practice must stop now and forever.

At the same time, a riot usurping a protest is still a riot.

Can we conclude that a 21st Century equivalent of the 1960s Silent Majority detests and loathes rioters breaking windows, looting stores, burning vehicles, assaulting police officers, fire fighters, security personnel, chasing and intimidating reporters, and destroying Starbucks … just because it’s corporate Starbucks?

The Silent Majority wants to turn down the sound, cancel out the noise and return to some sense of normalcy.

Almost DailyBrett will be the first to admit making the wrong call in the 2016 election. This year started with rising markets, the best economy in one-half century, a positive atmosphere for any disciplined incumbent … assuming the incumbent is capable of political discipline.

Oh what a strange trip it has been: The Covid-19 outbreak, the unprecedented lock down, the forced recession, masked people fighting unmasked people, and then and now … the George Floyd murder and out-of-control chaos.

What’s next? There will be more. It’s not Morning in America, more like Midnight on the Streets.

Just as a turn of events spiraled out of control in 1968, the same seems to be true in 2020.

Who benefits and who does not — we need to be honest — no one knows.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/what-happened-to-the-exceptional-nation-that-twice-elected-barack-obama/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which Californian would you rather have running your business: Tim Cook or Gavin Newsom?

Taking into account that Covid-19 indiscriminately hit both Apple and the State of California at the same time in the same place, which entity performed better under nearly identical circumstances?

Under Governor Gavin Newsom’s watch, California with the nation’s highest income taxes (13.3 percent at the apex) and an average sales tax of 8.66 percent recently reported its record $21 billion surplus is now an unprecedented $54.3 billion deficit … that’s a staggering $75.3 billion switch if you are scoring at home. Nonetheless, the state found $75 million in the form of a pander payment to California illegal aliens.

Will they be eligible to vote … some day?

As the chief executive officer of $260 billion Apple with $44 billion in cash reserves, Tim Cook just announced the reopening some of Apple’s national stores this week with many more to follow. The company achieved a 37.8 percent gross margin and 14.3 percent to the bottom line in FY 2019, returning quarterly dividends of $0.82 per share for its shareholders.

As a member of the growing California Diaspora and a best-in-breed investor, who would Almost DailyBrett choose as a responsible fiscal steward?

Hint: Apple shares are up 7.25 percent this year, despite the Corona virus. As CNBC’s Jim Cramer repeatedly has proclaimed, he is only interested in a stock’s future. Share prices are a leading … not trailing … indicator of future performance.

Apple is a leader. California is a laggard.

The same is true with other best-in-breed publicly traded companies including Salesforce.com, Gilead Sciences, Lululemon Athletica, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Nike, NVIDIA and Starbucks. Is the present iteration of California anywhere close to … best in breed?

If California was publicly traded, would a responsible investor select the Golden State or no state income tax Texas and/or Florida?

As the former press secretary for the former Governor of California George Deukmejian (1928-2018), my love for the Golden State is true … your author loathes the present crew in Sacramento. Just ask Tesla boss Elon Musk.

Peddling A False Choice

The bull statue on Wall Street and the True Value hardware store on Main Street are not mutually exclusive.

The countless suggestions of a Berlin Wall type of divide between the two streets is a false choice. Even the stately The Economist fell into this trap.

The reason is simple, millions of investors who live on Main Street, the side streets and the suburbs. Gallup reported that 55 percent of Americans own stocks and/or stock based mutual funds … before Covid 19. America’s Investor Class certainly took a hit with the virus, but there are tangible results indicating without any doubt that investors are coming back, money is coming off the sidelines … heck the NASDAQ is up for the year.

Those who project the end of Capitalism may even be the same to predict the Republicans were the Whigs of the 21st Century, heading for extinction. Whatever happened to these rocket scientists?

Many in America’s investor class are fond of ETFs or Exchange Traded Funds and other versions of mutual funds. Your author is an investor in Fidelity’s Contrafund with $112 billion assets under management (AUM). The fund invests in large caps including Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway (think Warren Buffett), Adobe, Google …

Cash needs to be a significant portion of any responsible portfolio, which should include a mutual fund or two.

Almost DailyBrett must pause and ask the investor class (anyone who would care to listen), how about being the manager of your own mutual fund (no fees or commissions)? Why not build a portfolio with your own selection of best-in-breed stocks (e.g., Apple)?

To some, this approach may be too risky. To others, do you really need a paid-by-you investment advisor to tell you that Nike is the number athletic apparel manufacturer in the world? Why not buy the stock when the next inevitable dip comes around?

Buy Low Sell High.

For the most part, America’s Investor Class radiates out from Main Street. To suggest that Wall Street needs to be reined in and economic freedom should be curtailed by those who determine the so-called Public Good is contrary to the best interests of millions investing for retirement, a child’s education, a dream house or a new business.

It takes a free market to raise a child.

Wall Street is Main Street.

P.S. Be careful about investing in The State of California.

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/05/07/the-market-v-the-real-economy?

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/07/california-faces-a-staggering-54-billion-budget-deficit-due-to-economic-devastation-from-coronavirus.html

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/10/apple-reports-fourth-quarter-results/

State and Local Sales Tax Rates, 2020

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/15/california-to-give-cash-payments-to-immigrants-hurt-by-coronavirus.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/06/20/californias-growing-diaspora/

What Percent Of Americans Own Stocks?

State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2020

From a public relations and mass communications standpoint, we need to leave the past — most of all recriminations — to the mass media. Let them focus on the fact that we again slept at dawn.

Hint: They were sleeping as well.

We need to envision and more importantly, credibly and practically project better times in the future. We need to balance our justified health concerns with our economic hopes.

Will we have a national resurrection by Easter Sunday, April 12? Maybe? Most likely, not?

If not, the media will happily tell us how our loving optimist-in-chief somehow failed in the face of continued darkness.

And yet his approval rating continues to rise, and his score for handling the corona virus reaches 60 percent thumbs up against 38 percent thumbs down.

As Teddy Roosevelt (pardon the paraphrase from heaven, POTUS #26) told us in his famous 1910 speech to the students at Paris’ Sorbonne, it’s not Gloomy Gus or Negative Nancy who counts, or how the strong man or woman stumbles or how she or he could have done better.

The credit belongs to those who are in the arena.

We need more of those, who dare to suggest with credibility that yes life will get better. We are not eternally condemned to the boredom of our living rooms.

Some day we will standing in line for the barista, waiting for our beer or wine, actually ordering our food to a table in a restaurant … our hearts thumping with thousands of others, anticipating the first guitar riff or standing up for the kickoff.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News “virtual town hall” event on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak with members of the coronavirus task force in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It takes courage to stand up in front of this wall of negativity and suggest that life may be better sooner … much sooner … as opposed to later.

It takes moxy to purchase shares of best-in-breed stocks (i.e., Apple, Microsoft, Nike, NVIDIA, McDonalds, Starbucks …) as the markets refuse for weeks to stretch two or more positive trading days in a row. Volatility will eventually be tamed, most likely not now.

It takes compassion to swipe our credit card at our local coffee place, order books online from our regional bookseller, call for take out at our favorite Italian place. With our economic freedom maintained, we can choose who and how much to support.

They have been there for us. Isn’t time for us to be there for them?

It’s so easy to hunker down and to shut down for the “common good.” It’s harder to dream again, and to express hope.

We Need Good News

“Hope is believing good will come, even in bad times. 

“Hope is knowing that this too shall pass.

“Hope is knowing no matter how afraid we are, our higher power will be with us.

“Hope is knowing that we never have to be alone again. It’s knowing that “Time Is On Our Side.’

“Hope is giving up control. Hope is knowing we didn’t have control in the first place.” — Rolling Stones lead guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Almost DailyBrett believes there are more than a few, who have major problems with the United States and its world’s largest gross domestic product (GDP) at $21.99 trillion (prior to the impact of the Corona virus, COVID-19).

To them the USA needs to redistribute the pie, not expand it to offer more pieces for everyone.

The word “balance” seemingly does not exist in ivory towers on campuses, the deep state or in some media empires.

Until recently, climate change dominated. “How dare” anyone suggest thoughtful consideration of those who work and thrive in our world-best economy?

And now the little corona virus bugger has replaced the planet — at least for now — as the single most priority. Forget about producing products we use or compensating our employees. Allocating $25 million for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC is just so vital to beating this global epidemic.

As we debate looking for the positive versus being Gloomy Gus or Debbie Downer, we know two things for certain:

Teddy Roosevelt is forever enshrined on Mt. Rushmore.

No one will ever build statues to critics, including Negative Nancy.

https://www.nationalreview.com/news/id-love-to-have-it-open-by-easter-trump-hopeful-economy-will-be-revived-in-coming-weeks/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=breaking&utm_campaign=newstrack&utm_term=19820067

http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html

https://news.gallup.com/poll/298313/president-trump-job-approval-rating.aspx

 

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” — UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

If a private sector position with full benefits isn’t the greatest anti-poverty program ever devised … what on earth is?

In order to avoid saying she will raise taxes on the middle class for “Medicare For All,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is proposing federal confiscation of all pretax employer paid Medicare health care benefits for literally millions of working achievers.

Her plan will eliminate private health insurance for 150 million Americans or more, and nationalize the $530 billion private health insurance industry.

Isn’t the termination of $8.8 trillion in cherished pretax employer-paid health care benefits for millions of employees, the equivalent of a middle class tax increase on steroids? Keep in mind, the annual federal budget is only … $4.45 trillion.

Instead of Starbucks paying $20,000 for this benefit to each of its 291,000 employees for private insurance (e.g., Blue Cross, Kaiser …), the legendary coffee roaster would be compelled to turn-over a similar amount to the federal government. In turn, these employees would lose their Starbucks offered pretax Medicare benefits and choice of private health insurer, only to forced into government paid … and only government paid … DMV-style insurance.

The Bernie Sanders “Medicare for All” bill (which Warren supports) calls for a 4 percent federal income tax increase for middle class workers. In order to avoid saying she is raising middle class taxes, Warren proposes instead federal confiscation of pretax employer paid health care benefits.

“In practice this (redirection of employer-paid health benefits to the government) would be a tax on employment, which seems likely to hurt middle-class Americans.” — The Economist, November 9, 2019

Deciding which plan (Sanders or Warren) is worse is just as difficult as deducing which is better.

How about keeping and retaining private health insurance, and our ability to choose our own doctors, dentists and optometrists?

Almost DailyBrett has always exhibited a libertarian streak. If we empower our $4 trillion behemoth federal government to confiscate pretax employer-paid health insurance, and eliminate private health insurance for 150-million-plus souls, the obvious question is:

What’s next?

Tax On Billionaires

” … if she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us?” — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg commenting on the spectre of a Warren presidency to the company’s 35,000 employees.

The public relations spin by Bernie and Elizabeth has focused squarely on the likes of Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jamie Dimon and Leon Cooperman, including Warren mocking the latter for his tearful concern about the future of our country.

Consider the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given $36 billion to fight third-world poverty. Does no good deed go unpunished?

The centerpiece of the billionaire vilification campaign is a 2 percent wealth tax on those with assets exceeding $50 million (how many folks in blue states California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts … are included in this tax?), and 6 percent for those with $1 billion or more. We are not just talking about giving “two cents” (on each dollar) more.

How would the federal government determine the amount of wealth to be taxed and confiscated? When would it be paid? How much stock will needed (needlessly?) be sold (maybe even at loss) and how much will be immediately bought back? What’s the algorithmic multi-billion dollar impact on the 52 percent of the country investing in stocks and stock-based mutual funds for their retirement or children’s education?

Is this tax, constitutional? Are we talking about double taxation? More to the point, do we want as a nation to empower … there’s that verb again … our massive government to punitively confiscate wealth and with it, achievement? How about a tax on lower upper class wealth? Ditto for a levy on upper middle class wealth? And how about … ? The possibilities are limitless.

Three European nations still impose wealth taxes: Norway, Spain and Switzerland. How’s Spain doing?

Eleven European nations have rescinded their wealth taxes: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Sweden.

That’s right, wealth taxes didn’t work in Denmark and Sweden, why should it fly in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin?

According to the stately The Economist, Warren’s all-government all-the-time programs include requiring Amazon, Facebook and Google to be regulated as platform utilities (before or after their breakups?), 40 percent of all board seats held by “public reps” (read, unions), bans on nuclear power and fracking, 75 percent lobbying taxes, 37 percent taxes on capital gains, and the imposition of taxes on unsold stocks (employing Enron-style mark-to-market accounting or MTM) … and the list goes on and on and on.

Warren supporters caution America’s Investor Class (52 percent of the entire nation) not to worry; her plan will eventually be watered down or not approved. If so … what’s the point?

Are Warrenites and Sandernistas supporting Republican control of at least one house to serve as a check and a balance to radicalism? Didn’t think so.

Some see Warren as a Socialist champion against Capitalism or buy low sell high.

Instead, Almost DailyBrett sees Bernie and Elizabeth as two peas in the same pod.

They are threatening our economic freedom. They will dip into our wallets, and deny us benefits and physician choices we already enjoy. The only winner? Big government.

Instead of wisely controlling the size and scope of government, some will be cool with a greatly empowered … there’s that verb again … carnivorous federal bureaucracy with even more power over our individual abilities to chart our own financial futures.

Be afraid … be very, very afraid.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/elizabeth-warren-wealth-tax-european-nations/

https://slate.com/business/2019/11/elizabeth-warrens-health-care-medicare-for-all-single-payer-unfair.html

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/10/24/elizabeth-warrens-many-plans-would-reshape-american-capitalism

https://www.economist.com/united-states/2019/11/07/how-would-elizabeth-warren-pay-for-her-health-policy

https://slate.com/technology/2019/10/mark-zuckerberg-said-elizabeth-warrens-presidency-would-suck-for-us.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/how-blue-cross-saved-my-bacon/

”I could say … that I ran a small grocery store on the corner (e.g., State of Arkansas), therefore I extrapolate that into the fact I can run Walmart. That`s not true.” – Ross Perot debating Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush

Perot labeled Clinton’s 12-year public sector experience as the chief executive of the “Natural State” as “irrelevant.”

The famous 1992 debate exchange reminds Almost DailyBrett of today’s deep-state/elite media practice of automatically and terminally disqualifying anyone aspiring or even holding the presidency – including the present office holder – who does not have public sector experience.

Public sector über alles?

Some have suggested that seven-year South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg, 37, is more qualified to run the nation than billionaire entrepreneurs, who build, create breakthrough products, employ thousands and manage global business enterprises.

Let’s see, Mayor Pete’s South Bend has a $368 million city budget, 1,285 employees and 101,168 residents including thousands of Notre Damers who need their garbage picked up and their streets swept.

Okay …

In contrast, the $9.5 billion, The Trump Organization LLC, is the 48th largest privately held company in the world. Trump and his family manage 500 affiliated property development and marketing companies with 22,450 employees operating in 25 countries.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s business has been required to take losses and declare bankruptcy from time to time. Phil Knight in his book, Shoe Dog, recounted how Nike almost went under … nine times.

How’s Trump doing today? How’s Nike doing today?

And then there is Starbucks founder and chairman (political villain) Howard Schultz.

Sorry Howard … you can’t play this (presidential) game either … even though you created and turned Starbucks into the largest coffee roaster in the world. Let’s see … the company reports $24.7 billion in annual revenues, manages than 27,000 stores and hires 277,000 baristas et al. around the globe.

Kathleen Sebelius vs. Jeff Bezos For CIO

All kidding and snickering aside, the political class seemingly would rather hire as its CIO Kathleen Sebelius with her infamous crashing Obamacare website with its pathetic non-working calculator.

Conceivably the alternative would be private sector Amazon with its track record of successfully and accurately processing 1 million digital transactions per hour.

The millionaire Bernie and Elizabeth types rail daily against billionaires (i.e., Trump, Schultz, Knight, Bezos …) and their privately held/publicly traded corporations (i.e., Starbucks, Nike, Amazon), seemingly as the sources of all that is wrong in the world. The Massachusetts senator even talked about breaking up the most successful and useful of these companies.

If digital retail pioneer Amazon was forced to breakup, wouldn’t the company in an aw shucks moment, simply spin-off Amazon Web Services (AWS)? Considering Amazon’s marketing for AWS’ cloud services capability, don’t you suspect Jeff Bezos and company are already thinking about AWS as a separate publicly traded company?

How about the prospect of (NYSE: AWS)? Victory for the government? Victory for investors? Whattyathink Elizabeth?

Wasn’t there a movie actor/union president, who with the exception of a stint in the military, never spent a nanosecond in the public sector and became the governor of the largest state in the union, California?

How did that experiment turn out?

Not only was Ronald Reagan wildly popular in blue state California, he was one of our greatest presidents and the only one to ever hold a union card while serving as the nation’s chief executive.

Which Is More Important: Public or Private?

For Almost DailyBrett, your author served 14 years in the public sector (i.e., California press secretary and Central Washington University assistant professor). The same four-decade career also included 25 years in the private sector (i.e., LSI Logic Corporation, Semiconductor Industry Association, Edelman Public Relations, newspapers).

Which sector was more important in the development of your author’s institutional knowledge base?

Don’t know. Inclined to conclude that both are nice to have, and each is equally important.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1992-10-20-9204050015-story.html

https://money.cnn.com/2016/12/15/investing/trump-organization-48th-largest-private-company/

https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=344985

http://www.city-data.com/city/South-Bend-Indiana.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/13/politics/bernie-sanders-millionaire-book-sales-tax-returns/index.html

 

 

Does a Led Zeppelin concert photograph of singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page go with marble Romanesque columns?DSC02649

How about a sketch of Mick Jagger with his signature protruding lips combined with Moorish arches?

For that matter, should an operations manager attempt to incorporate Eric Clapton’s Gibson Les Paul electric guitar with Spanish tile?

One would think an acoustic guitar would fit better into the classic Castilian style, but no one will ever confuse Andres Segovia with heavy metal.

For months including the critical last three weeks before opening night in Sevilla, the team behind the Hard Rock Café worked diligently to fully respect Spanish tradition, while swearing allegiance to the rocking iconic restaurant chain.DSC02651

Carlos Gil, the Venezuelan-born Hard Rock Café operations manager out of Amsterdam, visited patrons on the opening night this past August 4. He said local authorities insisted on the preservation of the Romanesque columns. The chain was more than happy to comply and even to incorporate them into the setting for customers.

Hard Rock in the Land of the Flamenco?

Sounds like a potential prescription for integrated marketing communications (IMC) disaster, but from all appearances it is working in Sevilla, Spain as evidenced by the turnout on opening night.

Starbucks and The Prado

About the length of one futbol pitch is the distance between Madrid’s famous Prado art museum and the usually well-located, Starbucks.

Howard Schultz and his Starbucks team certainly have a knack for finding great locations for the 33,000 stores of the $19.28 billion largest coffee roaster in the world.

Without doubt, each of Starbucks’ venues is consistent with the company’s brand from the green aprons of the baristas to the coffee posters from all over the world. But what is different in Spain’s capital city is that Starbucks also incorporates the Spanish style into its store.DSC03188

As the inevitable pace toward globalization and a flatter world intensifies, so will the demands on multi-national brands to respect the culture while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the brand.

Many are opposed to multi-national chains, and will naturally opt for local choices. Others will yearn for the consistency of product. A Starbucks latte tastes the same in Seattle as it does in Madrid as it does in Dublin or München. There is a beauty in predictability in an unsettled world.

Starbucks wants to deliver a consistency of product wherever and whenever patrons come-in for a latte, mocha or cappuccino. At the same time, the company’s stores do not have to be indistinguishable cookie-cutter designs with each one mimicking the very first one at Seattle’s Pike Park Market.

Seasoned PR and marketing managers instinctively can sense a departure from the “conscience” of the brand, but are they are equally adept when it comes to incorporating a local culture and traditions into the presentation of the brand?

What is the smart solution? The answer lies with respecting a local culture, not going “native,” and at the same time be consistent with brand management.

Cultural Dimensions

Professor Geert Hofstede is famous for his Cultural Dimensions Theory measuring national differences in six arenas: Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-Term Orientations and Indulgence.

Before dipping their collective toes into another culture’s waters, it is best to weigh the very real differences between what you know and call familiar, and what you don’t know.

Wal-Mart succeeded big time in Mexico and failed miserably in Germany. Unilever’s Dove “Real Curves” campaign was a hit in the United States, but went over like a lead balloon (not to be confused with Led Zeppelin) in Taiwan.

Under Hofstede’s theory, Spain is high in power distance (57 percent), average in individualism (51 percent); low in masculinity and high in compassion (42 percent), skyrocketing in uncertainty avoidance (86 percent); below average in long-term orientation (48 percent) and low in indulgence (44 percent).DSC02656

There are zero issues when it comes to Brand über Alles. The brand must be respected and maintained. At the same time, there are cultural considerations that need to be considered as well.

Can they work together? Hard Rock Café and Starbucks are at least two global companies that have responded in the affirmative.

http://www.hardrock.com/corporate/history.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_Rock_Cafe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9s_Segovia

http://investor.starbucks.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=99518&p=irol-presentations

https://geert-hofstede.com/national-culture.html

 

 

“There you go again.” – Ronald Reagan debating Jimmy Carter in 1980

Wonder why more than a few consider “corporate social responsibility” to be an oxymoron?

Can corporations, especially publicly traded companies, serve both masters: fiduciary responsibility (do well) and CSR (do good)? It can be done, but the effort has to be sincere and meaningful.

Sorry 5-hour ENERGY®. There you go again.

5-hourvets

First, Living Essentials (parent of 5-hour ENERGY) mounted a mucho grande marketing campaign with special pink raspberry bottles in order to make an un poquito contribution to Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC). The Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) campaign even came with a plethora of television ads and a specially decaled NASCAR racer being driven by Clint Bowyer

Now, it is time for yet another mucho grande marketing campaign with special red-white-blue bottles in order make another un poquito contribution, this one to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). Do you think that 5-hour ENERGY just commissioned another specially marked Bowyer stock car for the occasion?

Does a bear relieve itself in the woods?

In addition, the company even sponsored a 400-mile NASCAR race in Kansas just in case you missed any of 5-hour ENERGY’s ads.

Even in-your-face syndicated radio sports jock Jim Rome got into the act, pimping for these $2.99 (today’s retail price) red-white-blue bottles of 5-hour SPEED.

And how much will be raised for the wounded vets? (Drum roll) Not less than $75,000.

Wasn’t the $75,000 minimum the same figure for when 5-hour ENERGY contributed a nickel from the sale of each $2.99 pink bottle (less than 2 percent of retail) to the breast cancer foundation?

Why is Almost DailyBrett underwhelmed?

Real Corporate Social Responsibility

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit,” – Harry Truman

SBUXCI
Contrast the shameless 5-hour ENERGY CSR-in-disguise campaign with the synergistic relationship between Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) and Conservation International (CI) on behalf of the environment and the farmers in the Chiapas region of Mexico. This is the same case that was examined in-depth by Harvard Business Review. 

The relationship between the for-profit Starbucks and the NGO Conservation International took time to develop. Starbucks wanted to help, but it insisted on not compromising the quality of its mild Arabica coffee beans for its discerning customer base. In the end the two disparate entities teamed in setting standards for Starbucks’ coffee supply chain in the Chiapas including the planting of shade trees and no coffee pulp being thrown into the rivers.

Just imagine, Starbucks and its NGO partner, Conservation International, accomplished impressive deeds together without the need for specially marked cups or a spiffy race car.

This same is true for Ronald McDonald House Charities, including the 338 Ronald McDonald houses around the world, a direct offshoot of the fortune made by McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Ditto of the Home Depot Foundation and its $1.5 million partnership with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for veterans.

Let’s not forget Nike founder Phil Knight’s $100 million contribution for the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and another $125 million for the OHSU Cardiovascular Institute. There were also some celebrated “Uncle Phil” contributions to the University of Oregon and Stanford University.

And of course we need to salute the efforts of another billionaire, Bill Gates and his spouse Melinda, establishing the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The foundation’s $38.3 billion endowment targets promoting health care and reducing extreme poverty around the world.

“Pink Washing” Close Call

kfc

Before 5-hour ENERGY got into the Think Pink act, YUM Brands’ KFC Division launched a controversial “Buckets for the Cure” campaign benefitting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.to combat breast cancer. A portion of the sale of each specially marked bucket of grilled chicken was devoted to the work of the Komen foundation.

Some have called this effort true CSR. Others have labeled it, Pink Washing. Whichever way one comes down on the “tastes great” vs. “less filling” divide, there is no question that KFC raised a reported $4.2 million to combat and find a cure for breast cancer.

There are many, who simply do not like KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) and will not see anything positive undertaken by the company. Having said that, there is a legitimate debate whether “Buckets for the Cure” was a crafty marketing campaign, a well-intentioned CSR thrust or a combination of the two. Let the Fiduciary Responsibility vs. Corporate Social Responsibility debate commence!

5-hourspecial

When it comes to 5-hour ENERGY and its guarantee of $75,000 to the wounded vets, compared to its massive marketing campaign, NASCAR race and race car, one has to make the call:

5-hour ENERGY once again stands guilty of disguising its massive for-profit marketing campaign as an attempt to help (fill-in-the-blank).

There you go again.

http://www.5hourenergy.com/5hrNews-2014-04-14.asp

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/5-hour-pink-washing/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/lattes-cappuccinos-mochas-and-csr/

http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6413&facInfo=pub

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/harrystru109615.html

http://www.rmhc.org/what-we-do

http://www.homedepotfoundation.org/page/our-partners/habitat-for-humanity-international

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/buckets-for-the-cure/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/taxing-uncle-phil-to-death/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_%26_Melinda_Gates_Foundation

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

http://www.nascar.com/en_us/race-center/sprint-cup-series/5-hour-energy-400.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It would be hard to make this up.

Our Club Universe American tour guide to the “Evil Empire” in 1981 was named … Joseph McCarthy.

Over a round of adult beverages in the “office” (e.g., hotel bar), he assigned an unofficial tag line for the state-run Aeroflot, essentially public transportation in the sky: “The Longer the Flight, The Longer the Delay.”

If your flight was about two hours from Moscow to then-Leningrad; now-St. Petersburg, the delay was about two hours. If you were flying eight hours from Moscow to Novosibirsk…Lenin help you.

aeroflot

The in-flight cuisine was Tatiana delivering plastic cups of mineral water. That’s all, folks.

With Aeroflot at the time, you knew what to expect. Yes, there was a consistency of product.

You were back in the USSR; You don’t know how lucky you are boy…

The Soviet Union has now gone into the history books, even though Russia with all of its backwardness and sadness (even with the temporary joy of the Sochi Olympics), still exists.

What also exists are customer expectations and consistency of product. And in most cases that is a “Good Thing” as Martha would say.

Take Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) for example.  The line sometimes goes back to the door. The prices are high. Knowing the author of Almost DailyBrett and $3.70 will result in a Grande mocha with no whip. And yet so many will shell out for their daily fix. The Grande mocha tastes the same in Dublin, Ireland as it does in Ellensburg, Washington.

Some may scoff at McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD), but the company has nailed fast food. You know what you are getting and there is a consistency of product. Yes, a Big Mac tastes the same in Tokyo as it does in Brussels as it does in Hood River, Oregon.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has essentially pioneered digital retailing. The company even acquired online shoe store, Zappos, which built its reputation on under-promising and over-delivering (shoes arrive before their promised delivery date), literally providing customers with the consummate “wow” experience.

Amazon fulfillment center

Digital search-engine leader Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has become a verb, an ultimate sign of success as in “Google this; Google that.”

For flyers of Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), you know what you are getting and not getting. Plan on joking flight attendants, Boeing 737-700s that are habitually on time, peanuts and/or pretzels and a soft drink. Don’t plan on assigned seats or in-flight cuisine. There is a consistency of product, and that speaks to the company’s brand as the nation’s leading low-cost carrier. Reportedly based on percentages of applicants vs. acceptances, the percentages are more in favor of being admitted to Harvard than landing a job at Southwest.

The point is these firms have learned the lessons from failing companies (or companies that should be put out of their misery), including J.C. Penney, Braniff, and Circuit City.

What is the usual customer expectation driving into the parking lot of any state’s Department of Motor Vehicles? There are three absolutes in life: Death, Taxes and DMV.

As you emerge from the car, you can sense your pulse quickening and your blood-pressure rising. Your dog-eared copy of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is ready at your side. Will Napoleon’s Grand Armee drive to Moscow and beat a snowy retreat to France before your number is called at DMV?

dmv

Everyone, staring at the linoleum floors, sitting in the plastic chairs, and waiting for the cheerless bureaucrats, has the same pained look on their collective faces. Are your papers in Ordnung? If your papers are nicht in Ordnung, you will be sentenced to the gulag…another trip to DMV.

Yes, your expectations are being fulfilled, and (alas) there is a consistency of product.

Even though DMV operates in a monopoly position, similar to nationalized industries in the former Soviet Union, would anyone in their right mind invest in this stock: (NYSE: DMV)?

Keep in mind, DMV does not have a corner on the market when it comes to a desultory customer service experience. There is always (drum roll), the United States Postal Service.

How about staking a portion of your life’s savings in (NASDAQ: USPS)?

The USPS reached an all-time peak of volume served in 2006. It has been all downhill ever since. In 2013, the USPS lost $5 billion on top-line revenue of $66 billion. Not only is the USPS underperforming vis-and-vis its private sector competition, Fed-Ex and UPS, but the digital writing is on the wall as the Internet is providing even more reasons (e.g., online bill paying) to avoid costly snail-mail.

postoffice

This reality is evidenced in those selected to provide “customer service” at USPS stores (e.g., post offices). If there is the potential of staffing four registers, the USPS will offer two joyless staffers even though the customer line is stretching out the door.

Yes, there are customers standing in long lines at many Starbucks, but they have a happy ending in the offing in the form of a latte, cappuccino or mocha. At the USPS, joy comes with reaching the front of the line, shipping your package, buying snail-mail stamps and then mercifully…leaving.

To many, the word “corporate” has become a dirty word. And you can see the roots of the negativity, multi-million executive “golden” parachutes, Bernie Madoff Ponzi schemes, Walmarts driving smaller competitors out of business etc. etc. etc.

Having acknowledged the obvious, there is a flip side to the word, “corporate.” The other side of the story revolves around great products, literally millions of jobs, and bursts of innovation. Do we think of Starbucks or the DMV (or even Amtrak) when it comes to a superb product and a super customer experience? When it comes to innovation, would we bet our future on Amazon’s ability to move products or the USPS?

Many are wary of the prospect of DMV-style “service” when it comes to services provided by government, whether it be auto registration, mail delivery or maybe even health care.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroflot

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zappos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Madoff

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_and_Peace

(Almost DailyBrett Note: The following is the text of my Facebook message in which I had the privilege of spending $100 to send it directly into the inbox of Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Elliot Zuckerberg).

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

Your company’s gracious offer, bestowing upon me (and other mere mortals) the privilege of spending $100 to send a Facebook message to your personal in-box, left me in a serious quandary.

On one hand for the same $100 I could conceivably purchase three shares of Facebook stock for $31.79 a share, leaving me with $4.63 to cover a Grande mocha with no whip cream from Starbucks. The obvious value for me would be three shares of your overhyped and underperforming stock, well below the $38 IPO price, in addition to 330 calories to my waist line.

Or I could spend the same amount with no guarantee that you would actually condescend to read my message, but maybe you will.

zuckerberg

This choice reminds me of Monte Hall’s “Let’s Make a Deal” (e.g., a popular television game show that was way before your time). The three shares of NASDAQ: FB and one mocha would constitute the equivalent of a Volkswagen bug sitting on the stage. My $100 to send a message to you would be the equivalent of the “door.” There may be a brand new Lincoln Town Car behind that door or maybe a donkey.

Okay I will go against a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush admonition, and I will spend $100 to help FB’s top and bottom lines by sending a message directly to your inbox.

As other commentators have noted, one can send a similar message to the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for free, but you (and your crack public relations pros) are deigning to permit the riff-raff to spend $100 (each time) to send a message that will actually pass under your hoodie shrouded eyeballs. I have never felt so special.

My first question: Can you give me an exclusive preview of your mysterious (“Come See What We’re Building”) software or hardware announcement this coming Tuesday? After all, I just paid you three figures…

Oh…You can’t do that. Something about selective disclosure of material information, which would get us both in trouble with the almighty Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Never mind. For your sake, I hope this announcement lives up to the hype.

Another question: Would you consider taking my $100 and heading down to Brooks Brothers (there is one in Santana Row in San Jose and another near Union Square in San Francisco) and actually dress the part of a CEO, particularly when you are trying to raise money from investors?

What’s that? You say that Steve Jobs was able to dazzle the world in a black turtleneck, so why shouldn’t you be able to do the same in a hoodie?

Can I submit to you that Steve had a long-standing track record of success at Apple (e.g., Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad) that slightly exceeds your success at Facebook?  Yes, I know how proud you are of Facebook’s market valuation of $68 billion. Can you even imagine how proud they are at Apple with a $489 billion market cap?

My point is that Steve Jobs earned the right to wear the turtleneck. I don’t see that you have earned a similar level of achievement to adopt the same cavalier attitude toward your stakeholders…that would include little ole me.

What really confounds me is that seemingly no one from your public relations team objected to the idea of charging Facebook subscribers $100 just to write to you. Let’s see your company reported $4.3 billion in annual revenues. Facebook recorded $714 million in net income. And you are personally worth in the neighborhood of $9.4 billion with a “b” and still you want to charge your customers $100 just to send you a line?

Facebook started with the cool idea of connecting people to their friends online. You have 1 billion subscribers or one-out-of-every-seven people on the frickin’ planet. Is it cool or arrogant to charge someone three figures just for the privilege of writing to you? I will leave that to you to decide.

P.S. My check is in the mail…

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100372793

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/the-cost-of-contacting-mark-zuckerberg-steve-jobs-14966751

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2025158/facebook-lets-some-people-email-mark-zuckerberg-for-100.html

http://tvgrapevine.com/articles.html/_/misc/media/facebook-stunned-and-amazed-by-mark-zuckerberg-r2380

http://www.itechpost.com/articles/4910/20130112/facebook-charging-100-send-message-mark-zuckerberg-here-official-clarification.htm

http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000140473&play=1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg

http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/FB

Declaring Victory

Compromise is so easy, when you leave all the heavy lifting to the other side.

In reality, it doesn’t work that way … and it never will.

Unilateral good nature, masochism and altruistic virtues will not do the trick.

The answer always comes down to how can both sides can “declare victory” and pass the giggle test at the same time. Each must be able to make the sale to the majority of their followers on their side of the aisle.

nixon1

Keep in mind: Your enemies will never change; your friends can run for the exits if you sell your soul.

Consider the oncoming 5 percent of national GDP “fiscal cliff.”

All the Republicans in the House of Representatives have to do is go against their ingrained philosophy, accept a tax hike for those making $400,000 or more annually (or possibly less) in exchange for no spending restraint by the federal government in the face of a record $16.4 trillion national debt. On top of that, they are expected to raise the debt limit, reportedly reached next Monday, to accommodate even more borrowing from China and more red ink (double entendre not intended).

Let’s say that House Speaker John Boehner can convince his reluctant caucus to go along with this “deal” to preclude the January 1 expiring George W. Bush tax cuts for middle-class taxpayers 1. You can count on the Washington Press Corps. and the Punditocracy on prime-time cable to declare the president and Democrats as the winners and the Republicans as the losers.

In historical terms, the Third Reich was deemed the winner at Munich in 1938 as it was given the permission to gobble up Czechoslovakia, while loser Neville Chamberlain came home with a worthless signature on a worthless piece of paper. After Mitt Romney’s defeat last November, do the Republicans want to be the Neville Chamberlain’s of December?

neville

Even though Howard Schulz and Starbucks are getting into the act with DC baristas scribbling “Come Together” on the cups of upscale coffee, you can hardly expect the Republicans to be moved…or to move…without some real progress from the self-proclaimed progressives.

Can Social Security be indexed to inflation in the form of the Consumer Price Index? Can the age limit for Medicare eligibility be raised from 65-years-old to 67-years-old? More than 60 percent of federal spending is directed toward to the “entitlements” even before the full-impact of Obamacare is felt.

MoveOn.org is threatening primary challengers from the left for any Democrat that votes to reform the entitlements. The Republicans are demanding entitlement spending concessions in order to declare victory. To the Democrats, these demands are seen as leverage…and they are.

The recipe for both sides and their respective media spokespersons to declare victory require raising tax rates on high-income folks, including small businesses (Democrats claim victory), while at the same Social Security is indexed and the eligibility age for Medicare is increased (Republicans claim victory). It sounds simple, but it’s not.

One thing is certain: There will be no deal until the 11th hour on the 365th day of the calendar year. Legislators are akin to bats: They only come out at night.

And if there is no deal?

The sun came up in the Golden State on June 7, 1978, the day after Proposition 13 passed with 65 percent of the vote. Reportedly, the bees were still buzzing and the birds were still chirping.

There was a next-day after the Y2K “crisis” came and was quickly forgotten after January 1, 2000. Talk about much ado about nothing.

And if the leader of the Free World and Congress cannot make amends and allow both sides to declare victory, the ball will still drop in Times Square next Tuesday and the bowl games will still be played on Tuesday.

The nation’s credit rating may plunge yet again. The country may default. The next recession will be on the horizon. These (un)pleasantries may be upon us.

Or we can get down to figuring out how both sides can claim victory.  I saw this practice work in Sacramento in the 1980s. It can work in Washington DC in the teens of the 21st Century. Let “Victory” ring.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnmcquaid/2012/12/26/starbucks-come-together-fiscal-cliff-misfire/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-will-hit-debt-limit-on-dec-31-treasury-department-says/2012/12/26/0e8e3738-4fa2-11e2-839d-d54cc6e49b63_story.html?wpisrc=al_comboPNE_b

http://www.starbucks.com/blog/lets-come-together-america

 

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