Monthly Archives: October 2008

Newspapers and the Internet

In 2009, the The Christian Science Monitor will become the first nationally circulated newspaper to replace its daily print edition with its website; the 100 year-old news organization will also offer subscribers weekly print and daily e-mail editions.

Just one more sign that we are in a rapidly-changing information world being dominated by the Web.


I love trendwatching.  One of my sources is  Check out there briefings here.  And in case you are wondering, here are some of the trends they are watching:

PERKONOMICS: A new breed of perks and privileges, added to brands regular offerings, is satisfying consumers ever-growing desire for novel forms of status and/or convenience, across all industries. The benefits for brands are equally promising: from escaping commoditization, to showing empathy in turbulent times. One to have firmly on your radar in the months to come.

INNOVATION AVALANCHE: There’s more ‘innovation’ happening than ever before. New brands, new niches, new concepts, new products, new services, and new experiences are flooding an equally fast expanding number of markets. Here are 41 new business ideas begging to be copied…

ECO-IONIC: At the heart of ECO-ICONIC is a status shift; many consumers are eager to flaunt their green behavior and possessions because there are now millions of other consumers who are actually impressed by green lifestyles.

FREE LOVE: the ongoing rise in free, valuable stuff that’s available to consumers online and offline. From AirAsia tickets to Wikipedia, and from diapers to music. Blame an all out war for consumers’ ever-scarcer attention, the post-scarcity dynamics of the online world, the avalanche of free user generated content, and an emerging swapping and recycling culture.

Mistakes Marketers Make

The CEO is not too happy when he or she looks a sales report showing only a minimal increase in sales at the same time the big, expensive marketing campaign produced a prestigious award for the advertising company.  It could be that the advertising agency relied on conventional wisdom to try to understand today’s consumer.  An article in the Monday, October 20, 2008 edition of the Wall Street Journal by David Corkindale, professor of marketing management at the University of South Australia’s International Graduate School of Business discusses “Mistakes Marketers Make.”  The professor offers seven pieces of conventional wisdom – and why they are wrong.  This article should provoke much discussion at the staff meetings in advertising and marketing firms.

Conventional Wisdom  # 1 – Companies need to find and target the market segments for their brands.
Why it’s wrong –  Market segments at the brand level don’t exist; especially in repertoire markets, where consumers typically buy several brands regularly.

Conventional Wisdom  #  2 – Loyal customers are the most valuable.
Why it’s wrong – In repertoire markets, totally loyal buyers of a brand tend to make up only 10 percent of all buyers.

Conventional Wisdom # 3 – There are several way to promote long-term growth of a brand – increasing the customer base, increasing the loyalty of customers and increasing the frequency of their purchases.
Why it’s wrong –  The only way to achieve lasting growth in sales is to increase the customer base.

Conventional Wisdom # 4 –  To succeed in the market, a company needs to differentiate its products from those of its competitors.
Why it’s wrong – Although sometimes true, it’s not always true.  What most customers want is not more differentiation but products and services that are simply better.

Conventional Wisdom # 5 – Promotions bring in extra, worthwhile business.
Why it’s wrong – Promotions can be good for things like unloading stock, but promotions mostly attract existing customers.  You give a discount to people who would have bought anyway.

Conventional Wisdom #  6 – The competitor that’s best at marketing the four P’s – product, price, place and promotion – will come out ahead.
Why it’s wrong – Half right.  The other half of any consumer product is the strength of the brand.

Conventional Wisdom # 7 – Marketing is all about hunting and capturing clients.
Why it’s wrong – Not anymore. Marketing is about the company being the prey.  The Internet allows consumers to hunt; the role of marketing is to make certain that the company’s products and services are found.

A glimpse at rural America

Forty-two Mississippi counties lost population during the period 2000-2003.  In other words, just over half the counties lost population. Nationally, 13 states had at least 50% of their counties lose population. The highest percentage was found in North Dakota, where 92% of the state’s counties lost population. The second highest percentage was in Nebraska, at 71%. Looking at the states that touch Mississippi, Arkansas had 49% of its counties lose population, Alabama had 64%, Tennessee had 16% and Louisiana had 56%. Please keep in mind that Mississippi and each of its border states had overall population increases. It’s just that the population shifted around inside the states.

John Mayo of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and a frequent blogger, recently provided an interesting perspective on how changing dempgraphics affect one bastion of rural communities – the church.  With his permission, his comments appear below.

Twenty-four years have passed since I last attended Mass at St. Mary’s in Shelby, Mississippi. My first wife Dianne (nee’ Belenchia) and I were the first couple or at least among the first to be married in what was then the new Church in 1970.

St. Mary’s, along with St. George’s Episcopal in Clarksdale, are two of the most beautiful churches I have been to.  They are small and simply designed for worship.

In the 70’s, perhaps 300-350 people or more on occasion attended St. Mary’s.   Dianne’s  family with seven children would often split up if we arrived late. Most Sundays after our daughters were born we attended Mass with them, Dianne’s parents, and her brothers and sisters.   Then it was over to the house two blocks away for some rigatoni

I did not know her then, but at the time, Agnes, my future wife and her growing family, also attended St. Mary’s.

Attending Mass was an affair in many ways.  A close knit Italian community made the Mass both a celebration of worship and family.

Today, surrounding the altar in a semi-circle of six pews deep, each capable of holding 50 or more, there were 45 persons at Mass.  Once having its own priest, Shelby now shares Fr. John Vallor with Clarksdale and Mound Bayou and has Mass every other Sunday.

St. Mary’s in Shelby is a microcosm of small town America.  I counted seven children under 10, four were my grandchildren.  There was another boy under 15, a couple men in their early 20’s and the rest were, well, far older than 20.

I know it’s an understatement to say we’re losing our close knit, small town characteristics, but I was a bit saddened and taken aback to see what was once a bustling family church of active young adults, their families, grandparents, and even great grandparents come to a dwindling congregation attending Mass in their home church every other week.

The upside is an industry has grown through this phenomena of disappearing small towns.  At least in the African-American families, in Clarksdale we see hundreds of people coming to town every summer to attend dozens of family reunions.  Every year the same family has a reunion.  And, while we are no doubt grateful for the economic impact they have, I am heartened that the young ones come back to see their ancestral homes and attend their “home” churches.

You could tell when Agnes and I attended Mass this morning that many were glad to see us again.  Well, ok, at least they were glad to see Agnes.  Seemed like half of  those at Mass hugged Agnes and caught up on old times.

Shelby, itself, appears to be a very clean town.  I noticed a couple of houses being torn down and vacant lots were well kept.  Old highway 61 through town looked good.

If we are not careful, one day the last person will either turn the lights out as they leave “Small Town, USA”; or, a couple of the last people will organize annual homecomings and at least once a year, bring people back to “see where you’re grandparents once lived.”

Starkville ranked as best city for sports in Mississippi

Sporting News‘ Best Sports City rankings, which look at the 12 months from roughly October 2007 to October 2008, are based on point values assigned to various categories, including but not limited to won-lost records, postseason appearances, applicable power ratings, number of teams and attendance, according to Sporting News.  Boston was ranked as the Best Sports City in the nation on a list of 400.  So which Mississippi cities made the list?  Coming in at 69 was Starkville; Oxford was 97; and Hattiesburg was 107.

See the complete list here.

Beware the foreclosure man

I once met a man who made his living off foreclosed properties‭ ‬.‭  ‬It was in the eighties and real estate interest rates were skyrocketing‭ ‬.‭  ‬He disappeared for a while after interest rates went down,‭ ‬but now he,‭ ‬or someone with his traits and characteristics,‭ ‬is back.‭

The foreclosure man awakens each day and immediately checks the newspaper.‭  ‬He could care less about the news‭; ‬he goes straight for the legal notices‭ ‬.‭  T‬here he finds the foreclosure section and makes a list of houses in certain neighborhoods.‭  ‬Some of these houses he will want to buy and others he will want to negotiate with the owner.‭  ‬His goal is to find home owners who are behind on their payments,‭ ‬but have a lot of equity in their property‭ ‬.‭  ‬He especially is in search of owners who are desperate‭ ‬.‭  ‬He knows that desperate owners have only two choices‭ – ‬lose their home to a lender or negotiate with the foreclosure man to keep their home.‭

Mississippi Tax Study Commission Report …

… is available online at


Many communities struggle with the issue of how to keep young people from leaving the area when they reach adulthood.  Although most young adults probably leave in search of better jobs, some leave because they don’t appreciate their community or realize the benefits and amenities that their own backyards provide.

The Community Foundation of East Mississippi recently engaged in a project to listen to the voice of youth in the community by asking students to write essays about how they see the community.  There were 147 essays submitted.  I suspect that this project will result in some of the youth participants thinking about their community in a different way – and deciding that it is a pretty good place to live as an adult.

Early Childhood Education

This morning I had the opportunity to attend the Jackson stop of the Mississippi Economic Council‘s Marathon Tour, Building Our Competitive Future.  Plenty of good stuff about economic development, business climate, etc. One of the subjects happened to be Early Childhood Education. State Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds told the business audience that this was a subject of importance to them because today’s children are tomorrow’s workforce and consumers.

Afterwards, I went to my office, checked my e-mail and found a message from an organization whose CEO has become an early childhood advocate.  Quite a coincidence.  Just for fun, read the quote below and guess which buiness leader made the statement.  Was it:

John Donahoe
President and CEO
eBay, Inc.

Dennis P. Lockhart
President and Chief Executive Officer
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; or

Howard Schultz
President and CEO

Here’s a quote from a speech he made in September:

“…  In my varied career, I’ve spent more time in business than any other sector. As a new zealot for early education, I favor the direct, pragmatic, impatient-with-rhetoric language of my business colleagues. In that spirit, let me put forth five propositions:

1. Kindergarten is too late. At least it’s too late for many children, especially those from disadvantaged households. Children who do not arrive at kindergarten ready for the structure and content of the formal education process are behind on day one. Many will never catch up.
2. Early education generates high returns. Return on investment can be calculated, and that return is competitive with or superior to many discrete projects typically justified in economic development terms.
3. We (society) can pay now or pay later. Failure in school forces channeling of resources—tax dollars, philanthropy, and United Way funding—to treatment of social problems that are the consequence of that failure in school. Failure in school unquestionably contributes to the appalling statistics we see on phenomena such as school dropouts, teen pregnancy, crime, and incarceration.
4. Success requires public and private leadership. For the foreseeable future, leadership action and effective delivery of early education will require a hybrid model. Achieving quality in early education requires concerted efforts on the part of the public education system, nonprofit agencies, for-profit providers, churches, and a diverse funding community. Government financing and other support are likely to be necessary, but not sufficient. Business leadership—as is so often the case at the state and community level—is critical to fill gaps and gain traction.
5. Finally—my fifth argument—the train is leaving the station. Many states and communities across the country are moving forward on this issue, and momentum for early childhood education is building. There is a growing recognition that this is an idea whose time has come and progressive communities ought to and are getting on with it. With regard to international economic competition, the train has left the station. Many of our competitors are well ahead.”
The answer is….

…  Dennis P. Lockhart
President and Chief Executive Officer
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Click here to read his entire speech.

National Defense Spending’s Impact on Economy

National defense spending has grown to five percent of GDP, which is now more than residential construction, according to an article in the The Main Street Economst, published by the Kansas City Fed. The article discusses the impact and long-term outlook of defense spending on rural economies.  I highly recommend this article if you have an interest in rural economies or defense spending.