• B2B Sales "Incentives"

    The history of personal selling is fraught with ethical dilemmas, and perhaps the most prevalent of these involves accepting gifts from vendors. Although once a common and accepted practice in business-to-business selling, this technique is now widely frowned upon and in the most extreme cases prosecuted.

    Just yesterday, U.S. federal prosecutors accused drug maker Novartis of paying kickbacks to physicians who widely prescribe their drugs. It is surprising that this practice is still going on an dth evidence is embarrasing. Money paid to doctors to speak at "educational programs" resulted in junkets to Hooters, lavish dinners at places like Mobu in New York City, fishing trips off the Florida coast, and trips to salmon fishing lodges in Alaska where "presentations" were given and much learning was had by all.

    Clearly influencing a buyer with gifts is what we call "sales promotion" in marketing, but a line can be crossed if no "educational purpose" is being served, which is what the government has alleged. Kickbacks are illegal. The case will go to court and we will see who is guilty of what, if anything. Either way, look for increased scrutiny as a result of this as regulators attempt to find an indutry pattern. This should be interesting.

    DDS

     

  • BlackBerry and The Art of Late Arrivals

    You have to give Blackberry credit. The former market leader turned industry derelict has guts. After failing to introduce a new product for several years and failing to maintain pace with smartphone technology, the company paid for an expensive Super Bowl ad and launched BlackBerry 10 on an entirely new platform.

    I have one of these devices, and it isn't much differnt than the Android or iPhone systems I've seen, and it seems that as this category matures, the devices will begin to look more similar than different. This is common. the problem for Blackberry is that the company has lost much of its customer base, as loyal users lost patience with the geologic pace of continuous innovation. Another factor that is important to consider is that companys, instead of buying "fleets" of phones for employees began allowing (and eventually expecting) them to use their personal devices. BlackBerry also lost its edge as the most "secure" mobile device, a favorite of President Obama (who now probably has an Apple) and other security buffs.

    The most recent problem for BlackBerry is that this product was actually introduced rather late. The Super Bowl commercial was in early February and the product wasn't available for at least a month in most areas and up to three months in others (including mine). And since old BlackBerry devices were catching fire and expiring at the rate of a whole bunch per day, most folks had no choice but to switch brands. I almost did that and chose to go without a phone for seven weeks instead as a social anthropolgy experiment. It was rather liberating. But I digress. The lesson here is that a company cannot expect to make misstep after misstep and ignore changing market conditions and expect to remain the market leader...let alone survive.

  • Cleaner Cars

    Prior to World War II, environmentalism  was limited to some scattered efforts at saving wildlands and creating national preserves. In the 1950's, however, air pollution had become so bad that there were demonstrations in the streets. All of this pre-dated the highly charged civil rights movement, but although less violent they were nonetheless the beginning of what we would call "sustainability" today.

    Requirements for vehicles, as an example, ars so stringent today in places like the U.S., and the E.U. that some studies indicate that 80% of the pollution caused by vehicles hails from older models that will soon be replaced. This is good news for lungs everywhere, and it is also rather heartening that China is now following the lead of the first world, having established rather strict air quality regulations in the wake of a recent bout with heavy smog.

     

    The future will almost certainly be even cleaner as technologies become more pervasive, much cheaper to implement, and more effective at reducing emissions. The former environmental pariahs of the 1950's have cleaned up their collective act through an ongoing mishmash of ever-evolving government regulatory and self-regulatory guidelines. This is a healthy way for government and industry to interact, and we can see that the end result is a higher quality vehicle without all the nasty environmental side effects.

    DDS

  • Start Making Scents

    So much has been made of the aromatherapy field. Natural scents are good for you and can guide consumer behavior, and indeed much of this has been proven true. So, without fail, savvy marketers have taken heed. Scents matter, and scent marketing is becoming as important as music in what we call the "retail servicescape". Recently, a study of Las Vegas slot machine players revealed that these players spent 45% more money in casinos that used scent marketing versus casinos that did not.  In addition, a provider of scents for senior-oriented facilites and Goodwill locations reports that his business is increasing at a rate of 50% per year. What gives?

    We are all aware of the use by real estate agents of fresh-baked cookies during open houses to elicit the feeling of well-being as well as an association with the home itself, It works. And retailers have been using these fragrances to stimulate the olfactory senses for years in an effort to stimulate purchase behavior. Scent marketing has since become a science. And in a world where we are over-stimulated by sight and sound, perhaps an appeal to our sense of smell might help marketers cut through the marketing clutter. If so, look for enhanced use of this technique in the future.

    -DDS

  • Size Matters

    Apparently, what comes in small packages can be very appealing to consumers. Enter "hand to mouth" eating, a term that describes consumers' habit of snacking throughout the day. And it turns out that when we are given smaller packages of food we eat less than when we are given the same amount of food in one large pack.  Hooray for smaller packages?

    It is also true that unwrapped candies outsell wrapped candies possibly due to recent findings that wrapped candy is most likely to be consumed alone, while the unwrapped variety is consumed by groups and in larger quantities. This explains the recent proliferation of re-sealable, zip-lock bags that insure freshness and "hand-to-mouth" convenience. Expect a further mass infusion of small versions of popular candies in re-sealable bags. And enjoy!

    -DDS

  • The Great Cupcake Fad

    All of a sudden there were shops, kiosks, carts, stores, and even vending machines. originally featured in Sex In The City, it evenntually spawned a TV show (2 Broke Girls). The great cupcake "trend" is turning out to be a "fad". Just a matter of semantics? Not at all. A trend is something long-lived. it is something marketers identify in the Situational Business Analysis and endeavor to address in marketing strategy. A fad, on the other hand, is short-lived. It is something that requires excellent timing if you want to make a buck, but few end up realizing any sustainable financial or market gains.

    Indeed, the past decade has seen a proliferation of outlets for these tasty treats despite the expanding obesity epidemic and the massive social trend toward consuming healthier options. But perhaps the great cupcake frenzy has all been an illusion. It turns out that these treats are not only expensive, but also fabulously unhealthy, and they probably don't need their own dedicated store-front after all. After a fairly good run, demand is now flat and providers, like flagging market leader "Crumbs" are beginning to scale back. Look for this fad to crumble very soon.

    DDS

  • Wrigley's Field

    It is no secret to those of us who are baseball fans that Wrigley Field, home of the highly profitable yet perennially poor performing Chicago Cubs, is a great place to see a game. However, on the heels of the Yankees demolishing the old Yankee Stadium in favor of a shiny new one, many experts speculated that the Cubs would also tear down the old stadium and build a new one. However, other experts pointed to the Anaheim Angels' and Los Angeles Dodgers' recent remodeling of existing facilities. The old Wrigley Field is simply falling apart and is becoming a safety hazard for the fans, so clearly something must be done. What to do?

    Students of sport marketing know that the best way to keep your favorite pro team in your city is to ensure that the facilities are cutting edge. Failure to build a stadium every once in a while can result in the loss of your team, but clearly Cubs fans would never have to worry about their team leaving. Or would they? The problem these days is that cities are not as willing to fund any construction with public funds since most governments are largely broke, and people are more sensitive to tax increases in a down economy. So, private dollars are the word of the day.

    Fear not Cubs fans! Your stadium isn't going anywhere and neither is your team. The Cubs have announced an agreement with the city for a $500 million privately-financed renovation of historic Wrigley Field. And that's quite a bit of money for a renovation. You could easily build a brand new stadium with that kind of cash. New locker rooms, food services, and a nearby hotel and office building are among the many new offerings, and the team's owners even went so far as to guarantee a World Series win if the city approves the plan. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen, but it's nice that the old stadium can get a major facelift instead of being demolished. I wonder how Yankees fans must feel about their historic facility having been razed in favor of something shiny and new. After all, baseball is a game heavily focused on tradition, and change has not always been accepted easily with this kind of crowd. A bit of buyer's remorse perhaps? Or have most fans truly embraced the new facility? We may never really know for sure, but such variables must be factored in when making big decisions that affect a marketer's product.

    -DDS

  • Vuitton Ups The Ante

    Faced with flat sales for the past few years, fashion giant Louis Vuitton has decided on an interesting strategy to help turn things around. They are raising prices. But, you say, shouldn't they lower prices since these goods are highly elastic and therefore higher prices result in less demand? This is true enough in academia, but often in practice things don't always go by the book.

    Vuitton believes the brand has become too widely available and has therefore lost its air of exclusivity. Essentially, there are three main ways to make a product more exclusive. The first is by limiting the number of goods manufactured, as is done with items sold at boutique format stores. These stores often offer only 5 or 6 of an item at a time. Another method would be to limit distribution by controlling the number and type of retailers authorized to sell the products. And the third is by raising prices. So, in addition to raising prices by 13%, the company is also slowing the opening of new outlets.

    This is probably a good strategy. Upscale products are expected to be expensive, and higher prices combined with a more limited distribution model should make the brand a bit more desirable to higher end shoppers. Since loyal customers are traditionally less price sensitive than newer customers, the higher prices shouldn't negatively affect Vuitton's base too greatly. Fewer customers paying higher price points for more exclusive goods looks like a good idea to me. We will know more in a few quarters the degree to which both existing and new consumers accept this new direction.

  • Mired In Mediocre Meat

    When it comes to the culinary arts, in my eyes Denver is not exactly on the radar. Yes, there are a few choice eateries in and around the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, but by and large it is "The Land of The Bland". As a 20 year resident of Boulder and Denver Counties, I was shocked to learn of Boulder's status as a top destination for so-called "foodies". I have decided that this 'foodie" crowd can be satisfied with just about any $24 dish as long as its encrusted and drizzled with aoli, and as a result I always look forward to visiting places where they do "the basics" properly. Where in Denver can you get a a killer tuna salad sandwich, piled high on egg bread with a leaf of crispy lettuce? Where is the best deli? How about a perfect (and I mean a PERFECT) prime rib? Even the Mexican food here on the high plains lacks the pinache found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. There are some good steaks, but really good prime beef comes from just a few places in the Midwest, and just about every city has at least a few good steakhouses. I have yet to be impressed by anything.

    Enter Good Times (the poor man's In-N-Out Burger), in its latest effort to foist mediocre beef patties on an less-than-discerning public. The purveyor of "pretty good" burgers has entered into a series of agreements with Bad Daddy's International of Charlotte, North Carolina, to operate a series of Bad Daddy's burger locations in Colorado. Is this a yummy proposition? In fact, Good Times has described Bad Daddy's as "featuring gourmet burgers, chopped salads and appetizers, and a full bar with a selection of craft beers." Perhaps they have never heard of Colorado-based Red Robin and a bunch of other middle-of-the-road burger barns?

    Despite the impressive and ridiculously gimmicky and unbiteable photo above, pardon me for being underwhelmed by yet another opportunity for me to ingest yet another uninspired $10 burger marketed as gourmet. A good burger is comprised of fresh Upper 2/3 Choice beef (never frozen), which is freshly ground daily and run through the grinder at least two times before seasoning. You gotta start there, and I doubt from looking at their website that there will be any fresh grinding among these purveyors of gourmet cuisine any time soon, unlike In-N-Out Burger, a company that may hopefully and mercifully expand to Colorado in the next year or two (as has been rumored). A yummy proposition indeed.

    In the meantime, it's more of the same here in Blandseville. Still searching for the stacked tuna sandwich done right, and an alternative to the surprisingly authentic Jason's Deli chain. More pub burgers with ridiculous brand names like Smashburger, HBurger, larkburger, BurgerMax, et al. ? Can I get a Double Double with cheese? Make that two.

    DDS

  • Doing Well By Doing Good

    We have all heard of sustainability and its synonym "green business", and we know that some for-profit companies engage in programs to reduce their negative impact on people and the natural environment. We are also aware that there are 1.5 million not-for-profit businesses in the U.S. alone, all of which have their own unique mission. A person who is very passionate about a particular cause should probably work for a not-for-profit, and someone who is somewhat less passionate about a cause can work for a for-profit that embraces the cause as a matter of corporate social responsibility. But now there is a third option, the "Benefit Corporation".

    Only about a dozen states recognize this new type of structure. Think of the benefit corporation as a hybrid, part non-profit and part for-profit. This structure allows the company to be more engaged in social and environmental initiatives and less concerned about profits than most traditional organizations, but the organization is still a for-profit entity. As long as company initiatives are objectives-based, the state in question will approve the new classification. Clearly this classification will resonate with the values-based consumer, a group that has been driving this whole green trend for the past 40 years or so, since the benefit corporation is as concerned about its sustainability goals as it is concerned about profit.

    Obviously the opportunities for greenwashing are many and states such as California and New York probably do a poor job of regulating the authenticity of these businesses, but there are over a dozen other states that are considering enacting the legislation. This new classification is a good thing all the way around, although I might not personally invest in such an entity expecting huge returns on investment. Once a company has this status, it will be easier to for all stakeholders (not just the FTC) to regulate the social and environmental claims the company makes. In essence, sustainability initiatives "officially" become a part of the core mission and operational strategy, and the companies can now be held accountable for their actions (and inactions). This trend will help consumers better assess which companies have values most like their own so that they can "vote with their dollars". Once the majority of states have enacted this legislation, I would expect the others to follow.

    -DDS

  • The Fermented Flavor Fad?

    Mmmmmm......sriracha-flavored Lay's Potato Chips. Or maybe not so yummy. Either way, welcome to the age of fermented foods, featuring tangy, pungent (and often controversial) flavors that are appearing in some very common foods. Heinz now has balsamic vinegar infused ketchup (another fermented flavor), and there is quite a bit of kimchi around these days. Grocery aisles are filled with products featuring chipotle, spicy seaweed, kefir, and kombucha, but don't forget the craft brew category, which features very strong flavors and has burgeoned. What is driving this move toward bitter, tart, and sour flavors?

    Food executives are betting that American consumer tastes are shifting, and have introduced a number of products to meet the anticipated demand. Clearly there are more people from more different places around here these days, and therefore we are all exposed to more different kinds of cool foods. Think of how Mexican cuisine has proliferated throughout the land in the past 30 years. But there are different forces at work. Baby boomers, who are now between the ages of 49 and 69 are losing their ability to taste. This is what happens naturally as we age, and the sheer numbers of these oldsters can help drive the need for more radical tasting foods. You know, so they can taste them!

    Wait! There's more. It turns out that the fermentation process, which produces these flavors, also has probiotic qualities for digestive health and doesn't generally have many calories for the waistline. In addition, there is evidence that the Millennials (also known as Generation Y), a group whose oldest members are turning 33, really like this stuff. It all started in the 1800's with pickles, and then later sourdough and tabasco, but now things are getting downright exotic. I can't wait to get my hands on some kimchi-vinegar-chipotle Doritos when they come out.

    DDS

  • McService

    When in doubt, smile. That's what the big wigs at McDonald's corporate headquarters are saying these days after yet another quarter of lackluster results. Lower earnings usually signify that a change must be made, and now the fast food giant has decided to focus on an old stand-by...customer service. Improving service levels may sound easy, but for McDonald's it's quite a bit more difficult than it appears.

    The reason lies in the business model. McDonald's relies on a franchise model wherein independent owners in essence "license" the brand rights and operate independent stores under very strict guidelines. These stores represent 90% of McDonald's total here in the U.S., so when there is a store-wide problem, it is clearly more difficult to get independent owners to cooperate than it is the general managers of corporate owned stores who are salaried and don't have as much of a vested interest in the business.

    Recent efforts have been focused on improving facilities and cleanliness, and these initiatives have largely been successful, but improving service may prove to be a bit more daunting. The fact remains that one in five customer complaints are related to employee "friendliness" and this beef ranked as the top customer complaint overall, so it should be obvious why the company wants to focus improvement efforts in this area. The big question will be how to implement whatever it is the big brains in Illinois come up with.

     

    Boosting staffing at peak hours will certainly help, and I firmly believe that more technology will ultimately come into play to eliminate the unpredictable human element. For now, the company is rolling out a "dual point" ordering system that  involves one station where the customer places the order and another station for pick up. Theoretically, there will be fewer bunch ups at the counter, and a "runner" will fetch items like condiments, cups, and other accessories. The employee at the pick-up station is supposed to thanks customers and ask them to come again. It sounds easy, but let's see what happens.

    DDS

  • Innovation Is A Killer

    Overusing laundry detergent has been a consumer problem for quite some time, and the introduction of increasingly more concentrated products as well as more efficiant washers have made the problem even worse. A few years back, market mavens and opinion leaders wisely advised to clear out your washing machine by running it with water only for two iterations in order to clean out the machine detergent build up that can make laundry smell funky. These experts also advised, again wisely, to use much less than what was directed by the marketer on the package.

    All of this unnecessary product usage didn't faze detergent manufacturers much, since more usage meant more volume, and that meant more sales and profits. But nothing lasts forever in a free market environment, and now the industry has shifted due to an innovation that did not arise as a substitute, but as a new way to use the product. By now we are all familiar with the highly efficient and ultra expensive, unit-dose pod introduced by Proctor & Gamble's Tide and a few other brands.

    So what's the problem? The industry has actually contracted over the past year resulting in lower sales overall and many observers are blaming P&G. This illustrates the fact that innovation doesn't always expand the pie for manufacturers and retailers, and can sometimes result in unintended consequences or in some cases outright "creative destruction" of an entire product category. In this case what is good for consumers has not been good for the industry, but the latter must necessarily adapt to changing tastes and technologies.

    And what of Tide? it now has 75% of a new market that is cannibalizing the sales of products featuring older delivery systems such as powders and liquids. Hooray for free market competition!

    -DDS

  • Arrogance In Mandarin

    Count me among the shocked when Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook apologized to the entire Chinese Republic after complaints about Apple's customer service. Warranty policies and overall arrogance were cited among many things the Chinese would no longer  tolerate. Why shocked? Well, when has Apple ever apologized for anything or ever addressed deficiencies in anything it ever does? Maybe it's happened once or twice, but I would venture to guess that the vast majority of people would agree with me and would readily characterize the company as somewhat arrogant.

    So why is China so important? I can give you two billion obvious reasons, but one major reason stands out from the rest. Apple has struggled to maintain market share here in the U.S., and therefore must look internationally for growth. Both the size of the Chinese market and the rising levels of incomes in that nation are attractive reasons to address that area. Add into the mix the fact that Apple makes most of its products in the region, and you have made a pretty good case for market development..

    Apologizing for poor performance is an excellent move by a company that has seldom, if ever, seen the need to admit failure. Apparently, Apple feels that Chinese culture is rather less tolerant of arrogance than is North American culture since I have not yet been issued an apology for my 2001 iMac or the fact that my students' presentations created on Apple products still do not translate well onto other devices. I'm waiting.

    DDS

  • A Captive Audience

    Long lines at security checkpoints are a matter of course for travelers. And what better way to take advantage of this captive, and rather bored audience is to provide something for them to look at. Perhaps even something paid for by marketers. Maybe advertising would be appropriate.

    All kidding aside, Denver International Airport (DIA) has become a national leader in providing such opportunities having recently installed some of the largest digital displays in the country. With more than 50 million passengers streaming past DIA's screens annually, the airport expects to generate almost $100 million in revenue over the duration of the 10-year agreement with Clear Channel Airports, the owners and operators of the devices. Each 10 second ad sells for $32,000 per month-long spot. That's a lot of eyeballs for not a lot of money, which is what marketers would call a low CPM (cost-per-thousand).

    A captive audience is a good thing as long as you don't annoy the audience, which can be easy to do if displays are too loud, too bright, or provide uninteresting or annoying content. As such, content could include art and entertainment along with the adverts. I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

    DDS

  • Facebook's Unlikely Ally

    Those of us who have been watching Facebook's rather tardy efforts to address the mobile advertising market were very interested to hear the company's most recent announcement. Last week, the social media giant released an app for smartphones that run on Google's Android system. Industry observers will note that the two companies pretty much hate each other, and it appears that Facebook just upped the ante in the quest for eyeballs.

    The product, known as a "launcher app", takes over the home screen of the Android-run phone and makes Facebook the home screen. Other apps like YouTube and Google Maps (or Google + if you are one of the five users of that service) are automatically relegated to a secondary screen. Since both companies operate by selling advertising space, each is fighting to be the "home page" of sorts for users. The revenue models are different as Google collects a fee in the form of paid clicks from search activities, and Facebook is more like an airport with a captive audience looking at fancy billboards. Since everyone is using mobile phones to search, Google should still get a lot of that ad revenue. The question is to what degree Facebook can siphon some of this heavy traffic. Clearly, users are updating their pages all day long, and mobile devices are a key element here. And the rapid adoption of the tablet will change everything, which is something Facebook has anticipated. The app will also eventually work on Android tablets.

    Will Google in a fit of rage decide to somehow lock Facebook out of its open-source operating system? Will Android become less "open source" as a result of this sort of move? Will the two companies learn to get along and enjoy a little of what I like to call "co-opetition? Stay tuned.

    DDS

  • Heavy Pricing

    Over the past few years there has been much criticism about the overall changes in airline pricing. The one-size-fits all pricing model that dominated the first 75 years of air travel gave way to a more "a-la-carte" model where consumers pay a base price and then add so-called extras (such as luggage) to reach a final price point. This pricing approach is rather easy for airlines to manage with steady technological advancements, and generally results in the flier paying a higher overall price. It also makes it more difficult for consumers to compare prices as the "extras" are all priced differently depending on the airline. And companies such as Southwest, the lone major airline using the old structure, is put at a competitive disadvantage because the company's baseline price includes extras and is therefore higher than the rest of the field.

    Enter Samoa Air, a relatively new entrant and operator of tiny propellor-powered planes that moves passengers from island to island. On such a route weight really matters, and Samoans are some of the heaviest people on the planet. Fifty-six percent of the population is obese (versus 32 percent in the US and 6 percent in China), and so then these heavier passengers require more fuel, which raises costs. The solution? Make passengers pay by the pound (or if you are metrically inclined, the kilogram) instead of by the person. Families with small children will love this new rule, but folks who carry around those 50 extra pounds may not. If successful, will this pay-by-weight system be adopted by more airlines? Would this work on a United flight from Cleveland to Jackson, Mississippi? Will there be legal challenges alleging discrimination? I will be watching this one very closely, and we will see if a small airline can set some type of precedent for an entire industry.

    -DDS

  • MLB Wants You To Pay More

     

    Major League Baseball has announced a plan to launch a mobile App that allows fans to upgrade their seats...during the game! It's basically the same model that the airline industry has been using for several years wherein you can upgrade at the kiosk if there are seats available. And why not? The league (and other leagues) has already embraced "dynamic ticket pricing" where the ticket price fluctuates as a function of supply and demand (mostly supply, unfortunately), and any opportunity to put a butt in a higher end seat (a technique known as "upselling") should be exploited.

    MLB is testing the app in Atlanta, Arizona, Minnesota, and Oakland this season and if it is deemed to be successful, expect it to be instituted throughout the league next year. And would it be too presumptive to assume that this model could be used in every professional league? What about colleges and universities? Technology continues to change the way consumers behave and companies respond. Keeping up with it all is a daunting task for any marketer.

    -DDS

  • Walmart Tests Self Checkout

    We all know that the idea of self-checkout has been met with mixed results in the marketplace. Scanning and bagging one's own groceries is not for everyone, but does that mean that a more efficient form of self-checkout might not be more consumer-friendly and therefore more effective? Walmart is market testing its own program, called Scan & Go, as we speak. The app allows shoppers to scan bar codes using smartphones and then use self checkout lines to pay where the scans are digitally transfered to a payment screen. It really isn't that much different than what already exists, since one is still scanning and bagging one's own groceries; but it also offers coupons and other perks to its users, thus serving as a loyalty card, which Walmart currently doesn't have. So far, the test has worked in two stores, so the company decided to expand the test to 200 stores.

    Walmart would surely like to discover inexpensive ways to reach individual customers, and it certainly benefits financially from having fewer employees, so this program can be a real slam dunk. But is the market ready for this? The vast majority of people do not yet have smartphones, so that's clearly a drawback, but this is changing quickly. Younger consumers obviously embrace technology more readily than do older consumers, so it may all just be a matter of time. At least Walmart has decided to test market this program before rolling it out on a larger scale, something that JC Penney's recently failed to do.

    DDS

  • Boston Market's Barbequed Bet

    Bring on the ribs! After many years of hearing almost nothing from this Colorado-based fast casual restaurant, consumers can rejoice in the company's biggest food launch in six years. Ribs slathered in sauce. Boston Market, which changed its name from "Boston Chicken" several years ago to accomodate the introduction of non-chicken offerings, is betting that this product will bring new customers into its still-struggling stores.

    The rationale behind the product introduction is this. Consumers aren't comfortable making ribs at home, and thus this is a product category that affords opportunity for food service providers. It's worked for Chili's, a chain that has virtually positioned its entire brand on baby back ribs. Will it work for Boston Market's 471 nation-wide locations? Well, it helps that the company will be the only chain selling St. Louis-style ribs, but will that be a meaningful enough point of differentiation? St. Louis-style ribs are meatier and jucier than the baby backs you may be used to from Chili's, and are prepared by first smoking the meat, then baking it, and then slathering it with its own brand of barbeque sauce. Thus they are perhaps yummier. Will consumers care?

    Clearly Boston Market is nowhere near the market force they were over a decade ago, but still the company has survived both hypercompetition and a lingering bad economy. These ribs may be just the thing it needs to get back on the high growth track, but much will depend on the effectiveness of the national advertising campaign that will inevitably roll out. Will they compare their ribs to Chili's? Will they use another creative appeal? Stay tuned.

    -DDS