in the spotlight

Pope Francis, Time's New "Person Of The Year," Is Rebranding Catholicism

Posted by Mark J. Miller on December 11, 2013 12:02 PM

The Catholic Church has gone through a rough period since the 2005 death of beloved Pope John Paul II, defending itself against revelations of massive sexual-abuse cover-up and financial mismanagement. For everyday Catholics, it was difficult to see their own religion disparaged and find themselves so detached from what had become of it.

Then came along Pope Francis, who has just been named Time’s Person of the Year. Francis was elected in March following Pope Benedict's surprise resignation, and immediately started shaking things up by choosing not to move into the opulent apartment set aside for popes, the Apostolic Palace, and instead stay in the Vatican’s guest house. He’s the first pope to not live in the papal apartments since Pope Pius X, who reigned from 1903-1914. That was just the start for Francis. Continue reading...

in the spotlight

LAPD Confidential: Dorner Case Evokes Hollywood's Perpetual Police Dramas

Posted by Abe Sauer on February 13, 2013 02:12 PM

Just as infamous murder suspect and police officer Chris Doran was scribbling his now famous manifesto against the Los Angeles Police Department, Hollywood was releasing Gangster Squad. About the LAPD's battle against crime boss Mickey Cohen, the film is just the latest in La-LA land's collection that put a sheen on the efficacy of the department's iconic corruption.

Ironically enough, the real life "gangster squad" that the film was based on was formed by the LAPD in 1946 to preserve Los Angeles' image as, in Gangster Squad author Paul Liberman's own words, "a sun-washed Garden of Eden." Unfortunately, it's the exact same LAPD that has been—more than any other American city's authorities—a scourge to the image of its home. A locked-in vicious cycle of LAPD mythologizing was maybe best captured in yesterday's image of the LA Times homepage announcing the Dorner shootout alongside numerous banner ads for the "raw" LAPD TV drama Southland.

"No city's image is more closely bound to its police department than Los Angeles to the LAPD," John Buntin, author of L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City, told brandchannelBuntin's book chronicles the LAPD of the Mickey Cohen "Gangster Squad" years and its transition to its Dragnet era and eventually the disaster of the Watts riots.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

Tide Pods, Plans for China Buoy Optimism at Procter & Gamble

Posted by Dale Buss on January 25, 2013 10:59 AM

After spending the first couple years of his tenure falling short of expectations, Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald now sees a big ray of sunshine — in the form of P&G's second fiscal quarter earnings report. Earnings and sales were well ahead of forecast thanks to the chief's recent aggressive actions to boost brand performance and cut costs.

Consumer and retailer response to new products such as Tide Pods and a high-price version of Pantene shampoo has been promising. P&G said it held or grew market share in businesses representing nearly 50 percent of sales in the October-December quarter. In the U.S. market, it met that pattern in businesses representing nearly 60 percent of sales.

The case of Tide Pods, an important new product, is an example of what P&G is aiming for. Marketing has been able to persuade some customers, even cost-conscious ones, that the premium-priced innovation, which is coming up on its first anniversary, is worth the higher outlay.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

No Waze Out for Apple

Posted by Shirley Brady on January 4, 2013 03:43 PM

In the wake of Apple's mapping woes and Google Mapsgate, the social web blew up at reports this week that Apple was looking to buy Waze, an Israeli start up's mobile app that helps drivers plot better routes via real-time traffic reports. Those talks, however, ended over the failure to agree on a price, as The Next Web has confirmed. Over to you, Google?

in the spotlight

Gun Fans Also Cheer Sale of Bushmaster Rifle Parent Freedom Group

Posted by Abe Sauer on December 19, 2012 10:11 AM

"The Freedom Group came in and consolidated production and just alienated everybody because they bought up these great brands and then destroyed them... it is fu***ng up some of the best brands in the gun world."

Robert Farago, publisher of the popular gun blog The Truth About Guns, told me that about the Freedom Group a month before the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, involving its gun brand Bushmaster. It was a month and a few days before Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell its 95 percent stake in Freedom Group, citing the school tragedy which had, in its words, "raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level."

Investors saw Cerberus' move as a surprise (an added wrinkle: the father of the founder of Cerberus lives in Newtown) despite the raging gun debate. But many in the gun owning community saw it as a ray of hope. Finally, maybe, some classic gun brands would be free from an umbrella group that, in the opinion of many, was destroying untold brand value.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

America's Gun Debate: A Twitter Replay, From Bushmaster to Obama to NRA Moves

Posted by Shirley Brady on December 18, 2012 06:17 PM

After clamming up in the wake of the Newton, Connecticut, school shooting massacre on Friday, the National Rifle Association finally broke its silence today to announce a press conference on Friday, and released a statement that read in part:

The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

The debate on America's out of control spiral on gun vioence dominated the news cycle and social media today, as more young victims of the Sandy Hook shooting were buried. A few turns in the events as the debate played out on Twitter leading up to the NRA's statement:Continue reading...

in the spotlight

Newtown Massacre Stirs Cries for Gun Control, Pressure on Politicians and Brands

Posted by Dale Buss on December 17, 2012 07:14 PM

Newtown, Conn., and its survivors have only begun to cope with the aftermath of the rampage that ended in the deaths of 28 people, 20 of them first-graders, on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

But it didn't take long for gun-control advocates to urge President Obama and all politicians, not just Democrats, to take a stand and rev up action for tighter controls on the types of weapons used by the shooter, Adam Lanza, as polls show that the majority of Americans favor gun control laws.

Those measures are shining a spotlight on "Big Gun" brands such as Smith & Wesson and owners of gun makers such as Cerberus, whose privately held Freedom Group is a "firearms conglomerate" (as Fortune puts it) that produces the Bushmaster .223 assault weapon (and a "man card" campaign raising hackles across the web) used by Lanza, along with his mother's Glock and Sig Sauer handguns.

Cerberus is taken to task in Eliot Spitzer's Slate column today, because the private-equity firm has acquired the find-it-at-Walmart Bushmaster and other top gun brands over the past several years. Meanwhile, investors nervous about the prospects for gun freedoms have been sending down the stocks of Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger. Even a hunting-gear retailer, Cabela's, has been caught in an investment downdraft since the Newtown massacre, Investor's Business Daily reports.

Naturally coming under the spotlight once again is Sig Sauer and Glock, an Austria-based arms manufacturer with a U.S. office in Georgia. Its semiautomatic pistols have been used in some of the biggest recent mass murders including the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

Tim Cook Polishes Legacy and Apple With US Jobs (and Steve Jobs) Promise

Posted by Mark J. Miller on December 6, 2012 04:22 PM

Outsourcing jobs has been a topic that kept coming up over and over again during the battle for the US presidency this year. And for good reason. American companies have been moving their manufacturing jobs elsewhere for eons, ia fact that wasn’t exactly helping the nation’s economy recover from a bruising recession.

Apple, which has manufactured most of its products in Asia for years, is doing an about-face following its bruising over labor rights at its Foxconn manufacturing plant in China. Now CEO Tim Cook tells NBC's Brian Williams (in an interview that will air Thursday night) that Apple will manufacture an entire Mac line in the US starting next year. 

“I don’t think we have a responsibility to create a certain kind of job,” Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek in its new cover story on his first year helming the brand. “But I think we do have a responsibility to create jobs.” Cook estimates that the company has created more than 600,000 jobs in America since 1980 (WSJ.com does a nice job summarizing Apple's US manufacturing history.)

Perhaps this is a way for Cook and Apple to give a little back to America. The New York Times reports that Apple is planning to shell out $100 million for American manufacturing next year. It currently manufactures some parts of the iPhone in the US. It's also, of course, a way for Cook to carve his own brand and legacy apart from his predecessor and old boss, Steve Jobs.

“My own personal philosophy on giving is best stated in a [John F.] Kennedy quote, 'To whom much is given, much is expected,’” Cook told Businessweek. “I have always believed this. Always. I think that Apple and Apple’s employees have done enormous good and can do even more.”Continue reading...

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