retail

Walmart Plans to Shore Up Stores, E-Commerce—and Take Action on Wages

Posted by Dale Buss on October 17, 2014 01:01 PM

For Walmart and its relatively new CEO Doug McMillon, the future is about the challenge of managing the gaps. The gap between $15 an hour and $7.25 an hour in wages. The gap between Amazon's commanding presence in e-commerce and Walmart's footprint so far. And even the gap between the company's performance and McMillon's own expectations.

"There is no excuse for us not to be doing better," McMillon told investors this week at a meeting in Walmart's home state of Arkansas, as Walmart cut its forecast for sales growth in the current fiscal year to between 2 percent and 3 percent from a prevoius range of 3 percent to 5 percent.

In outlining his growth strategy to the investment community McMillon stated, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, "I really believe our future is bright. There are so many ideas percolating around."

One of them involves accelerating the company's investments in e-commerce. But many challenges keep surfacing as well.Continue reading...

brands under fire

LEGO Protests Go Global as Greenpeace Targets Shell Partnership

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 29, 2014 02:19 PM

As part of an ongoing effort by Greenpeace, more than 50 children protested today outside Shell’s London headquarters, building three massive LEGO Arctic animals while Greenpeace volunteers and parents looked on. The peaceful protest, which has spread to the US, is in response to LEGO's partnership with Shell on branded block sets that have been sold at gas stations in 33 countries—one of the largest promotional lines that LEGO has ever produced.

Since 2012, Shell's Arctic program has been under fire by environmental NGOs and regulators as its two drilling vessels, Noble Discoverer and Kulluk, both failed to meet pollution limits set by the US Clean Air Act. Nearly 700,000 people have signed a Greenpeace petition calling on the toy maker to end its deal with the oil brand. 

“Children are leading this playful protest because global warming, and what’s happening in the Arctic, is an enormous threat facing all children,” said Elena Polisano, Arctic campaigner at Greenpeace, in a press release. “LEGO is adored by kids, and it has a responsibility to look out for them. It’s unethical for LEGO to partner with any company that’s threatening kids’ future. LEGO’s endorsement of Shell is incredibly damaging because it helps Shell hide its role in the threat to the Arctic.”Continue reading...

brand strategy

In Vermont, Unilever Fights—and Ben & Jerry's Funds—Anti-GMO Activism

Posted by Dale Buss on June 16, 2014 01:51 PM

Ben & Jerry’s may be taking hits from fans over recent recipe changes, but the original foodie ice-cream brand is sticking with its progressive DNA and eliminating some 110 sources of ingredients that contain GMOs. The move echoes the ambitions of the brand's home state, Vermont, which recently became the first US state to mandate GMO labeling.

The move by Ben & Jerry’s also puts the Unilever-owned brand in interesting opposition to the expressed stand of its global parent company, which along with other members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association in the US is suing Vermont over the new law.

But this is the kind of cultural tension that Unilever signed up for when it acquired Ben & Jerry’s from founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield for $326 million in 2000. At the time, Unilever promised a hands-off policy concerning Ben & Jerry’s social consciousness, and by all accounts the acquiring company has basically complied with that promise over the years.

But the GMO issue is a new kind of test on the unique relationship. Ben & Jerry’s revealed last year that it planned to eliminate all GMO ingredients from its products, and has since become a major supporter of the new Vermont law that is being challenged in court by major CPG brands under the GMA umbrella. In fact, activists have called for a boycott on all GMA members' products—of which Ben & Jerry's is included.Continue reading...

World Cup Daily

Protests Fail to Slow World Cup as Brands Press On with Promos

Posted by Mark J. Miller on June 13, 2014 03:31 PM

Come hell or violent protests, nothing is stopping the World Cup train from running wild through Brazil. Thousands of protestors and police donning riot gear clashed in the streets of Sao Paulo in the ongoing battle over exorbitant spending on the major tournament by the Brazilian government and the millions being spent by brands sponsoring the event. 

Despite the shadow strewn across the World Cup, brands are rolling on with their elaborate and expensive campaigns, sponsors or not. Pepsi, whose rival Coke is the major beverage sponsor of the tournament, just released a new short film directed by Spike Lee featuring a World Cup-themed song from Kelly Rowland. The film is part of Pepsi’s Beats of the Beautiful Game project, which consists of a short films and a music album featuring stars like Janelle Monáe, Timbaland and the all-girl Brazilian funk band Pearls Negras.

In addition, Pepsi has teamed up with Dutch consumer electronics brand Band & Olufsen to release a limited-edition headphones as part of its soccer-themed Live for Now capsule collection. The headphones have street-art patterns on the underside with black, white or Pepsi blue on top, according to Stylus.com.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Global Day of Fast Food Labor Protests Hits QSR Brands

Posted by Dale Buss on May 15, 2014 07:11 PM

Is the fast-food business model creaking under the weight of new wage protests? “Living-wage” advocates hope so after today's global demonstrations in support of better pay and workers' rights, billed as the biggest fast food strike ever.

On Thursday, labor and union activists and Occupy Wall Street alumni, as well as thousands of fast-food workers who walked off their jobs, came together to protest at least 17 major QSR chains in some 30 countries, calling for wages of $15 an hour as well as a right to form a union, organized by a group calling themselves Fast Food Forward.

The movement, which has its roots in the US where one-day protests have occured in over 150 cities for the last 18 months, stalled sales at fast-food outlets around the world as protesters demonstrated in front of restaurants, on sidewalks and inside malls, some even donning Ronald McDonald costumes.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Walmart Falls in Feds' Crosshairs Over Reactions to Worker Protests

Posted by Dale Buss on January 16, 2014 02:53 PM

Over its decades of strident growth, Walmart has taken on everything from Kmart to the corner drug store, environmental activists to Hollywood gliterati. Now the chain runs up against its biggest foe yet: an inimical US federal government.

The National Labor Relations Board formally complained that Walmart had illegally retaliated against American workers who protested their employer on Black Friday last year and other incidents beginning in 2012. The complaints involve 60 employees and 19 firings.

After failing to reach an agreement that would avoid litigation, the NLRB accused Walmart of illegally threatening or punishing workers who considered taking part in the high-profile walkouts, The Huffington Post reported. Workers in several states filed complaints after the strikes, and the board's counsel eventually "found merit" in some of them.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Walmart Takes Another Beating from Critics as Holiday Sales are Poised to Disappoint

Posted by Dale Buss on November 20, 2013 07:54 PM

It's the holiday shopping season, so everything in the world of retail is on heightened alert these days. That especially includes Walmart, which is getting assailed on all sides again with criticism of its human-resources policies. And its customers aren't proving very cooperative, either.

Walmart executives are busily prepping for an earlier-than-ever opening next week for Black Friday weekend, on Thanksgiving. It's proving to be a necessary step as Walmart and most other US retailers are coming to grips with the extreme stubbornness of American consumers this holiday season in freely opening their pocketbooks. Promotions of all sorts—including "early" openings for the biggest shopping day of the year—have been sprung en masse even earlier than usual.

But in addition to gearing up properly for the holidays, in an attempt to goose US same-store sales that have been stagnant lately, Walmart is having to mount some social-reputation fences against issues ranging from an adverse ruling by the US National Labor Relations Board to publicity over a charitable gesture at one of its stores that seems to underscore the notion that full-time Walmart employees can't afford to live on what they earn in the store.Continue reading...

sporting brands

Team USA Kicks Off Road to Sochi With Brand Sponsors in NYC's Times Square

Posted by Dale Buss on October 28, 2013 05:32 PM

NBC already has indicated it will enjoy a record haul for US TV advertising during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But the job for brand sponsors of the Games and athletes has only begun on their path to the opening of the games on February 7.

Top-tier marketers including Coca-Cola, P&G, Target, and Kellogg's are signing up to sponsor Team USA athletes as well as trying to navigate the increasingly icy waters around Sochi regarding the tendency of the Russian government to violate human rights and LGBT rights.

On Tuesday, the US Olympic Committee will kick-off a 100-Day Countdown campaign featuring Team USA in Times Square in New York, hoping to recreate the excitement of 2012's Road to London event (at top) with the Liberty Mutual-sponsored Road to Sochi (#RoadtoSochi) tour.Continue reading...

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