Monday, March 19, 2018

Against the Tide

On WSJ's “Big Brands Risk Losing Their Voice” - Original Article

When we started GimmeAnother about 5 years ago, we posited that there was a large and kinda obvious efficiency that was being left on the table by online retailers. In a nutshell, online shopping was still defined by a standard checkout routine, a process that was the same for both new orders and orders that should be recurring. Or, to put it plainly: the checkout process was exactly the same for the purchase of an expensive durable good, like refrigerator, as it was for consumers who regularly returned for refills of vitamins, diapers, or contact lenses. To a great extent, many major retailers retain this complexity in their checkout and re-order processes to this day – even for recurring orders from their most loyal customers – as they try to beat (or simply compete with) Amazon at a game that the book-store turned everything-store monolith has largely perfected. The race to be present in voice re-order by Amazon's Alexa is the latest in their set of hurdles.

It always struck me, though, that beyond the traditional brick and mortar retailers, regional grocers, and pharmacy chains that would inevitably be hit hard by Amazon – and indeed they were, are, and will be still – the largest long-term overall loss of core value might, in fact, be among by established household brands that can no longer found an easy home on the end-caps at Target and Walmart. Simply put, as Amazon drove prices down, and made home-delivery a snap, large box retailers like Target and Walmart would prioritize in-house brands (like 'Up and Up') over well-known staples like Tide or Cascade. The goodwill and name recognition that had taken decades to build would start to erode. Amazon's success with the Alexa voice assistant, of course, has made it all an even more difficult equation as Amazon is now set to control the distinction between actual product type and the priority of brand that ends up in your cart via Alexa. You can count on receiving Amazon-brand batteries before Duracell unless you specify.

While it's hard to know exactly where CPGs (Consumer Packed Good) behind these “big brands” might choose start a relationship with the end consumer, it does boggle the mind a bit to think that in the first 20 years of the internet, they've not found a way to give it an earnest try. As per the attached WSJ article, CPGs that continue to rely on retailers – and now retailers voice assistants like Alexa – as their sole channel for communication with the end consumer are sure to lose additional cachet with consumers and presence in the digital end-caps and aisles of the future.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Monday, January 1, 2018


Three Songs of Accidental Majesty, Depth, and Immediacy for the New Year.

“Last Night it Snowed,” The Ass Ponys

About this time of year, I anticipate the first legitimate snowfall here in Chicago and do so knowing I'll have the chance to play (loudly) the Ass Ponys' brilliant, compact, and majestic song, “Last Night it Snowed.” It's an annual tradition of sorts – my favorite of Chuck Cleaver's AP work – to sit back and marvel at the perfection of these “econo” lyrics:
A blanket white
At least it was when it came down last night
The morning brings the rain
The blanket's washed away
Now everything turns back to grey
It's hard to imagine that so much goodness could land in just over two minutes of song: all the mixed-up optimism and rainy, overcast second-guessing of a Southern Ohio winter with the added bonus of a delicate mandolin that falls apart into garage-band urgency as he sings: “So live and learn, The snow is melting never to return.”

Here's Chuck singing this classic with a local School of Rock:

The original studio version of the song is available here.

“Wasted,” Pere Ubu

Like “Last Night it Snowed,” this song leads the album, 1993's “Story of My Life,” from Northern Ohio's most important post-punk combo, Pere Ubu. It's an album that finds lead singer David Thomas in a reflective mood, at one point recounting his pre-Cleveland childhood in Florida and stumbling upon“the secret of anti-gravity.” But “Wasted” finds him in real-time, trying to decipher his marriage and “breathlessly, throwing time away.” It makes me think the album runs in reverse, marching backward from today, with Thomas' melodeon (aka the button accordion) setting the scene and his enjoinder to “rock” at 1:33 as guidance to take care of business moving forward. It's as inspirational to me now as when I first heard it.

“This is the Sea,” The Waterboys

I had forgotten about this song and album – the album “Fisherman's Blues” is important to several friends and I'd always marked their career by it – until a cold, rainy day in Northern Wisconsin. I was away from my family for a few days and had just hopped out of a hazy mid-30s mist into the car when the skies opened up. The rain started falling in buckets but, as I started to drive, advanced in waves quickly, so I pulled the car to the side of the road. The windshield wipers couldn't keep up. I turned on the radio to find "This is the Sea" at the beginning. I sat there, not a soul around, feeling a bit underwater while Mike Scott sang:

You're trying to make sense
Of something that you just can't see
Trying to make sense now
And you know you once held the key
But that was the river
And this is the sea

I'm convinced now that “Fisherman's Blues” couldn't exist without this prelude. Get ready, the open ocean is in front of you. This is the sea. If you're ever unconvinced of the epic adventures ahead, try this song again... in the rain.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Jet Steps on the Gas

Walmart's Acquisition Propels Email Campaign while Regional Grocers & CPGs Sit on the Sidelines

Over the past four months, Walmart's has aggressively pursued visibility of items generally identified as traditional grocery store purchases in email after email. It's not Amazon that should be worried, though.

To wit: please find screenshots of from over a dozen emails since June of this year promoting their grocery items. They cover all sorts of brand and product types... and they make a case beyond price: convenience.

From Barilla Pasta to Pace Salsa, from Dove Soap to Quaker Oats, is picking the low-hanging fruit: the inability of regional grocers, CPGs, other retailers to cement the loyalty of their customers with the technology convenience tools their customers have come to expect.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.