You MUST Automate!

Long ago I stopped going to Walmart for maybe ten years. It wasn't a political thing. It wasn't about low pay, no benefits and a crummy, dirty store. Nope, it was all about the service. It was the worst. Employees that could care less, a return policy that drove me nuts...and away. I was absent a Walmart until last year when my local re-opened after spending about $2 million. So, I tried it. And, I've been back a numbeMcDonalds Kiosk April 2018r of times. It's been a positive experience.

Enter McDonald's and this crazy tale of automation.

I stopped in to pick up an egg and cheese biscuit. I don't eat bacon and sausage is out so...egg and cheese it is. I walk in, with little time to spare as I headed to my next meeting. The person who was to be working the counter was working at something else so I waited, patiently, until she spied me.

"I'm sorry I was doing something else. How may I help you?"

I'd like an egg and cheese biscuit please.

"Let's go over to the kiosk and place your order." let's just order here.

As she comes out from behind the counter and marches toward the kiosk she said, "Oh, don't worry I'll help you."

I'm not worried. I'd just like an egg and cheese biscuit.

"Well, come over here and let's use the kiosk. I'll show you how. Is this to go or for here?"

It's to go.

"So, how has your morning been?"

It's been fine until I walked in here. I just want to order an egg and cheese biscuit and I'll be out of your way.

"Here is our kiosk.(She said it in almost a reverent tone.) Now, would you like me to help you?"

No. I think I can do this.

So it went. I ordered my egg and cheese biscuit under the watchful eye of the young lady "helping me". I'd call her by name but she was working under name badge.

Egg and Cheese Biscuit. No, I don't want to customize the order. Yes, I would like a drink. What kind? A Diet Coke. What size? A small. All the time pushing the buttons. Finally I had ordered by Egg and Cheese Biscuit with a small diet coke.

McDonalds Bisciut April 2018We went back to the counter, she gave me my ticket and within 90 seconds I was handed a bag by a smiling young lady who said, "Egg and Cheese Biscuit to go, sir."

Thank you.

I gathered my drink, headed out to the car. Got down the highway, opened the bag and...

Yes, there was a biscuit. Yes, there was egg. Yes, there was bacon... BACON? Did I ORDER WRONG from the blasted kiosk?

Uhm...nope as you can see by the receipt. 

I wonder if, when I take this back...and I will...If I'll be forced to visit with the kiosk or (heaven forbid!) a human?

What should have happened? Yep, she should have just taken the order. Weary.

Negative Branding with Food?

I want to take a few minutes and share with you a branding story that, I'll bet, nobody thinks about but it does have an impact on your brand.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a business centric event/conference for a breakfast and a speaker. right? Now, to be sure the buffet Ham and Cheese Egg Casserole wasn't very large but it looked to have some cheesy egg something as the main offering. You could also get some fried potatoes, know the regular stuff.

So, I put some of the egg stuff on a plate and went into the dining room. But there hiding in the eggs and cheese was some, I'll bet, really good Iowa staple.

Here is where it gets interesting. As a Jew I can't eat the egg stuff...two reasons: We don't eat milk and meat together and we, of course don't eat ham. But this has happened many times in the past and it's no big deal. Or is it?

Also in the room were a couple of Vegan folks and two of the people there were Muslim. We get it about the Vegans but you should also know the Muslims are also not permitted to eat pork.  Of the 40 people in the room I counted 7 that took a pass on breakfast but had paid the fee.

The thing meeting planners should think about is that in this increasingly diverse country we live in some folks, and the numbers are growing, have different dietary restrictions than say, a decade ago. It is a growing consumer trend.

I made no fuss nor did my other friends but it bears reminding folks that while we celebrate diversity we'd also like to celebrate breaking bread with our fellow conference attendees.

Thanks for reading and, as always, I'd love to hear your take. 

Whims and Social Media

We were reading through some restaurant reviews the other day and found several that were very critical of number of restaurants in the Waiter RestaurantDes Moines Metro. There were some of the usual complaints about the lack of speedy service, bland food and the cost vs. the amount of food. Those are the things we often see. However, I've always wondered if diners take their concerns to the restaurant owner or manager at the time...or if they wait to shout about their experience on Social Media.

I've had this conversation with restaurant owners in the past and they tell me they often never hear about a complaint until it is posted online. That's like the old saying, "closing the barn door after the horse gets out". You would think the customer would say something at the time rather than wait. But there is some comfort, I guess, in being removed from the event. That way the complaint can go...unanswered and unfixed.  Which is too bad.

I took a moment and reached out to one of the more critical writers and asked her to give me, what she considered, her favorite restaurants in the Metro. Sort of let me know what she values regarding to her dining experience.  This is the answer: "Well, I don't have a favorite it all just depends on my mood and where I end up."

I understand sort of a whim...

But what happens when that "whim" turns to social media to complain about ______ fill in the blank. Restaurants are only as good as the people who staff them and sometimes they fail. I guess I'd rather deal with the issue one-on-one at the time rather than take it online. It, at least, gives the restaurant the opportunity to work toward a resolution of the issue that benefits both the diner and restaurant.

Your thoughts?


The Restaurant Industry - Needs a New Brand

There's some major trouble brewing in the restaurant industry and it's Servergoing to take some time to get it fixed. Let me set this up for in the Des Moines Metro there isn't a week that goes by where we don't learn of yet another restaurant opening its doors.  While that may seem like progress there is something else going on: No workers.

I know of two owners who have put restaurant openings on hold because they cannot find help.  There is a lack of servers, cooks, chefs, dishwashers...and those two owners know the market.

Meanwhile corporations are draining the market dry.  After all...Hy-Vee might pay a lower salary for cooks...but they offer benefits.

If it is true that consumers control the brand then the restaurant industry needs to up their game and share with consumers what a great career food service can be. But it is going to take time and money.

In Europe a server is more highly treasured than a banker or attorney. Why? Because the industry there has built a brand on high quality, low turnover and knowledge.  Servers in Europe are...professional. Here they are often looked down on.

I've been told that the Iowa Restaurant Association has a plan to move this forward...they can't start soon enough...we're hungry.



Big Getting Little

Grocery store chains across the country are consolidating or simply calling HyVee Local Produce Two it quits. Last week legendary A&P filed for bankruptcy protection...for the second time. Kroger announced they are buying Harris Teeter and one of the oldest chains, Albertson's was swallowed up. Locally, family owned Dahls threw in the towel.

Today there are only a handful of regional grocery store chains in the nation. 

The grocery industry is vastly different today than just 10 years ago because there is more competition and the changing habits of consumers. Natural, local and fresh rate high on the expectation list of consumers. So, how does a regional chain compete against the likes of Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and others?

Bring on the LOCAL feel and flavor of a time gone by.

HyVee LocalA couple of years ago HyVee, a Midwest regional chain, had a pretty successful run at calling attention to locally sourced produce. (Photo at left and you can click to enlarge.) While it all worked the effort was small compared to what they've recently rolled out.

Here (above and to the right) is the new roll-out of how big can go little all in an effort to boost a little nostalgia while calling attention to the fact that they sell what comes from your neighbor. 

The entire "feel" of the brand says, "Hey, we remember what it was HyVee Local Produce here for local produce!" And then they go to great lengths to tell you how "local".

We love the graphics, the look and the feel of the campaign.  Good stuff HyVee! 

Thanks for reading!


Working Together

Every so often we run up on a promotion that we really like, appreciate and Passport USE 2015 hope others pick up make it their own. As many of you know, July can be a slow month in the restaurant business. To boost awareness and business three independently owned fine, European Themed eateries joined together to promote their cuisine through the Gourmet Passport.

Here is how it works: Consumers go to one of the three restaurants, Baru 66 of Windsor Heights, Bistro Montage of Des Moines or The Strudl Haus of Des Moines and order the specialty priced meal designed for the Gourmet Passport. Upon leaving the restaurant your "passport" is stamped. You then make reservations at the next eatery and repeat the process until you have visited all three.

David Enosh MichaelWhen the Gourmet Passport is stamped by each restaurant the diners put
their contact information inside the front cover and leave them with the restaurant owner.  All of the completed "passports" are collected and a drawing is held with the winner receiving a free full course meal for six prepared by Chef David Baruthio, Chef Enosh Kelly and Chef Michael Leo.

Because the promotion runs the entire month of July there is plenty of time to make reservations at each establishment.

Brilliant!  And, yes...we're going! 


Smells Like....

Long before Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications I had a Garlic Bunch July 2013 hand in...farming.  For real.  Born and raised in Detroit the journey to the farm field was...different.  Once settled in we raised cattle, hogs, chickens, corn, hay and a two acre garden.

But we never, to my memory, grew garlic.

Last fall we went to Farm Crawl 2012 and picked up some "Hard-Neck Garlic" seed bulbs and promptly planted them.  Now what?

This spring I asked our friend, organic farmer, Larry Cleverley of Cleverley Farms, "OK Garlic Scapes 2013now what?"

He told me to make sure I cut off the "Scapes" once they emerged. "What's a garlic scape?"

"The little flower stalk that emerge in June.  When you cut that off it sends the power to the garlic bulb." (The "scape" is the little bulb to the left of the garlic "fruit".)

So, I tried it and damn if Larry wasn't right.  Here is a photo of the difference between a garlic bulb that did not have the scape cut off (r) and one that did.  I like to think of it as my "control plant". Garlic Size 2013

I did not know about growing garlic...even though I had been a farmer.  I asked an expert and he told me the what to do.  It's sort of like advertising and marketing.  Most business do it...but do they really  Guess when you want to go from small to big...ask an expert?




Thanks for coming by! If you want to leave a comment here, feel free. And/Or let's connect on our advertising agency Twitter Stream @InsightADV and our agency Facebook Page which is right here

The Fridge Magnet & Pizza

We're always on the lookout for some neat ideas and when we saw this Red-tomato-pizza-ordering-button campaign from TBWA/RADD for their client Red Tomato Pizza we were impressed. It recently won the 2012 Caples Award for direct marketing.

Not only did they stay in budget ($9,000) but according to the story deliveries went up by 500% and over 93,000 requests from new customers but the company also hit the bulls-eye with free media (this post being one) that was worth over $8 million.

The down-side:  The pizza place is located in...Dubai.  But, what the heck it's still a very cool idea.  Here's a look at their video:


So, what new way can you connect with your consumer base?  Come on now...think!



If you want to comment here, feel free or follow our advertising agency Twitter Stream @InsightADV or our agency Facebook Page, which is right here.  Thanks for coming by!

Two Stories from Agriculture & Media

Our firm is deeply involved in agriculture.  We've got clients from Germany to California who depend on selling everything from equipment to food.  We are grateful for those long-term relationships. Armstrong Gottsch Vilsack Aug 2012

This past week we were fortunate to take part in two agricultural events that were different but still major. On Thursday I was invited to the Agricultural Townhall Meeting sponsored by RFD-TV and held in the Media Center of the Cattle Barn on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  Well known farm broadcaster Max Armstrong hosted the full hour event (no commercials) featuring US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that centered on the drought, the stalled Farm Bill, the future of agriculture for young people and food security.

Some Quotes from Sec. Vilsack:

  • Congress needs to pass the Farm Bill now because growers/producers need to know where they stand going forward;
  • A major part of my job is to assure trading partners that the United States is a worthy ally and we take global food security issues seriously;
  • We need to get back to teaching agriculture issues in the public schools only then will a society, so distanced from the farm, begin to understand the relationship between farm and food;
  • The future of agriculture in the United States is in good hands given the leadership we see in FFA and other farm directed youth groups;
  • Agriculture groups need to talk to each other rather than fight among themselves.  When we fight it does nothing to present a unified voice to non-farm state leaders.

Big props to RFD-TV and my old friend Patrick Gottsch (in the photo with Max and Sec. Vilsack) for doing these townhall meetings and his continued work to spread the good news of agriculture.  I wish I could find the was very informative!

Agriculture & Social Media

My friend Deb Brown has been a brand spokesperson for the 140 Character Conference "The State of Now" for several years.  Following two successful events in Des Moines Deb felt that agriculture needed a special event centered on using social media to communicate with each other and the non-ag world.  She brought together several of us for the 140 Conference AgIowa.  While you'll soon be able to see the 17 presentations on UStream here is a quick video with some fun out-takes from the event.


Why share these events with you?  Because they matter and it shows how committed agriculture is to reaching out to each other and the general public.  Agriculture matters and everyone is...welcome.



If you want to comment here, feel free or join us on Twitter @InsightADV and here is our advertising agency Facebook Page. Thanks for coming by - Michael Libbie

Sharing Agriculture

Face it, the vast majority of US citizens know next to nothing about Corn Field Web food production.  It's sad how far we've strayed from "the family farm" over the past 30 years.  Those are some of the concerns expressed by professional writers, film makers, editors and social medial experts at this years Ag Media Summit sponsored by the American Agriculture Editors Association.

How deep is the disconnect between consumers and agriculture?  In my hands I am looking at a 16 page piece called "Building Trust in Agriculture" a research piece by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. The bottom line is that when agriculture says the sky is blue many in our society say it's black.

How did we get to this point?  Trust & Numbers

For all the good things agriculture means for the world there are those things that hound our work. For example we've recently been through the "Pink Slime" issue.  Lean Textured Beef isn't "pink slime" but that didn't keep the unknowing urban media from blasting the story and causing companies to fold and a loss of 700 jobs.  There are too many of "them" and not enough

And Trust.  We have become a country divided.  We're deeply divided on food issues, religion, politics...and why?   Money my friends.  Division creates wealth among those who would divide.  It is the business of distrust and it is growing.

So we pound out the positive stories while all the time knowing it is the negative that sells.  That's a sad commentary on our times and we can do better. Moderation does need...voice.

If you want to comment here feel free or follow us on Twitter @InsightADV.  Thanks for reading.