Astonishing COVID-19 Domino Collapse


I have been binging on Netflix’s foreign language TV shows – streaming crime dramas and heists. In its quest to appeal to global audiences, Netflix is ushering in the new television era. Actually, binging is a byproduct of the pandemic lockdown. Overall, streaming services exhibited robust growth disrupting the entertainment business.

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Throughout the pandemic, I have published numerous posts about the COVID-19 domino collapse associated with different segments of business – travel, luxury watches, etc. For today’s post I would like to focus on theater chains.

Globally, analysts project 2020 box office revenue losses of $20-$31 billion. In the spotlight, market leader AMC threaten with bankruptcy, raised $1 billion to stop their hemorrhaging. Despite burning through some cash, Cinemark by contrast, thanks to innovation (e.g., private watch parties, where families or small groups rent full auditoriums for $99), believe they will come out of the pandemic relatively intact. Regardless, interesting week ahead for the entertainment business. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York City theaters can begin opening at 25% capacity on March 5. Theaters will need to assign seating to maintain social distancing, and a maximum of 50 people will be allowed per screening. California is expected to follow suit within the month. Note: New York and Los Angeles combined, account for 15% of domestic box office revenue.

Good news movie theaters are reopening. However, the market for streaming services (new services and subscribers) has exhibited strong growth (37%) during the pandemic lockdown of 2020. Back in 2020 Variety magazine conducted research about consumers’ anxiety over health and safety in public venues, specifically movies, thanks to the pandemic. Key findings: 70% indicated if costs were roughly the same, they would more likely favor watching a first-run feature from their couch; 13% at a local cinema, with 17% not sure. 

Sounds like a COVID-19 domino collapse for movie chains:

  • Less box office revenue.
  • Less employees to run the theaters.
  • Less concession stands sales (e.g., soda, popcorn, candy, etc.).
  • Less concession stands packaging materials (e.g., cups, popcorn containers, napkins, etc.).
  • Less sanitation products (e.g., cleaners, bathroom materials, etc.).

Long-term, how do you think major movie chains will manage in the new COVID era?

Trivial Rebranding


Last summer I posted Branding 2020 – Part I Responsible Messaging. In addition to the pandemic, racism in America was a noteworthy issue. Quaker Foods announced they were going to rebrand Aunt Jemima given the brand’s racial stereotypes. Last week PepsiCo. publicized the rebrand as the Pearl Milling Company. Trivial!

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I am an Aunt Jemima brand alumnus. I was the junior member of the AJ brand team back in 1986. We decided to rebrand Aunt Jemima by providing her with a graphic facelift – a fresh profile, plus removed her bandana. I remember the countless meetings, plus traveling around the country conducting focus groups listening to Afro-Americans voice their concern about racist branding. In retrospect, maybe a naïve advertising mishap only settling for a packaging redesign of her image versus a total rebrand including changing her name. Consequently, I wanted to get a better understanding of the origin of Pearl Milling Company. This is what I learned:

  • The current line of Aunt Jemima pancake mixes, syrups, cornmeal, flour and grits rebranded to Pearl Milling Company in the familiar red packaging, will arrive on supermarket shelves June 2021.
  • The Pearl Milling Company dates back to 1889, when a small mill in St. Joseph, Missouri developed a milling process producing flour, cornmeal and self-rising pancake mix that would go on to be known as Aunt Jemima.         
  • PepsiCo Inc.’s press release (a.k.a. corporate speak) indicted Quaker Foods worked with consumers, employees, external cultural subject-matter experts and diverse agency partners to gather broad perspectives to ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind. They also announced they will initiate a $1 million commitment to “empower and uplift Black girls and women” in addition to PepsiCo’s more than $400 million, five-year investment to uplift Black business and communities, plus increase Black representation at PepsiCo.

As I stated above, I remember the countless meetings we conducted back in 1986 to rebrand Aunt Jemima. I can only imagine the number of meetings already conducted and the future meetings needed to launch Pearl Milling Company by June of 2021. FYI: Other brands scheduled to rebrand thanks to the racial reckoning of 2020 include Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Eskimo Pie.

Back when I was a product manager in corporate America, rebranding was like a face lift. We wanted to refresh our brand messaging to sell more widgets. Rebranding in 2021 sounds woke: trivial rebranding!

Social Media 2021


Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on consumer behavior. Being a food futurist, my primary focus over the past few months has been the food-away-from-home channel. However, while conducting my research, it became obvious every aspect of consumerism is morphing.

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One major shift across all demographic groups was the speedy adaption to a digital world. Consequently, I thought this would be a good time to assess social media 2021.

  • Video, video, video! Because of the clutter, marketers will have to thoroughly evaluate which platforms are beneficial to reaching their target audience – TikTok, Thriller, Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight.
  • Far-reaching, relevant brand clarity across multiple social media platforms. Specifically, the story behind every brand – corporate policies, supply chain ecosystem, the human factor (e.g., employees’ health & safety in a COVID World), community engagement, etc.  
  • Influence marketing will morph beyond beauty, health, lifestyle and travel. Technology companies will craft their marketing content in the direction of reaching more influencers to mention or endorse their products.
  • Customer care will be a key area of focus for most companies. Their goal will be to cultivate humanized relationships in real time on all social platforms via information sharing and social engagement; one customer at a time. Sales will follow.        

With the overabundance of social media 2021 platforms, compounded by the excessive utilization of remote working/educational technology tools, I predict bad mental health will arise. People addicted to social media will experience dopamine rushes. Dopamine is known as the happy hormone, a neurotransmitter chemical in our brain. When released, we feel high levels of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction. However, too much dopamine can produce anxiety, stress, difficulty sleeping and mania.

Sounds like a potential business opportunity for technology detox centers or retreats!                                                    

Choking on Plastic


Earlier in the year, I challenged it was time to question the true relevancy of content published on line. A member of my readership added: A.) “Frame of reference” key when assessing information; and B.) Fact check! Today’s query: Environmentalist claiming we are choking on plastic. What is the relevancy!

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Back in my January 23rd Relevance post, I shared a story how the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) analyzed the nutritional value of movie popcorn. They learned that the typical medium size bag contained 37 grams of saturated fat. Was 37 grams good or bad? To communicate their findings and make them relevant to the public, the CSPI created a visual: they laid out on a table demonstrating how one bag of popcorn was equivalent to the saturated fat from a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined! Relevance!

In 2019, a study by WWF International concluded we ingest approximately the equivalent of 5 grams of microplastic per week which is the equivalent weight of one plastic credit card. Recently, Reuters photojournalist Kim Kyung-Hoon published a series of photographs of meals made of plastic to further sensationalize the study’s findings.

  • A plastic credit card placed between two burger buns to imitate the 7 grams of plastic someone could eat in 10 days.
  • Lego brick pieces on top of sushi rolls weighing 22 grams, representative of the plastic one could eat in a month.
  • A safety helmet weighing 248 grams equivalent to ingesting plastic for one year.

Shocking, but relevant images. For me, an opportunity to applaud one of the true unsung, focused heroes on our planet during these difficult times, Boyan Slat, CEO of The OCEAN CLEANUP. A link to an interview with Boyan. Very positive! I highly recommend you carve out some time to watch it.

Joyeux Noël

Mobile Marketing – What’s New?


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major boom in digital technologies. Specifically, a surge in mobile usage beyond basic communications. More consumers now use their smartphones for online shopping, numerous finance categories, gaming and video streaming. Consequently, smart marketers are implementing some innovative mobile movements.

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been monitoring the shifts in consumer behavior. Back in June, one reliable source detailed the accelerated shift to e-commerce – 7.4 million new digital buyers in 2020 (source: eMarketer). Recently, marketers have fast-tracked targeting consumers adapting to digital technologies. Detailed below are two innovative digital marketing movements:

  • Leveraging the popularity of the social media platform TikTok (an estimated 100 million U.S. users; 50 million of whom check the app daily), Dunkin’ announced it was going to re-release a limited addition of its branded holiday merchandise line Onesies – long-sleeve T-shirts, baseball hats, phone cases, etc. Their objective is to expand their social media following by targeting younger consumers now heavy users of online pandemic shopping. Note: Personalized products are now a new way food brands are connecting with their loyal customers.       
  • Trolli gummy worms utilized QR codes on their packaging to enable consumers to access a trial on Play Station for a video game “Deliciously Dark Escape” where players protect their gummy avatars. Smart Marketing: A.) Three-fourths of American households have a least one gamer, 21% are younger than 18 years old (source: Entertainment Software Association); and B.) Capitalizing on the resurgence of QR codes.

FYI: TikTok is testing longer, three-minute videos. Imagine the increase in smartphone usage if TikTok triples the current length of time people can record.  

Forever Relevant – The World Ahead (5/11/2020)

Today is Armistice Day in France. Normally a major, joyful holiday, but thanks to a second COVID-19 health crisis lockdown, Cannes feels like a ghost town. Reminds me of our first lockdown and The World Ahead.


Lockdown ends today here in France. Every nanosecond crept by. I ate and drank well, basked in the Mediterranean sun on my balcony, worked, read and wrote. During my lockdown, I was able to regularly engage via technology with family, friends and business peers.

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  • As the pandemic began to unfold, everyone would share their concern about getting sick, the COVID-19 statistics, social distancing and how the outbreak would impact their personal life. Perspectives about a post-pandemic world were myopic.
  • The #1 overused cliché: It is, what it is” meaning we all have to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, a challenging, frustrating situation that cannot be changed. Most people indicated we just have to deal with it.
  • As the curve began to flatten and details emerged about re-opening the world, people were buzzing about a vaccine being the solution without recognizing the geo-politics, time line and dollars associated with global vaccines.
  • Everyone understands we are going to witness major global transformation (social, economic and political) and experience the “New Normal.”

“New Normal?” The definition of normal – conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected. A standard day? A typical week? I do not accept the concept of the New Normal.” Instead, I believe we now live in a “New World,” a world where one size does not fit all. Example: The different ways three countries handled the outbreak – Sweden with herd immunization, France with strict lockdown rules and the United States with mixed messaging resulting in chaos.

Over the past few weeks, I have published numerous posts advocating  “to build a better world, start in your community.” As I get ready to leave my apartment later this morning, I am prepared to face the unknown challenges of the “New World” where one size does not fit all.



My favorite centenarian shared an interesting thought last night.

“Amazing how many troublesome events I have witnessed that have happened to the world. Localized to a degree. A very long list. However, the pandemic is the only event I have experienced that has happened to the whole world at once.”

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Mom’s long list:

  1. The Great Depression.
  2. World War II topped off with The Nuclear Bomb.
  3. The Holocaust.
  4. Never-ending genocide – Cambodia, Rwanda, Serbia, etc.
  5. Countless wars – Korean, Vietnam, the numerous Middle East wars.
  6. Memorable historical tipping point events – assassinations (JFK, RFK, MLK, Rabin), 9/11, the Arab Spring, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis.
  7. The Great Recession.
  8. Migrants drowning in the Mediterranean and washing up on beaches.
  9. Children separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border.
  10. Mother nature – earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wild fires, etc.

As she indicated, a very long list. She also added: An unruly era of painful memories! And now we usher in a new era, the COVID World.

A Special Day


Back in September, I interviewed my Mom who is a centenarian. The article, posted on LinkedIn, received its fair share of buzz. People wanted me to interview her again. She decided to pass until this morning to talk about Sunday, a very special/memorable day for her family. 

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Moi: Our interview in early September received some good buzz from members of my Tribe. I wanted to discuss your spin on computers and technology, a major transformation you witnessed in your lifetime, but you opted for breakfast instead. I know you did not want to continue with a series of follow-up interviews, but I cannot help but get you to open up about Sunday, a very special day in family history.

Ma mère: I’ve had my coffee and baguette. Go ahead.

Moi: Does Sunday rate as one of the great moments of your life?

Ma mère: Absolutely! Way up there. I got to witness my eldest grandchild get married. All thanks to technology, Zoom. I am extremely happy for Emily, proud, plus I really like her husband Matthew. And yes, I know, if it were not for technology, I would have missed the whole wedding since it was in Connecticut, and I am unable to travel.

Moi: We have had our fair share of technology conversations. Specifically, the power of telecommunications. Do you see the role Zoom will have in our COVID World?

Ma mère: Yes, but I will be politically correct. The big picture is I am extremely happy for Emily and Matthew. However, realistically, I am sitting here in France, the coronavirus is continuing to spike everywhere. As I indicated in my interview, people are only concerned about their own turf. Zoom will enable people to put a mote up around their protected bubble, observe “social distancing”, stay healthy. To me, conversations will become diluted and something will get lost in translation.

Moi: Good point. What do you think will get lost in translation?

Ma mère: For starters, people’s interpersonal skills. Missing body language cues. But hey, my first Zoom experience was great. Unbelievable! Watched my Emily get married. However, it made me realize that your grandma Rosie was very wise when she said: “You live long enough, you see it all.”

Food Halls


Food-away-from-home experts publish their forecasts daily pertaining to when the channel will fully recover. Their content makes for some interesting reading. Being an optimist who worries a lot, as I shared in my post The Interconnectivity Impact, too many factors may obstruct the industry’s comeback.                     

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Based on what I read, a majority of operators surveyed in the past few months indicate the road to recovery will vary significantly by segment. However, last week, one article that piqued my interest provided details of a report by Cushman & Wakefield, a leading commercial real estate services company touting food halls. Food halls, multiple vendors operating unique/artisanal food stalls within a shared space, were clearly a rising star in foodservice pre-pandemic. Cushman & Wakefield predict this sector will bounce back quickly and exhibit robust growth in the aftermath of COVID-19. Their rationale:

1.) Lower operating costs compared to independent restaurants.

2.) Adaptable public spaces prepared to embrace safety protocol (e.g., social distancing).

3.) Consumers will continue to pursue social experiences, especially Millennials and Gen Z.

Cushman & Wakefield’s research team did acknowledge food halls were already viewed as primarily an urban destination, but they are now beginning to branch out to the suburbs, C&U campuses and roadsides. Consequently, as the economy improves and more workers return to their offices, their VP of Retail Research indicates: “Food halls are here to stay.”

Are they? I believe Cushman & Wakefield’s rationale is sound, but as I shared back in July, industry pundits banking on the future of consumer eating trends need to step outside their industry box. They need to analyze the “Big Picture.” Especially, when it comes to food halls in the COVID Era. Big city foodservice ecosystems will be adversely impacted as more people continue to work from home. In addition, if at home productivity remains sustainable, there might be a shift away from densely populated metropolitan areas (e.g., New York, San Francisco, etc.) to smaller cities. Bottomline: A dwindling number of food hall patrons.

Are food halls a future trend?