Lessons from a Top Winemaker


Customer journey mapping, people-based marketing, influence marketing, content marketing, etc., etc., etc.  I am weary of the daily bombardment of digital gurus preaching about the future of marketing.  Candidly, I think they are over processing and would benefit from the wisdom of Koji Nakada, a top winemaker.

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I have posted in the past about one of my favorite TV shows, a series on Japanese TV titled The Professionals.  A recent episode featured Koji Nakada, a Japanese winemaker in the Burgundy wine region of France.  His wines are coveted around the world (22 countries) and served in acclaimed restaurants.  Detailed below are some of the lessons I learned watching his special that I believe marketers would benefit from as they adapt to the continual transformation of marketing:

  • Don’t always follow trends; do what you think is right (integrity).
  • Experimentation, experimentation, experimentation.
  • Expect the unexpected. Cope with it, learn from it, move forward.
  • You cannot change the past, so just think forward.
  • Be passionate about what you do. Give it your ultimate energy.
  • Always think positive. Find joy in every day.

Thank you, Mr. Nakada.  As I experience the transformation of marketing, you made me realize experience still matters in our technological driven world.  There is no substitution for experience.

Marketers, trust your instincts!

Future Communal Work Spaces


Office spaces globally are transforming to meet the needs of how Millennials and the generation following them, Gen Z, will work, live and play.

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The blueprint of future communal work spaces is to bring people together in the work environment.  Two cutting-edge examples are as follows:

  • WeWork – Founded in 2010, the company has built a global network of 212 shared, communal work spaces. Co-founder, CEO Adam Neumann’s mantra: “Create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living.”  In addition to shared office spaces (desks in common areas, private rooms), their latest project in Brooklyn, New York will include a regular bar, a juice bar, restaurants, a gym, an outdoor basketball court, as well as potentially dry-cleaning services and a hair salon.
  • Roam – The company, now operating in four cities (Miami, Tokyo, London and Ubud, Bali), is a prototype of the nomad hubs popping up around the world. Specifically, they cater to people (e.g., entrepreneurs, free-lancers, programmers, etc.) who travel the world while working remotely from the Internet.  “Roamies” (a.k.a. digital nomads) rent a sparse bedroom complete with its own bathroom (starting at $500 a week) and have unlimited access to all communal areas – wired coworking spaces (24/7), a shared kitchen (food not included) and laundry room.  Some of their facilities have a pool and a yoga studio.

Are you ready to join a future communal work space?

Big Incubators


In February I posted about FoodBytes! an event sponsored by a global financial services company that connects investors with innovators.  Major CPG food & beverage companies (e.g., Campbell, Nestlé, etc.) are also partaking in private market investments to fund/acquire unique start-up brands.

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Last week Kraft Heinz announced it was launching “Springboard”, an incubator program focused on start-up brands that produce healthy, organic or specialty products.  Last year Kellogg and Conagra joined forces to fund a project called “The Hatchery”, Nestlé invested in an accelerator program targeting food/agriculture start-ups and Tyson increased its original (5%) investment in California-based vegan company Beyond Meat.  The big company incubator strategy undertakes minimal risk and pairs the smaller start-up brands with the stealth expertise (e.g., R&D, marketing, distribution, etc.) of established CPG companies.  As a result, the innovative brands benefit from a fast-track new product entry.

Welcome to the age of Big Incubators.


Save the Planet


AI (Artificial Intelligence) is rapidly becoming mainstream.  The World Economic Forum at their recent annual meeting in Davos detailed innovative technological opportunities that would solve our planet’s threating environmental challenges.  What will save the planet, AI or community?

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Answer: Both, interconnected.

Detailed below is a short list of identifiable areas AI will impact according to the World Economic Forum’s report Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth:

  • Management of future utilities, water and energy (e.g., renewables).
  • Monitoring systems that will identify the illegal depletion of valuable resources (e.g., oceans, forests).
  • Improved modeling/forecasting of weather and climate change that will eventually lead to better decision-making pre/post natural disasters.

It is clear, AI is poised to support a more energy efficient world, improve ecological conservation and confront climate change in real time.  However, after all the data is crunched, I firmly believe the human factor, as in community will also be essential to save our planet.  Back in 2017 I stated in two posts, Community and A Community Tale “To build a better world, start in your community.” 

Start participating in saving our vulnerable planet!

Knowledgeable Associates


Earlier in the month I posted Breakfast at Tiffany’s, specifically the company’s objective to create a modern luxury experience.  Leveraging technology to deliver the ultimate customer experience has been a driving force behind the overall growth of retail sales.  Neiman Marcus also recognizes the power of knowledgeable in-store associates.

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The National Retail Federation forecasts retail sales will increase this year 3.8% to 4.4% over last year.  Included in their overall projection for robust growth are on-line and other non-store sales increasing between 10% to 12%.  Current technology enables retailers to aggregate data/information about the consumption habits of their consumers.  However, it is imperative for brick & mortar retailers to train in-store staffs on how to utilize all the available technology.  Accordingly, sales associates will employ more interaction with their customers to guide them through the buying journey.

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, in its pursuit of being a digital first leader, continues to invest in proprietary clientele management tools on their company issued smartphones (iPhone app).  In addition to tapping into customer data (preferences and behavior), sales associates have the ability to provide direct engagement – an unequaled personalized customer experience.

Retailers, are you investing in associates in the know?

Speed Pitching


First there was speed dating, then speed networking and now speed pitching complete with an open mic.

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The Rabobank Group, a leading global financial services company specializing in food and agribusiness, sponsors FoodBytes!, an event that connects investors with innovators (a.k.a. startups).  I just received an email that their next event is March 1st in San Francisco.  The event kicks off with an opening reception (2 to 3 PM) and ends with a closing reception (5:30 to 7:30 PM).  In between, entrepreneur wannabees have signed up for 3.5 or 1.5-minute pitches.  This year FoodBytes! is experimenting with 60-second open mic pitches.  At the conclusion of the pitches, a panel of judges will select several companies for rewards.

I reviewed the list of startups.  Interesting/innovative companies – robotic work carts that assist produce pickers in the field, plant-based products, technology that will improve supply chain, snacks, etc.  All the companies will give it their best shot speed pitching to get on investors’ radar screens.

I apologize for sounding judgmental, but I do not buy into the concept of speed pitching.  Being a 32-year veteran of the food business (two major CPG companies and my own marketing company), I cannot accept how people can communicate the viability of their start-up in 3.5 minutes or less.  Did each startup properly conduct their due diligence (a business assessment complete with a S.W.O.T. analysis), identify their point of market differentiation, write an all-inclusive business plan that includes time tables, a detailed marketing budget, etc.  Food and agribusiness is already a crowded, competitive playing field.  Any start-up looking to enter, should slow down and do their homework.

Do you have 60 seconds?  I have a great new snack concept to pitch.



“The less of routine, the more life.”  Amos Bronson Alcott (Philosopher/Teacher)

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Does this routine sound familiar?  You get up, race to get ready for work, commute, eat a breakfast snack with your Starbucks coffee before your first meeting because you skipped breakfast, meetings, meetings, meetings, etc.  Lunch at your desk.  Reverse commute, stop at the gym because you subscribe to a healthy lifestyle, stop at the grocery store to pick up some staples (e.g., toilet paper, Diet Coke, a box of Kind bars, etc.), plus something to nuke for dinner.  Once you arrive at home you check your social platforms, watch a special on Netflix while you eat your reheated dinner, engage with your significant other who just got home from their daily routine, before one more round of exercise (stretching) and then crash.

Spontaneity: The condition of being spontaneous; perform or experience a sudden impulse or inclination without premeditation or external stimulus.

Spontaneity!  Try it!  Live a little!