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The Roundup May 23-24

“You know what my father said to me?” “Get out?” “No, before that.” “You’re going bald?” “No, no, land, everyone will always need land.”

African countries are giving away vast tracts of farmland to other countries and investors almost for free, with the only benefits consisting of vague promises of jobs and infrastructure, according to a report published on Monday. . . .

It is the first major study of the so-called “farmland grab” trend, in which rich countries such as Saudi Arabia or South Korea invest in overseas land to boost their food security. The investors plan to export all, or a large share of, the crops back to feed their own populations.

(“Africa almost giving land away, says UN,” Financial Times, May 24) We here at Shoestring Venture are about to embark on a series of blogs about opportunities in Africa. It’s clear, though, that if African countries sell their ability to feed themselves to other countries, that the burgeoning promise of African entrepreneurialism will dry up before the well gets dug.

The only thing worse than giving away the store is pissing off your customers while doing it and then . . . giving away even more!

When KFC, a division of Yum Brands Inc., offered coupons online for a free meal, some of its stores ran out and traffic threatened to get out of hand at some locations.

After dishing up more than 4 million free meals the first few days, the company began offering rain checks on the meal, intended as a more health-conscious alternative to its popular fried chicken.

(“KFC grilled chicken also has secret recipe,” Associated Press, May 24) Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m in the Rich Burlew school of never giving away the store. But customers going crazy when you run out of giveaways? Rain checks on products you’re giving away for free? And, on those rain checks, giving away even more!? (“I have just the solution to our problem . . . A sale!”) Maybe, just maybe, the KFC director of marketing should consider selling value to customers at a price that they’ll pay and, mirabile dictu, make a profit for the company. It actually works — all the time. Witness McDonald’s rollout of McCafe.

December 7. Black Sunday. 9/11. Now . . . Tide Thursday.

Few people are expecting big across-the-board price cuts from P&G, a la Marlboro 16 years ago. But P&G faces a similar, if perhaps less dire, situation as the Marlboro Man did then: Volume is down a surprising 5% last quarter globally, and value brands or private labels are hurting some of its highly profitable franchises, including dollar share losses of two to three points in recent quarters in P&G’s dominant U.S. laundry business. . . .

While P&G long ago shifted its focus toward its now bigger and once-faster-growing beauty business, laundry generally and Tide specifically in the U.S. are still too big and profitable for P&G to risk those kinds of long-term losses, Mr. Pecoriello said. He expects P&G to launch a value brand of its own next year in response. His research indicates a Tide Basic, similar to Bounty and Charmin Basic, would draw too much of its sales from the mother ship to be feasible, but repositioning Cheer as a value brand looks more promising.

(“Why We Will Remember Tide Thursday,” Advertising Age, May 25) For those of you avidly and eagerly following our nitpicking nutbusting critique of Al Ries, you know what the big man would say here. The Riesmaster has conniption fits about Extra-Strength Tylenol, which is a brand extension upwards. Tide Basic? Will a brand extension downwards in such a commodified market (detergent) suck al the life out of the brand? Watch and learn, marketing fans, watch and learn. As goes Tide, so goes an army of valuable brands slipping into the nothing during this downturn.

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