ADAGE Send E-mails Directly From Print Magazine Pages? Smartpen Technology Suggests New Print/Digital Interfaces Can you imagine a business card or a print magazine page that can actually send an e-mail or facilitate the transaction of an online sale? Those are concepts that Livescribe CEO Jim Marggraff is working on. The company's Pulse Smartpen -- which is a real pen containing a full-powered, internet-accessing computer -- is a tool that makes such actions conveniently possible. And the growing popularity of the under-$200 device among college students is creating a significant national audience for new sorts of print-based digital experiences
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Apple Succeeds Because Of Its Contrarian Ways Wall Street Journal, The Big Money, Reuters When Apple acquired music-streaming service La La Media for $85 million last week, it had nothing short of a new business model for iTunes in mind, write Ethan Smith and Yukari Iwatani Kane. Lala.com lets users buy and listen to music through a Web browser, and the new model would allow Apple to sell music through Web sites and search engines and not just at the online Apple store. But the plans are in the early stages, caution people familiar with them, and could change. If thinking about altering a wildly successful business sounds a bit contrary to you, in "We Should All Get It Wrong Like Apple," Jonathan Weber points out that Apple does none of the things that pundits always say you should do to succeed in the Internet economy. No blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, free samples, asking for feedback or engaging with the customer base for the sages from Cupertino. Why, they even do a heck of a lot of advertising in the dead-tree mediums, as well as broadcast TV and billboards. What lessons are to be learned? 1. It's all about good product. 2. Brand marketing still matters. 3. Real-time engagement with customers is not a required course of action. Meanwhile, Reuters says that an Oppenheimer research note claims Apple will launch its long-rumored tablet personal computer in late March or April, with it manufacturers preparing to roll out as many as 1 million units per month.
Tiger Disappears From Tube But Gatorade Move Was Planned Ad Age, Bloomberg You've probably heard the broadcast reports that "Pepsi is dropping Tiger" but, as Natalie Zmuda's subhed points out, the "overexcited media" was "pouncing on weeks-old news." Move along, in other words, there's nothing to see here. "As reported last month, we decided several months ago to discontinue Gatorade Tiger Focus," Pepsi says in a statement, "along with some other products to make room for our planned series of innovative products in 2010." Introduced in March 2008, Tiger Focus purportedly enhanced mental focus and included 25% more electrolytes than Gatorade Thirst Quencher. Beverage Digest 's John Sicher tells Zmuda that "it was an interesting attempt, but it didn't work out that well." Bloomberg's Brett Pulley and Michael Bureau, meanwhile, write that ads featuring Woods have all but vanished from the tube. The last prime-time spot featuring the golfer was a 30-second Gillette effort on Nov. 29, according to Nielsen data, and Tiger's pitching was as notably absent as his putting was from last weekend's sports programs. "Near term, you've got to pull the ads," says Larry Novenstern, managing director at Optimedia. "A transgression of this type in his personal life is never good but if anyone can weather a storm, it's probably Tiger Woods."
Kroger Marketplace Opens In Cincinnati; Ralphs Hurts Earnings Cincinnati Enquirer, Los Angeles Times Kroger's newest Marketplace store, which opens tomorrow in the Newport Pavilion in Cincinnati's urban core, has nearly as much general merchandise as food within its 128,000-square-foot space, Laura Baverman reports. But like all Marketplace stores, it will have expansive produce, prepared foods and meat/seafood sections -- and enough prepared food to satisfy the inner gourmand in all of us. Chefs in the Bistro section make themed meals daily such as Italian pasta or roast beef as well as made-to-order Boar's Head sandwiches. There are soup, salad and hot foods bars for taking-out or eating-in, as well as a kiosk staffed by a sushi chef. Then there's the grilling station for steaks and ribs and a "chippery," which offers a variety of flavored chips made from organic Canadian potatoes. Chefs continually demonstrate food preparation techniques and offer samples. Did we mention the 168 freezer doors, the on-display cake decorator, and the 23 checkout lanes? Out West, the Los Angeles Times ' Jerry Hirsch reports that Kroger is taking a $1.05-billion write-down on the value of the Ralphs chain it acquired about a decade ago. CEO David Dillon says that shoppers are "more disciplined in their spending" and are trading down to less expensive goods. It probably doesn't help that Ralphs initiated a price war this year -- inviting pushback from Vons and Albertsons -- that has squeezed margins.
VW Dealer In Florida Hits His Groove By Breaking All The Rules Automotive News Gunther Volkswagen in Coconut Creek, Fla., may look like it's stuck in the Sixties with three psychedelic VW Microbuses near the entrance and a huge poster of Jimi Hendrix on the wall, among other retro window dressing, but the grooviest thing about it, as far as VW Group of America is concerned, is that it sells more cars that any other dealership in the U.S., Diana T. Kurylko reports. And so, headquarters is willing to overlook a few of the rules that the 52-year-old owner, Casey Gunther, is breaking en route to selling an estimated 3,300 to 3,500 new vehicles this year. "This is a place where we celebrate the brand," says Gunther, replete with thinning, shoulder-length hair, beaded peace-sign necklace and a shirt covered with peace signs and doves. But while the atmosphere gets people into the store, good 'ol salesmanship is responsible for closing the deal. "Our method is volume," explains Gunther. "We get aggressive on our deals. If we sell 300 cars, it is not unusual for a good percentage of those transactions to reflect a loss." Don Hughes, director of VW's southern region, says customers are drawn from surrounding markets because the store is "a unique shopping and buying experience, and all of the salespeople are pumped."
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