Friday, September 09, 2005

Why people hate fat Americans

Here is a very interesting article regarding consumption, obesity, America, and some of the issues we face. I think it is important to note that we, as Americans, are all Fat and Obese in our own right. It may not be in the proverbial spare-tire waist that is so common throughout our country, but it may be in our consumption, attitudes, lifestyles, vehicles (read SUVs), clothing, enetertainment, etc. From the article, it states:

"According to the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey, a comprehensive opinion poll of public attitudes in America and 16 other countries, the USA is routinely seen as greedy by Western publics. For example, 67 per cent of the Dutch, 64 per cent of Britons and 62 per cent of Canadians see Americans as greedy. Perhaps most striking of all, 70 per cent of Americans see their fellow compatriots as greedy (10)."

This survey result is striking, yet understandable. I've travelled throughout Europe and Asia, and I've been in discussion with folks about our consumption. Our consumption is synonymous with greed in a lot of the world. And, I can't necessarily dispute that assertion. It is true, we, as a society, have become very greedy. We consume like there's no tomorrow. The amount of waste a given individual produces in a year in the U.S. is phenomenal. I don't know the exact numbers, but I recall articles I've read that cited the tonnage consumed per person, and it is high. However, I have to agree strongly with the article that consumption truly is the mark of a better standard of living, not worse. As such, as the article says, all should "aim to be fat Americans".

But, it is still critical that we ask ourselves if all our consumption is necessary. Can we curb it? Should we curb it? Is there an argument that an increase in consumption isn't necessarily bad; however, that increase needs to be in moderation. Excess consumption is not appropriate, regardless of our standard of living, and how Fat or Phat we try to live.

In reference to the issue of world hunger cited in the article (namely 815 million of the world populous received insufficient nutrition in 2002), I think the greater issue is not the ability to produce enough food to solve world hunger. World hunger will be solved, not by the developed world producing food and shipping it over (as there is an inherent flaw with this theory), but in growing the food in the respective countries, and teaching the local people proper farming techniques. The inherent flaw with shipping food over from the developed to the undeveloped world is the lack of infrastructure. The undeveloped third-world countries simply do not have the necessary infrastructure in place to distribute the food and get it to the people who need it most. And, until a better infrastructure is put in place, the problem will persist. When governments are corrupt, and guerillas intercept food supplies, and the roads simply suck, and there aren't sufficient vehicles to transport the food, and the heat spoils the food, and there is no orderly distribution network, how can we ever expect to solve the problem by growing more food in the developed world!? It doesn't make sense.

However, teaching proper farming techniques, and then empowering the farmers to implement the techniques, will have a lot more powerful effect on solving the problem of hunger. In addition, and I know this is a sore spot for many, GMOs promise a level of solution yet to be realized. Today, crops can be modified to be more resilient, stronger, more productive, in a shorter time through genetic modification and manipulation. But, the caveat with GMOs is the increased price of the seed. In these third world countries, farmers simply don't make the proper margins to be able to afford GMOs.

So, once again, the wheel continues to spin without moving forward or back.

The Article

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New iPod Nano

Apple has done it once again. They've introduced their new iPod Nano. Much cooler than the shuffle. Frankly, I think the shuffle is kind of a joke in many ways. It leverages the iPod brand name, but that's about all
it does. It really is no different than any other flash player out there.

Now the iPod Nano, on the other hand, is saweet!!

Available in 2GB and 4GB models. They will retail for $250 & $200 respectively. It incorporates the wonderful click wheel on the larger iPods. In addition, it has a color screen allowing for viewing of photos, or the current music album you are listening to.

Apple owns the mp3 player market with 53% of the market, and with the new Nano, they'll probably hold on to that lead.

Pics courtesy of: Apple and Cnet

Age Expectancy

I'm supposed to live to the age of 87.9 years old. WooHoo!!!

Check out this site by Aging Research

They have a quiz you can take that will then calculate your life expectancy based on current habits, trends, gender, ancestry, etc.

Hopefully this quiz will motivate many to take better care of themselves.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina Blog, from Downtown New Orleans

Here's a blog by the CEO of who's offices are located in downtown New Orleans. They have a myriad of photos and an ongoing blog about the progress, developments, etc. in the massive cleanup after Katrina.

Here are the photos
Here's a link to the Blog

Future Retail Business Opportunities

I was visiting with a friend the other night, and we were discussing the developments in the retail space and the ramifications of ecommerce on more traditional brick-and-mortar. Now, we all know that the internet craze of the late 90s was a little left-of-center when everyone was forecasting the doom of brick-and-mortar. However, I think there will continue to be some level of doom for the traditional brick-and-mortar as we know it today.

Think about it, I'm in my mid-20s, and I make over 50% of all my consumer purchases online. Why? Because it is faster, more convenient, 95% of the time cheaper, and I don't have to pay for gas (see my rants below on gas prices). But, even more important with my purchases, I many times still physically experience the product before making a purchase. In other words, many times I'll visit traditional brick-and-mortar retail locations to learn more about the product, handle it, and look it over. Then, I go home, on the net, and find the lowest price and make a purchase.

Come on, this behavior is nothing new. Almost everyone I know does similar things with their purchases. Many brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop shops complain of this kind of behavior. But, in my mind, this behavior presents a business opportunity. Consumers will always want to physically interact on some level with the product before making a purchase. So, if many brick-and-mortars are going to struggle because of increasing purchases online. Then, where and what is the way to allow consumers an opportunity to touch, feel, taste, smell etc. the product before making the purchase.

How can you blend the benefits of the brick-and-mortar, with the convenience and price of ecommerce. Perhaps offering a line of credit to customers, allowing them to "demo" a product for a period of time before choosing to buy it or return it? I can see it now, an ecommerce retail site offering their customers the opportunity to order, receive, and experience the product in person before having to decide whether or not if they want to purchase it. If, after a set time, say 15 days, the customer doesn't return the product, the ecommerce site automatically bills their line of credit. Otherwise, the customer returns the product. Or, even better, the customer then ships the product to another customer, who has requested the same product and wants to "experience" it before making a purchasing decision. Thus, creating a community where customers "share" with eachother.

Customizable, community-driven, customer experiences. Just think!!

Customer Made is huge!!

GM still not seeing the light & Gas Prices

GM still doesn't seem to quite get it. They have now successfully introduced a vehicle, the HHR a successfully whopping 4 years after its competition was introduced, the PT Cruiser by the in-its-own-right infamous DaimlerChrysler. In fact, I've read that the development & design of the HHR was actually headed up by the same guy that headed up the PT Cruiser. At any rate, welcome to the table, GM, 2.5+ years after the hot demand for the PT Cruiser has tapered off.

To add further hurt to the whole situation, GM is now readying the launch/introduction/further downward spiral/self-suicide of their redesigned, next-gen gas-hogs, their SUVs. And, Katrina definitely doesn't help the situation given the incredible jump in fuel prices. GMs own research suggests that "gasoline prices must rise to $2.50 to $3 a gallon for a sustained period to change vehicle-buying decisions" (source). Well, GM, welcome to Katrina, a dip in oil supply, and an ever-increasingly-consumption-driven US consumer who demands more and more, at lower and lower prices. I'm sorry, but SUV sales simply won't be where they were before given the economic conditions we are in. Seriously, average gas prices have been well over $2.50 for over half a year now. GM's nonluxury SUV sales are off 27.2%. That's over 1/4 of their total sales!! Let's do the math, full-size truck sales has grown 16.7% over the last 6 years. Naturally, GM's revenues and profits from that segment have increased in-line with the growth. However, in less than one year, their sales in the same segment is now off 27.2%.

OK, come again. It took 6 years for the segment to grow less than 17%, yet, in less than a year, GM's sales are now off by 27.2%. What it took 6 years to grow, in less than a year GM has dropped by 150% off the respective growth.

GM (and Ford) wake up!! The SUV craze appears to be finally dwindling. Consumers are now regaining their brains, and buying vehicles that actually make sense.

Don't get me wrong, I like many aspects of SUVs. But, it's only a matter of time before American consumers realize they don't need to experience 13mpg to go pick up their obesity-rich McDonalds Value Meal (supersized, nonetheless).