LL Cool J At The Kennedy Center Honors

LL Cool J At The Kennedy Center Honors

http://bit.ly/2FAIEUg

In case you missed it, I thought you might dig this. I helped put together the segment for the Kennedy Center Honors last month honoring LL Cool J. It was the 1st time a Hip Hop artist has ever been recognized there. Thought you might dig the power of real DJing and MCing, live with no overdubs, like it was meant to be done.

LL Cool J At The Kennedy Center Honors

Heal up, my brother.

Peace,

DJ Z-Trip

Now I know Z-Trip. We’ve hung in Vail. He does gigs and rides, what could be better? He’s enthusiastic without airs and he told me all about his collaboration with LL Cool J and I figured I’d better watch this clip before I get back to him and…

WHEW! Where was the press on this?

It starts off with Questlove. I love Ahmir as much as the next guy, but he’s become the black Dave Grohl, the one the media continually trot out when the scope needs to be broadened, when there are other deserving individuals involved. Questlove’s got cred, this is no diss on him personally, it’s just that when I see him my eyes start to glaze over.

Although in this case, he seems to be testifying from his heart, saying important things, but it is an awards show, we’re used to superlatives.

And then…

My ears bug out when Z-Trip is introduced by the man at 1:45 and an energy starts exploding from the stage like a late night party and he implores the audience to put their hands in the air and every one of the honorees other than nonagenarian Norman Lear does so and Busta Rhymes and Spliff Star hit the stage and…

You shouldn’t call it a comeback.

We’ve got rhythm, we’ve got power, we’ve got Babyface nodding his head, all the people of color in the audience are in the groove, evidencing soul, locked in.

Meanwhile, the people down front are too startled to even rattle their jewelry. It’s like “Springtime For Hitler” in “The Producers.”

Meanwhile, Gloria Estefan falls right in.

There’s dancing in the aisle, there are eyes closed in reverie and it ain’t radically different from the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Decades of hip-hop compressed into one triumphant victory lap that got no press because we live in a delusional racist country where the whites control the media but the blacks control the culture.

I don’t care if you hate hip-hop, I don’t care if you’ve never heard the songs, there’s a palpable energy that cannot be denied. You’re not repelled, you just want to get CLOSER!

Now you get the memo. While you’re home watching Netflix there’s an entire generation that needs to leave to go party, to be with their brethren, to feel the vibe. They’re drawn to the sound, the tribal drum, to the truth evidenced in the lyrics, you realize immediately why rock is dead and hip-hop dominates, it’s hot, it’s alive, and it’s about the MOMENT!

That’s what this clip is, a moment.

And by time Black Thought finishes so many in attendance have been infected, the aged white people are putting their hands in the air. You see you get carried along, as the entire younger generation has been with hip-hop.

And then DMC hits the state and you’re swirling your head to the music, you can’t help it, even Caroline Kennedy.

Meanwhile, LL is rapping in his box, he’s in his moment, whereas most honorees are usually passive, taking it all in, but he’s ENJOYING HIMSELF!

Ain’t that what it’s all about, ain’t that how hip-hop started? With parties in the neighborhood?

And isn’t that Lesley Stahl at the end totally down?

And speaking of up, the believers stand in an ovation and then the minions rise along, because they don’t want to be left behind, never mind pass judgment, the train has left the station and they realize they’ve got to get on.

Do you?

That’s the interesting thing about music. It keeps going forward. Hip-hop has infected country. It used to be in rock, before that format imploded. You see it’s about energy and creativity and…

The sound of the streets.

You remember the streets, don’t you? Where you’re a nobody other than your personality and your clothes? Where you laugh and struggle to get ahead, knowing it’s a long way to where you want to go?

These deejays and MCs didn’t know they were gonna be superstars. They did it for the love. Meanwhile, the white people, or most of them, isn’t it fascinating that DMC is wearing a Beastie Boys t-shirt, are so busy jumping through rote hoops that they miss the memo. The best and the brightest are pushing paper at Goldman Sachs, all the creativity has been beaten out of them, but these people married to the beat, they’re triumphing.

All these people who cannot get a break. Who are put down constantly. The true “deplorables” of society. The ones winked at on Fox and in Charlottesville. The ones whose lives are constantly criticized as we lock ’em up in jail for drug offenses… They’re the ones driving our culture, just ask your kids.

This video is 9 minutes of pleasure.

But you don’t know what to do with it. It’s easier just to dismiss it.

But no longer.

Z-Trip and his crew rocked the bells.

And these same people are gonna rock your house.

Including the one in D.C. with the representatives.

That’s the power of hip-hop!

Marketing

via Lefsetz Letter http://bit.ly/1UlTzoa

January 13, 2018 at 08:48PM

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A tough agenda faces Neiman Marcus’ new CEO

A tough agenda faces Neiman Marcus’ new CEO

http://bit.ly/2r11gKd

Late last week the Neiman Marcus Group named former Ralph Lauren executive Geoffroy van Raemdonck as their new CEO, replacing company veteran Karen Katz (full disclosure: once my boss). While not terribly surprising given the company’s struggles under a mountain of debt, extremely rocky “NMG One” systems implementation and largely stagnant growth, the move does come at a critical time for North America’s leading luxury retailer.

As van Raemdonck takes the helm next month (and Katz moves to a Board position), he will be faced with addressing several important and vexing challenges. As I was SVP of strategy, business development & multi-channel marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group from 2004-08 (most of that time reporting to then CEO Burt Tansky) I have a somewhat unique perspective on what requires intense and urgent focus. Here’s my take:

Growing share in a mature and shifting market

As I wrote nearly a year ago, much of luxury retail has hit a wall. Many brands, including Neiman Marcus and its most direct competitor Saks Fifth Avenue, have struggled to grow both top and bottom line as core customers “age out” of peak spending years and very few new store locations exist. Neiman’s also has one of the highest e-commerce’s penetration in the industry and much of that growth is now merely channel shift.

Competition is also intensifying. In addition to the myriad online competitors, many of Neiman’s key vendors wisely continue to invest in direct-to-consumer growth strategies as they recognize the advantages of forging a direct relationship with consumers, the strategic brand control that operating their own stores and website affords and the opportunity for greater margins. Some are even pulling back from wholesale selling to create more exclusivity and more tightly managed distribution.

Affluent consumer behavior is also evolving markedly. After the financial crisis fewer customers seem willing to spend as conspicuously as before– despite a booming stock market and growing wealth inequality. Moreover, younger customers are starting to represent a growing percentage of the potential target market and clearly they are more digitally savvy, less logo conscious and don’t (yet?) seem to value the core elements of the luxury department store experience. All these factors create strong headwinds for Neiman Marcus’ hopes to restore significant revenue growth.

An overplayed hand

The work my customer insight team did on customer segment performance in 2007-08 revealed several alarming trends. While we were doing well with the uber-wealthy who tended to pay full price and were largely impervious to our raising average unit prices 7-9% per year, the rest of our business was weakening considerably and steadily. For customers who represented more than 2/3 of our profits, we were experiencing decreasing customer counts and lower transaction levels every year. In fact, literally all of our comparable store growth in the prior 5 years could be explained by the growth in average unit retail. While this was tolerated (and maybe even appreciated) by our very best customers, we were leaking business to Nordstrom (and others) as many very good customers found our ever increasing prices to be too high and our customer experience frequently lacking.

The strategy that had gotten Neiman’s to a leadership position was starting to run out of gas. Until the financial crisis hit (and Burt Tansky retired) little of substance was done to address this growing issue. While Karen Katz has made some inroads during her tenure, the brand still suffers from too narrow a customer base and little demonstrated ability to grow customer and transaction counts. This is the single biggest strategic challenge facing the company over the long term.

Unsustainable debt load

Neiman’s private equity owners paid way too much and saddled the company with a debt level that, unaddressed, will bring the company to its knees. There is simply no way for the brand to earn its way out of the problem. It is merely a matter of time before a significant restructuring of some sort must take place. The sooner this gets resolved the better, but thus far, despite the obviousness of the issue, neither the equity or debt holders have been willing to take the necessary haircut. Hope is not a strategy.

Limited degrees of freedom and flexibility

While Neiman’s has seen their operating performance improve somewhat, macro-economic factors explain much of it and there can be no certainly of that continuing. The fact is that the only way Neiman’s performance improves markedly is for them to start gaining significant share in a mostly flat market. That will almost certainly require substantial investment in new technology, re-inventing the customer experience at retail and extending their digital capabilities. Saddled with large debt and interest payments, the company will be severely constrained in having the cash to do what it will take.

Attracting younger customers and executing the ‘customer trapeze’

While demographically oriented strategies are typically overly simplistic, demographics ARE destiny over the long-term. For Neiman Marcus to thrive in the future they must navigate what I like to call the ‘customer trapeze.’  They must deftly do their best to optimize value from their historical high spending core customers–who tend to be older, love the traditional in-store shopping experience and prefer the highest end brands– while simultaneously doing a much better job of attracting new customers who are largely “digital first” shoppers, prefer more relaxed and democratic personal service and tend to spend considerably less on average. Getting this portfolio right isn’t easy and will require Neiman’s to literally take significant share away from some very formidable competitors whose brands’ are currently better aligned with younger, more aspirational shoppers’ needs and values.

An inevitable merger with Saks?

Many people believe that both Neiman’s and Sak’s fundamentally have too many stores. They are wrong. Because of incredibly favorable rent deals and developer capital contributions, the break-even volumes for most stores are very reasonable. Even if their physical stores were to lose 10% of their volume you could count the number of stores that would be cash negative on one hand. More importantly, stores are critical to helping support the online business, which is nearly a third of Neiman Marcus’ total volume. We understood this relationship well when I worked there–and this dynamic has only gotten far stronger. Closing stores, for the most part, would weaken the brand, not help it.

Having said that, a long rumored merger with Saks holds the potential for value creation. There are some geographies where having Saks and Neiman Marcus duke it out directly only leads to mediocre profits for both, particularly as more business moves online. Rationalizing locations would increase the overall profit pool. Opportunities for eliminating redundant overhead are hardly trivial. Alas, the challenges of both companies’ current capital structures make this conceptually valid merger more complex than it might otherwise be.

Cultural pushback

When I joined the Neiman Marcus executive team one of the first things I noticed was how strong the culture was. This was good and bad. The good part was that most folks had worked together for a long time and the company was a well oiled execution machine. The bad parts were exactly the same thing. Strategy played second fiddle to execution, many senior managers lacked the requisite external perspective and, consequently, there were many blindspots.

Innovation as a discipline was also incredibly under-valued. Karen Katz deserves praise for moving the company forward on many of these fronts, but some of what is needed to take the company to the next level is not inherent to its DNA. van Raemdonck is the first outsider to run the company in some time. I expect a rocky road generally, as well as some departures of high level, long-tenured executives.

Unlike many decades old brands that are struggling mightily, Neiman has many strong core elements. And that’s clearly an advantage as van Raemdonck sets his agenda. Unfortunately, Neiman’s historical strengths are also at the center of many of its go-forward challenges. Until the debt issue is resolved, even under a best case scenario, their new leader will likely be hamstrung to move as quickly as he would like, not to mention at the pace that the company desperately needs.

A version of this story appeared at Forbes, where I am a retail contributor. You can check out more of my posts and follow me here.  

For information on keynote speaking and workshops please go here.

Marketing

via Steve Dennis http://bit.ly/1Uf0dwo

January 13, 2018 at 10:48AM

Where in the world is Steve?

Where in the world is Steve?

http://bit.ly/2Ez95IY

I’ll be traveling quite a bit over the next few months attending major industry conferences and (often) delivering my latest keynote “A Really Bad Time To Be Boring: Reinventing Retail In The Age Of Amazon.”

January 14-16  New York  NRF’s Big Show
February 6  Boston  MITX e-Commerce Summit
February 13 Dallas  FEI Dallas
February 28  Melbourne, Australia  Inside Retail Live
March 18-21  Las Vegas  ShopTalk
April 17-19  Madrid, Spain  World Retail Congress
May 1-2  New York  Retail Innovation Conference

Additional dates will be announced shortly.

If I’m in your town I hope we’ll get a chance to connect.

20170823_Microsoft_2171

Marketing

via Steve Dennis http://bit.ly/1Uf0dwo

January 12, 2018 at 12:07PM

Court Protects Louis Vuitton from Inability to Understand Obvious Joke

Court Protects Louis Vuitton from Inability to Understand Obvious Joke

http://bit.ly/2D5gN09

For the past several years, DuetsBlog has covered fashion house Louis Vuitton’s outlandish trademark “bullying” against law schools, dog toys, photographers, and movie studios. Most recently, we discussed the brand’s latest high-profile lawsuit against rival luxury canvas tote maker (sarcasm), My Other Bag, for trademark infringement and dilution.

To the casual observer, one might not be able to distinguish My Other Bag’s signature tote (which on one side says “My Other Bag,” and on the other has a cartoon picture of a bag) from that of Louis Vuitton’s “Speedy Satchel.” Case in point:

Too bad for Louis Vuitton the test for parody is largely based on the casual observer–or, at least those with “a modicum of intelligence.” Even they can tell that My Other Bag’s product was a joke, the District Court held.

My Other Bag Seeks Reimbursement for Louis Vuitton’s Obviously-flawed Lawsuit

After successfully defending itself against Louis Vuitton’s claims, My Other Bag filed a motion for attorneys’ fees incurred in responding to Louis Vuitton’s highly questionable suit, citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness, 134 S. Ct. 1749, 1758 (2014). The Lanham Act provides for attorneys’ fees in “exceptional cases,” and it is hard to see how this case might not be one of them, where the parody was–in the words of the District Court–“obvious.” Octane Fitness interpreted “exceptional” under the Patent Act’s identical language to depend on the circumstances and strength of a party’s litigating position (as compared to the typical case).

On January 8, 2018, the District Court–to the surprise of many–denied My Other Bag’s motion, sidestepping whether Octane Fitness applies to the Lanham Act and holding that fees were not appropriate for “several reasons.” Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. My Other Bag, Inc., No. 14-CV-3419 (JMF), 2018 WL 317850 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 8, 2018). They include:

  1. Although the District Court and the Second Circuit “did not find this case to be a particularly close call, it cannot say that Louis Vuitton’s arguments were so objectively unreasonable (as either a legal or factual matter) that no party ‘could see an opening . . . through which the argument[s] could be squeezed,’” primarily because dilution by blurring and infringement are fact-intensive and based on “subtle” multi-factor analyses.
  2. That a use is parody does not necessarily resolve a dilution or infringement claim, such as when a trademark is used as as designation of source, “and Louis Vuitton advanced colorable (albeit unsuccessful) arguments that [My Other Bag’s] totes designated Louis Vuitton as their source.” The District Court also ironically pointed to a “flawed and distinguishable” case that Louis Vuitton has previously won as evidence that its position was not objectively unreasonable.
  3. The fact that Louis Vuitton did not show loss of sales or diminution of status is irrelevant because dilution is actionable regardless of actual or likely confusion (citing 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(1)).
  4. Louis Vuitton did not litigate the case “in an exceptionally vexatious and coercive manner,” but rather using merely “acceptable, if aggressive, litigation tactics” that were in some instances “regrettable,” but not exceptionally bad.
  5. “Louis Vuitton’s aggressive efforts to protect its trademarks have, on occasion, veered toward the unseemly.” The David-and-Goliath match-up was also concerning. However, Louis Vuitton had good reason to aggressively seek enforcement of its marks because if it didn’t, it could risk losing its rights. Moreover, Louis Vuitton has a history of winning many of its cases.

The District Court’s Precedent Will Likely Lead to More Undeserved Settlements in Parody Defense Cases

It is difficult to agree with the District Court’s conclusion on fees in this case, especially in view of the fact that Louis Vuitton is branded as “one of the biggest trademark bullies around.” There is something to be said for diligent protection of trademark rights, but it’s one thing to go after a counterfeiter and quite another to cause a non-competing humorist to expend over $800,000 in its defense. That both the District Court and the Second Circuit actually called Louis Vuitton out for its failure to take a joke shows that the company’s litigating position was exceptionally laughable.

More importantly, the ruling lays out an impossibly-high standard in effect; if this case is not exceptional, it is hard to believe any other case with the same procedural history would be. What constitutes exceptionally “vexatious and coercive” behavior if not the bringing of an unreasonable lawsuit? Ultimately, the District Court’s precedent, if adopted by other courts, will likely lead to more undeserved settlements. The jokesters become the butt of their own jokes, and the humorless thread one more feather to their “unseemly” caps.

Thankfully others in the fashion industry, such as Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, show some semblance of fun–particularly as to tote bags. But given that the one he’s sporting below was made by Naco Paris in response to winning a trademark suit brought by Chanel, maybe not so much.

The post Court Protects Louis Vuitton from Inability to Understand Obvious Joke appeared first on DuetsBlog.

Marketing

via DuetsBlog http://bit.ly/2yiJYLA

January 12, 2018 at 08:48AM

Friday Link Pack

Friday Link Pack

http://bit.ly/2DnrHvW

Listen to the sound of the penguin falling. I feel you little penguin. I feel you.

The Need To Be Alone

– Do yourself a favor and read this uplifting post: The Crunch # 51 When I was done reading, I signed up to support Gus and Tane on Patreon.

The 25 films every feminist needs to watch in 2018

What are you trying to do?

– While I hope I won’t have to move ever again, as I love my home so much, I want to remember this simple moving hack.

Stylish IKEA Hacks.

– Self-care is so much more than a social media trend — Mister Rogers explains that when we take care of ourselves, we allow ourselves to grow.

Change in top 10 American companies over the last 100 years

– This after school routine hack is pretty impressive.

The 100 Best Nonfiction Books Of All Time.

– “Real relaxation doesn’t come from doing nothing at all if you’re a busy person but from doing something different.” — Alex Pang in a recent Hurry Slowly Episode

These portraits by Phil Galloway are stunning.

– Two major Apple shareholders push for study of iPhone addiction in children

– Chad Dickerson put together a crowd-sourced list of best books for new, first-time managers.

– Better selfies with this light up selfie case.

This scarf gets my two thumbs up.

– Yes to this cat doormat.

No one really knows.

DIY Tattly Valentine’s Day Cards

– I am determined to navigate 2018 with an open heart. Wearing this at all times.

Design,Marketing

via Swiss Miss http://bit.ly/25KYQgd

January 12, 2018 at 07:36AM

Friday Link Pack

Friday Link Pack

http://bit.ly/2DnrHvW

Listen to the sound of the penguin falling. I feel you little penguin. I feel you.

The Need To Be Alone

– Do yourself a favor and read this uplifting post: The Crunch # 51 When I was done reading, I signed up to support Gus and Tane on Patreon.

The 25 films every feminist needs to watch in 2018

What are you trying to do?

– While I hope I won’t have to move ever again, as I love my home so much, I want to remember this simple moving hack.

Stylish IKEA Hacks.

– Self-care is so much more than a social media trend — Mister Rogers explains that when we take care of ourselves, we allow ourselves to grow.

Change in top 10 American companies over the last 100 years

– This after school routine hack is pretty impressive.

The 100 Best Nonfiction Books Of All Time.

– “Real relaxation doesn’t come from doing nothing at all if you’re a busy person but from doing something different.” — Alex Pang in a recent Hurry Slowly Episode

These portraits by Phil Galloway are stunning.

– Two major Apple shareholders push for study of iPhone addiction in children

– Chad Dickerson put together a crowd-sourced list of best books for new, first-time managers.

– Better selfies with this light up selfie case.

This scarf gets my two thumbs up.

– Yes to this cat doormat.

No one really knows.

DIY Tattly Valentine’s Day Cards

– I am determined to navigate 2018 with an open heart. Wearing this at all times.

Design,Marketing

via Swiss Miss http://bit.ly/25KYQgd

January 12, 2018 at 07:36AM