I’ll get back to you…

I haven’t blogged for a while. But I still care about you. Which is why I haven’t blogged for a while.

I’m actually very active in the real world, where I help connect people, processes and things with information to help them understand the world in which they live and work. Which increasingly involves a lot of always-on, digital connectivity and collaboration. The work I do generally doesn’t belong to me, being contracted for editorial clients who own my writings and corporate clients for whom the content is typically subject to NDA. In the past I’ve commented on and linked to such writings without “dumping” them here wholesale. But I don’t often feel the need to promote on the Web, when I can reach-out to my network directly.

The time may come again for me to blog on something I want to share, and at such time I’ll let you via social blastage. Which reminds me of an old-favorite riddle:

Q: How many PR professionals does it take to answer an editorial inquiry?

A: I’ll have to check on that, and get back to you.

Retail analytics: Here’s lookin’ at you, kids

I recently reunited with FoodOnline.com to write a story on Big Data analytics in the retail food supply chain. The first bylines I had for that site were in 1999, when I was Editorial Director for that related sites — before the big bursting of the Internet Bubble. Accenture’s Stages of Analytic Capabilities

When the Internet was new, there were no iPods, let alone iOS, Android or Bluetooth-powered beacons; Big Data was just a gleam in its young Business Intelligence mother’s eye. And retailers had no idea what to really do with their Business Intelligence systems. Those who finally do, today, see BI as old news as analytics — predictive and now prescriptive — come into their own, powered by Big Data and cloud computing.

Today, as an exec from SAS told me, a shopper who stands in front of a Nescafé display for more than 10 seconds might just get a virtual tap on the shoulder, or rather a bzzzz in the pocket, with a coupon to get that package of coffee off the shelf and in to the cart.

My favorite interview in this story just might have been Nick Hodson, former head of strategy at Safeway Stores and current leader of the North American consumer and retail business practice of Strategy& PwC, who reminded me that the technology isn’t at all the point of progress so much as creative minds who come-up with new things to do with it. Yes, major retail marketers from Walmart and Nestlé may well fave a backlash over privacy concerns if opt-in/out issues aren’t handled correctly, but these times sure are interesting. Read all about it in my story, ” Predictive Analytics Helping CPGs Reach Individual Consumers.”

A DYI ‘shroom farm. A fishtank herb garden. What next?

“That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” the Whole Foods buyer told Nikhil Arora, who opened a big & stanky bag-o-fungus in the buyer’s office. To the young innovator, that bagful was the crown jewel of a new product he’d liken to a “next iPhone” for natural products fans.

He was kinda right, as you’ll find out if you read the story — “Home mushroom farming, fish-gardening and other supply chain collaboration challenges,” — that I wrote when I saw Nikhil in my travels on the packaging beat. Over the next few years he found the right suppliers for his DIY mushroom kits and then a cool aquaponic fishtank-meets-herb-garden kit.

New product to bow end-February 2015.

New product to bow end-February 2015.

Now he Alejandro Velez, co-founders of Back to the Roots, are at it again; they’ll unveil a new product on February 26th.

What’s it gonna be? I don’t know, but I couldn’t be happier to see these folks start so small and gain national distribution so quickly with such simple, honest ideas.

Rock on, guys.

Industry compliance to FDA Food Safety Modernization Act flying high

How's the FDA's new food safety rule affecting how food gets packaged?

How’s the FDA’s new food safety rule affecting how food gets packaged?

One of the hats I’ve worn of late is that of Editor of Packaging World‘s 2014 Food Safety Playbook for 2014 (as well as the preceding, inaugural edition).

Among the updates packed into the 101-page e-book were the results of a brief survey of U.S. food and beverage product packagers done in Q1, gauging industry readiness for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) now being implemented in rolling deadlines.

The results were optimistic; a large and in some aspects overwhelming majority reported that they have already completed the law’s key requirements into their food safety plans, or will in the coming year.

Since this blog is open to all who click, I’ll say that there’s a LOT to the law, the industry’s reaction, overall compliance and issues that’d have lay-people wondering: “What does it all mean?”

In general, I think the law’s a good thing. If you want to discuss in depth, I’ll invite you to read the whole playbook, or be smart enough not to have to — in which case I’ll refer you to someone with first-hand knowledge of the law, and of food safety. I was once certified to be a food safety guy in the dairy industry, but really, was no expert. Ever.

If you’re interested in reading more, here’s a link to more on the survey.

Be forewarned; I don’t divulge all of the results in this story, but there is a link to the full playbook at that link. If you’re in the industry, I hope you won’t mind having to register to get the playbook for free.

iPhone app for prescriptions seeks to tap a new-ish $100 billion market

Goin’ mobile: How many people never fill that first prescription? Not to worry; there’s an app on the way for that, too — GetMyRx — as we reported in this story at Pharmaceutical Commerce.

getMyRxDeveloper GetMyRx Inc.’s CEO Luis Angel says “at least a few hundred” scrips have been filled” since the iPhone app’s soft launch in the Miami-Dade, Fla., market in November last year. The app links to fee-paying pharmacies in Angel’s network, as opposed to a single store or chain, and lets people enter data or scan labels as well as insurance cards, coupons and related discount cards. New York and San Fran are top-priority markets for rollout perhaps by summer, Angel told me.

This and other moves by chains are hope to combat patient abandonment issues surrounding initial prescription fills, which a Harvard study indicates may constitute 30% of patients and Angel says has gotta represent a market worth at least $100 billion.

When Big Pharma brands shed their sales reps, you know outsourcing’s here to stay.

Industry after industry, major brands in various industries have shed all but their deepest core competencies. For the largest U.S. and global brands, this has typically led to a major offloading of manufacturing, packaging and distribution- and logistics-related functions. The reason is simple; for many if not most brands, much of those functions are commodities, whereas the real and profit-adding value to the brand is the brand itself. When the product can be manufactured and otherwise acted upon using standard equipment, processes and services that meet the brand’s specifications, even the sales function can be outsourced.

Sales is so closely linked to marketing in the Big Brand wheelhouse, it may surprise you to learn that sales, even in the highly specialized life sciences business, is often outsourced. How much of the Big Pharma sales force is outsourced depends on lots of product variables, but the use CSOs, or contract sales organizations, has been mainstream for many years.

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How do Big Pharma sales forces ebb and flow, and how do CSOs respond? In part, CSOs have been busy scooping-up experienced sales reps as brands reduce their headcount. CSOs area also laying the ground work for global growth through enhanced IT competency, broader service offerings and international partnerships and acquisitions.  Online and mobile app use and the resulting collaborative capabilities of sales force software has only hastened the integration of in-house and outside contractors in communicating to customers, in this case healthcare providers. (See article linked below for an explanation of the graphic.)

I recently investigated the phenomenon and wrote what I found in a feature for Pharmaceutical Commerce magazine. Learn more by reading the story, “CSOs broaden their palette of service offerings.”