How Spam Came to Rule the World (and why it is shoplifted in Hawaii)

What do you think of when you hear the word, “Spam”? First off, we are not talking about electronic junk mail. 

If you are thinking luncheon meat, you probably have a mixed reaction at best. For most of the grocery product’s 8-decade history, Spam has been disparaged and dismissed. The harshest critics cite is as inedible and mock it as “Something Posing As Meat” or “Scientifically Processed Animal Matter”. Yet, over 8.5 billion cans have been sold since Hormel launched the product in 1937. 

Americans buy 113 million cans of Spam annually. This means 3.8 cans are consumed every second in the United States. To keep up with demand, the slaughterhouse next to the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota butchers 20,000 pigs a day. So, how can we reconcile what is so bashed with what is bought (and stolen) in mass amounts?

Spam was successful right out of the gate, having grabbed 18% market share in its first year of sales. By 1940, 7 out of 10 of Americans had tried Spam. This was largely attributed to an economy still suffering from the Depression and it began Spam’s longstanding association with low-cost and frugality. Sales still spike when times are tough. 

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Wagyu: Beefy Branding or True Luxury?

Restaurant menus provide me with great entertainment. First, there are the overly florid descriptions, “Isle of Gigha halibut plucked today from Neptune’s briny depths and glazed with hints of Aegean seaweed while paired with citrus-infused Atlantic King crab balanced delicately by herbal-honeyed cauliflower couscous, index finger lime, and accented by a buttery and woody ras el hanout infused broth.”

All joking aside, given I penned that pretentious menu item, it does pay to have dishes sound more enticing. Guests, on average, spend about 109 seconds with a menu. Item descriptions trigger 45% of buying decisions for a specific dish and well-written descriptions can increase sales up to 30%. Another consideration, 80% of a restaurant’s food sales come from 16% of menu items.

The second reason menus entertain are my hunt for typos. Being a marketer and a writer, I am programmed to spot these but never do so to shame. When it is so egregious, forcing me to bring it up, the restaurant has been already well aware but do not want to eat the cost of a reprint (blame the printers!). Such errors show humanity, so often this can be endearing. After all, you may spot syntax and grammar no-no’s in this piece (like using the hyphenated expression, no-no).

A third reason is menu layout and design. Studies call for just 7 items per page, so customers absorb and focus. Generally accepted thinking is to ditch dollar signs and round up or down to even numbers. Forget that $6.95 way of thinking and make it 7. Restaurants have assumed that customers are drawn to the upper righthand corner of menus, so place higher profit items there. Newer research suggests customers read menus like a book, starting in the top left corner.

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The Story Behind Richard Bachman

If you follow Stephen King in the press and social media, you will see he has passion for many topics. The author is politically vocal and not a fan of the 45th President. He is highly supportive of other writers, especially those starting out. He shares tips on the craft of writing and is delightfully self-deprecating, “I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.”

King is amazingly well-known, having sold over 350 million copies of his 61 novels. It is fair to say, his name is synonymous with the term, “bestselling”. He and other contemporary mass market novelists like Patterson, Picoult, Roberts, and Stine, pump out novel after novel.

When King’s career took off, publishers limited authors to one book per year. It was thought that the public would tire of a more active author. King has always been prolific so decided to write under another name. The idea was to avoid over-saturating the King “brand”.

Signet Books agreed to print a series of novels under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman. King used this opportunity as an experiment. He wanted to find out if his success was due to talent or luck? Would Bachman be as big as King? The Bachman novels were released with little marketing support. Unfortunately, the experiment ended too soon to come to a conclusion. King was linked to Bachman. Consider this though, the novel Thinner sold 28,000 copies under Bachman and then ten times as many when people found out it was King.

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