Which fast-food chain will be first to come out with a $0 menu?

Posted on Wed Dec 9 2009


How bad are things when people can't even afford a Big Mac? This week, the world's largest hamburger chain said same-store sales dropped 0.6 percent in November, the second consecutive monthly decline. (The news comes less than a week after Yum! Brands, parent of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, projected weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter numbers.) Good luck to McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner, who promised investors "a disciplined pricing strategy," even as he released the disappointing numbers. Competitors like Burger King are offering a new double cheeseburger for $1, and Dunkin' Donuts has a new 99-cent menu. Taco Bell, which last month settled a lawsuit filed by rapper 50 Cent over appropriating his persona to push its tacos and burritos, has been out there already with items priced less than $1. So much for the fast-food sector, one of the few bright spots in the economy this year.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

It's Apple's turn to strike back at that scoundrel Verizon Wireless

Posted on Tue Nov 24 2009

It seems Verizon Wireless is getting to everyone. Last week, a federal judge said the carrier can continue to run its "There's a map for that" takeoff of Apple's "There's an app for that" spots, thus delivering a setback to AT&T, the iPhone's exclusive U.S. carrier. AT&T had sued Verizon over the campaign, which compares coverage maps and claims Verizon has five times more coverage than AT&T. Now, it's Apple's turn to take a jab at Verizon. In its new round of iPhone ads, Apple deftly illustrates various apps and then ends with: "Can your phone and your network do that?" But don't miss the fine print at the end of the commercial: "3G not available in all areas."

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

Volkswagen quietly becomes the largest automaker in the world

Posted on Tue Nov 17 2009


Volkswagen has overtaken Toyota as the world's largest auto manufacturer? That's hard to imagine here in the U.S., where Volkswagen is a weak player, but the German auto company has quietly bypassed its Japanese competitor, producing 4.4 million vehicles to date this year, compared to Toyota's 4 million. In part that's because VW took over Porsche and Toyota reduced production earlier this year. But VW also got a boost in Europe, where it is the dominant player, from state-backed cash-for-clunkers programs, and VW's luxury Audi brand continues to grow in the U.S. despite the lousy economy. (Last month, Audi sold 7,358 units, just a fraction off an all-time U.S. monthly sales record for the brand a year earlier.) The Wolfsburg company also has numbers on its side: VW is the largest car company in China, where it's had a presence since its first joint venture in 1984, and is also strong in Brazil. Not bad for a company whose signature brand once urged buyers to "Think small" and choose it over models offered by giants like General Motors—the world's largest auto company just three years ago, which has fallen to No. 3.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

Millennials speak for themselves on Edward Boches's new site

Posted on Thu Nov 12 2009


As Mullen's chief creative officer, Edward Boches felt too much of the research and coverage of Millennial consumers was conducted by older professionals like himself. As the agency's chief social-media officer, Boches—who has around 8,000 followers on Twitter—saw a better way to get inside the minds of those individuals 18-25: give them a platform to explain themselves. "We want to generate enough content to become an important voice for kids to develop their own identities and become a resource for marketers, educators and journalists," he says. On Nov. 3, a new Web site called The Next Great Generation was born. Boches is growing a staff of young writers—80 so far—to share their thoughts about everything from life, work, faith, sex and love to brands, technology and the environment. Most of them Boches knows through Twitter, and he admits there is still a heavy concentration of Northeast college-educated U.S. kids, but he is attracting some others in the Midwest, Africa and Shanghai. He's aiming to bring in more urban kids and add greater diversity. Visitors to the site can ask its writers questions. (A couple of recent examples: "Would you ever pay for a newspaper?" "What long-term impact will the recession have on you?") Boches also foresees opportunities for the site to get a group of its writers to respond to larger themes like food or fashion for marketers. The site is independent from Mullen and free, with its bloggers receiving no compensation. But while Boches hopes to eventually monetize The Next Great Generation, he says he's not creating a side business for himself. He says he'll look at a way to share any revenue with content creators or consider a way to collectively agree on a charity and fund it with proceeds.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

Samsung develops new mobile OS, whether you want one or not

Posted on Wed Nov 11 2009

Make way for yet another smartphone operating system. Samsung is the latest company to jump into the mobile OS fray, launching "Bada" in handsets coming out in the first half of 2010. The world's largest seller of mobile phones will go up against popular platforms from Apple and Google Android, which Samsung has already introduced in a Galaxy model, still largely unavailable in America. (Most of Samsung's smartphones use Windows Mobile.) So, why does the Korean giant want another operating system? Apps. Samsung doesn't share in any of the sales through others' app stores. In its announcement about the new OS, the company gushes that Bada, Korean for "ocean," is a new addition to Samsung's "mobile ecosystem (that) enables developers to create applications for millions of new Samsung mobile phones."

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary



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