The fall of a multi-vehicle empire


February 20, 2020

Attention food marketers: You’re 6 weeks early for April Fools’ jokes. But some weird (and as it turns out, real) headlines got us to check the calendar twice:

  • Rappers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are now Boneless Thugs-N-Harmony (thanks to a collab with Buffalo Wild Wings).
  • A new Burger King ad campaign is bragging about moldy Whoppers (with no artificial preservatives!).
  • Norm, the everyman hero of the ’80s sitcom Cheers, now shills for Domino’s Pizza.

It’s enough to send us bellying up to the bar for another beer.

Plains, trains, and snowmobiles — goodbye.

Bombardier once made planes, trains, and snowmobiles. Now, it’s only private jets

The Montreal-based transportation company Bombardier Inc. sold off its train division to the French transportation giant Alstom last week for $8.2B.

Now, Bombardier is basically a one-trick pony: Its one trick just happens to be making luxury private jets.

But Bombardier used to make a little of everything

After Joseph-Armand Bombardier’s son died in a tragic snowstorm, he invented a forerunner to the famous Ski-Doo. Then, in 1942, he founded a company to sell his snow machines.

In the following decades, Bombardier developed and sold a range of vehicles developed for snow, land, sea, rail, and sky:

But by the 2000s, more specialized competitors began to  challenge Bombardier’s marvelous multi-vehicular empire.

And Bombardier has had to downsize big time

In 2003, Bombardier was forced to sell its recreational product lines (snowmobiles, ATVs, sea scooters, etc.) to a group of investors led by Bain Capital to focus on its bread and butter: trains and planes.

But Bombardier, which has struggled to compete with transportation giants  since, continued paring down its train and plane businesses, most recently with the sale of its commercial jet business to Mitsubishi in 2019 and its train business to Alstom last week.

Now, all Bombardier has left is its private jet business 

And investors have mixed feelings about jettisoning everything but the jets: Bombardier’s shares swung up as much as 12% and then down as much as 10% in Toronto before closing down just slightly on Monday.

Bombardier’s CEO declared the company’s turnaround a success, but skeptical analysts also told Bloomberg that Bombardier “could be more susceptible to the financial cycles tied to the business aircraft market” without its portfolio of all types of planes and trains.

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Phone a Friend?

A one-time gossip merchant returns — with an app to cure your loneliness

Five years ago, the anonymous-gossip app Secret crashed and burned after racking up millions of users.

Chrys Bader-Wechseler, one of Secret’s cofounders, now says he’s sorry about the bullying that went down on the platform (Who could have possibly seen that coming?).

He’s back with a new service that wants to cure one of the most talked-about issues in our app-addled age: loneliness.

Sometimes you just need a friend

The new app, Ikaria, borrows its name from a Greek island. It’s one of the world’s “blue zones” — where people have been shown to live longer and healthier, thanks partly to strong bonds between buds.

Bader-Wechseler told TechCrunch that Ikaria will give people space to chat with friends, family, and people who’ve gone through similar life experiences.

The idea? Tech gets a bad rep for driving people apart and making us more lonely. Ikaria wants to help you connect with kindred spirits in the digital wilderness.

It’s trying to tackle a huge problem

Research has shown that loneliness can be harmful to your health, especially among older adults.

More men are starting to shake off the stigma of loneliness, too. A writer for The Boston Globe went viral a few years ago after calling loneliness the biggest threat to middle-aged guys.

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Supermarket Shelf-Indulgence

Shelf-indulgent supermarkets are stealing back shelf space from big brands

For a long time, local grocery stores have allowed big food brands like General Mills and PepsiCo to determine most of the placement and pricing of their products in stores.

But recently, the balance of power has shifted away from shelf-ish supersized suppliers… and back towards regular retailers.

As a result, store-brand alternatives are replacing Big Brand products on the sweetest shelves… and you can bet your bottom Devil Dog that Tony the Tiger and Chester Cheetah aren’t happy about it.

It’s a cleanup in Aisle D…

And in this case, D stands for data.

In the past, big brands ruled the shelves because only so-called “category captains” like Kellogg Co., Kraft Heinz Co., and Campbell Soup Co. had enough data to set competitive prices and predict future food trends. 

But thanks to new tech, Big Brands aren’t their best shelves 

Grocers like Kroger have developed video-fed software programs that analyze “walk rates” (how long shoppers stare at snacks before they get bored) and enable them to put their store-brand products in “the strike zone” (the eye-level, snack-buying sweet spot). 

And the shift has serious financial consequences for big food behemoths: Since 2013, $17B worth of food sales — or 3.5% of the market — has shifted from Big Brands to snack startups, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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plastic roads Trends Signal

Trends Sneak Peek: Why plastic alternatives to asphalt are on the rise

With roughly 25m miles of roads around the world made up of asphalt (aggregate and hydrocarbon-based bitumen), MacRebur is one company looking to use non-recyclable plastic waste instead.

The founder of MacRebur was inspired by seeing locals in India pouring plastic waste into potholes, then burning it to fix the hole. Australia’s Close the Loop has similarly developed an asphalt additive from soft plastic and toner waste.

What’s next? Look out for opportunities where companies are swapping out other materials for low-cost plastic.

Non-recyclable plastics are still available everywhere, and the alternatives to reusing them are incineration or the dump. Innovators who repurpose them effectively can find themselves on the right side of the supply-and-demand curve.

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Snippets

📷 The skincare brand Olay says it will stop retouching models’ skin in its ads.

🇨🇦 Oh, Canada. Ontario’s new license plates are causing controversy because they’re almost impossible to read at night.

🚴‍♀️ The fitness company Flywheel is shutting down its virtual classes after settling a lawsuit in which Peloton accused it of patent infringement.

🤔 Typo-squatters are turning Rudy Giuliani’s mistyped tweets into cybersecurity traps.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

 
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Nick “Ski-Don’t” DeSantis

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Howard M. Burgers

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