Thursday, August 08, 2002

Inventing Krispy Kreme

In Andy Serwer's recent article about Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, he writes: "I say only three types of people claim they don't like Krispy Kremes: nutritionists (your basic glazed has 200 calories and 12 grams of fat), Dunkin' Donuts franchisees, and compulsive liars." Hard to gainsay that.

This is a great story of the power of marketing. The founder of Krispy Kreme, Vernon Rudolph, bought the recipe for Krispy Kreme doughnuts from a French pastry chef in New Orleans. According to Serwer, Rudolph was a heavy drinker, and when he died in 1973, the company was sold to Beatrice. Which proceeded to run it into the ground. Only after a group of franchisees purchased the company in 1982 did Krispy Kreme begin its trek to the big time in earnest. Two marketing innovations that now define the company:

* "Everybody knows that when a Krispy Kreme store flips on its neon hot doughnuts now sign, the doughnuts are coming right off the line. Around 1980 the folks in Winston noticed sales at the Chattanooga store were going through the roof. HQ decided to send a man up to Chattanooga for a look-see. Turns out the store manager, Bob Glidden, had printed up an ordinary block sign that read hot doughnuts now. But his customers complained that he kept the sign up all the time, even when his doughnuts weren't hot. So Glidden went down to J.C. Penney and bought a window shade. When he wasn't making doughnuts he pulled the shade closed; when he was cooking, he pulled open the blind and customers streamed in. Bingo, a sales tactic was born!"

* The leader of the franchisee group came up with the idea for a "doughnut theater": "They put the doughnut-making equipment in stores so that people could see the doughnuts cook for exactly 115 seconds in 365-degree vegetable shortening, after which the precious confections plow through a glaze waterfall before curving 180 degrees around to the counter so that a salesperson can pluck a hot one right off the line and hand it to the drooling customer."

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

The Entrepreneurial Origins of the Tour de France

Last night I upgraded my Dish satellite service so I can get the Outdoor Life Network, home to Tour de France coverage in the U.S. The first thing I did was watch a show on the history of the Tour and learned that it was started by a newspaper (L'Auto) as a means to promote its coverage of the popular sport of cycling. Apparently, L'Auto was on the short end of a lawsuit, which prohibited the paper from using the word "bicycle" in its title. L'Auto's nemesis was a newspaper called Le Velo (The Bicycle), and the Tour became so popular that L'Auto crushed Le Velo.

The early Tour was brutal, and not just because the riders were doing 17-hour stages. According the BBC's history, "Fans left nails in the road in front of their favourites' rivals while competitors themselves riders took car trips and even train rides." This almost killed the Tour, but the sponsors (and cyclists) persisted. The dramatic mountain stages were added in 1910. No one was sure whether the riders could actually climb the Pyrenees or the Alps. But they did.

By the way, L'Auto was printed on yellow paper. So when journalists asked Tour director Henri Desgrange to make it easier to spot the leader, he came up with the idea of placing a yellow jersey on the leader at the beginning of each stage.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Nudism: A Growth Industry?

OK, I will admit to the double entendre -- and this is certainly a topic that invites self-conscious humor from those of us who are squeamish (or perhaps "horrified" would be a better description) about the prospect of baring ourselves publicly -- but some people are serious about growth prospects of nudism, also called "naturism." The topic has received lots of exposure (sorry) recently because of one Canadian's plan to "streak across Canada," as well as a spat about nudist resorts catering to youth. Florida Congressman Mark Foley has taken the latter issue to the public, and that has everyone wondering about this industry. The American Association for Nude Recreation, which has played a prominent role in the controversy, boasts a "roster of more than 240 private clubs, resorts, and RV campgrounds, as well as nearly 50,000 individual members." Even a quick tour of the Web reveals (there I go again!) a wide array of nudist services, from dating to volleyball tournaments. (By the way, most of these sites are very discrete when displaying their target customers, so don't expect a porno exhibition.) Although I cannot claim to have any first-hand experience with this industry, a friend who had visited nude beaches once provided this maxim for those who think of nudism as a spectator sport: "Most nudists shouldn't." In the end (oops, I did it again!), this is not an industry that is likely to provide much of a boost to Wisconsin's economy, unless nude indoor water parks become the rage.