LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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What happened to the demand side? What McDonald's needs now is a strict discipline of systematically uncovering the subtle architecture of its demand structure-getting in touch with the fundamentals that drive consumers to use and define what a brand means to them at the moment of consumption. Based on that foundation, portfolio, brand and product-design strategies can be developed toward sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

This is in stark contrast to the "classical marketing" protocol of awareness tests, product-preference tests, focus groups and image and attitude tests, followed by advertising preference tests, recall tests, regional and finally national launch. This approach has fundamentally carried the marketing/advertising/branding industry for years, and in many instances successfully so when growth was almost automatic, pricing was easy, mass marketing was cost-effective and scale advantages were achievable. The world is a different place today, and a lot of companies are in total denial about the apparent lack of "power" in their brands and lack of growth and pricing in the marketplace.

This, of course, forces them to go back to the supply-side: i.e., cut costs, restructure, close factories/shops/countries, fire people, take a major charge to the balance sheet, etc. Then they forget all about the usual non-quantifiable marketing hoopla and give "value for money," i.e., cut the price and promote and merchandise the hell out of the brand. ...

McDonald's is still the largest and most powerful and knowledgeable quick-service restaurant business in the world, by a long shot, with a world-class supply-side organization. Imagine the possibilities if the demand-side were world-class as well.

Pam Murtaugh

Principal

Ove Sorenson

Executive Board Director

Pam Murtaugh & Co.

Madison, Wis.

Rance Crain right in rapping United

Rance Crain's comments could not have been more on target ("United, McDonald's lacking friendly skies, fast food," Viewpoint, AA, Dec. 16). ... I have Premier Executive status on United and Executive Platinum on American. I fly every week and rack up about 175,000 miles a year. On American, I know I am important to them as a customer-but not on United.

On a Los Angeles to San Francisco flight recently, I asked for an upgrade (using my certificates) to first class. I was told first was "sold out." Upon boarding, I saw two of the eight seats in first were occupied by United pilots. I asked the flight attendant why I was told first class was sold out when there were United pilots occupying first-class seats. Her response was: "It is in their contract. All United pilots fly only first class when they are `deadheading."'

I was told that even if I had tried to pay full-fare cash for a seat in first, the pilots would have been accommodated before me. Let's see now. You deny your best paying customers upgrades and seats in favor of your non-paying employees. And we should give these guys tax dollars and tax breaks to save themselves? They don't have any idea what customer service is about.

Bruce A. Braun

San Francisco

Gripes about United were just whining

Rance Crain's whining about United's "snarly" treatment of his daughter's family really wasn't worth the time it took to write or read it ("United, McDonald's lacking friendly skies, fast food," Viewpoint, AA, Dec. 16). From his own account, it sounds like all their dissatisfaction dealt with United employees enforcing the rules (remember 9/11?). Could it be that his family, like countless other passengers, still thinks the rules don't apply to them? As for consumers "flocking" to no-frills airlines for "respect," rather than cost and convenience, dream on, Mr. Crain.

Bill McGee

Content Director

FFwd

Denver

Bad service negates what ads promise

Re: Rance Crain's "United, McDonald's lacking friendly skies, fast food" (Viewpoint, AA, Dec. 16). My sentiments exactly. How much more beneficial it might be in the long haul to sales and customer retention if some of the millions a company spends in marketing (McDonalds's is a case in point) were used for customer-service training-or simply sweeping the floors. Commercials and advertising in general have really become an oxymoron, or contradiction to what a business, in fact, really offers. One bad experience at an establishment will always be more powerful than its "deceptive" marketing efforts.

Dean A. Churack

Exec VP

Media Receivable Management

Miami

Ex-United flyer: Why I switched

Our most recent example of United's "passengers are an annoyance" attitude was in October when, in checking in at the United counter for a flight, we were told that if we wanted aisle seats across from each other, my wife and I could just take the same flight tomorrow. Otherwise, we'd have to be happy with the center seats they were assigning to us. Now we fly American.

Ted Horne

Barrington, Ill.

Corrections

* In "Hot shop springs from Arkansas" (Dec. 16, P. 1), it was incorrectly stated that Blackwood Martin, Fayetteville, Ark., had closed after losing its Masterfoods USA account. It has not closed.

* In "FYI" (Late News, Dec. 16, P. 2), the media agency for American Legacy Foundation was incorrectly identified as Havas' ArnoldMPG, Boston. It is Havas' Media Planning Group, New York.

* In "WB, Nickelodeon lead hot kid ratings" (Dec. 16, P. 19), which reported that WB led Nickelodeon in season-to-date Saturday morning Nielsen TV ratings for kids age 6-to-11, the article did not note that the ratings were for the season-to-date through Nov. 16. Through Dec. 15, Nickelodeon, with a 5.2 rating, led WB with a 5.1 rating.

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