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Market advantages of Amazon and disadvantages of beef business (commentary)

So maybe it's time for a truly destructive force to shake up the beef industry, time for an Amazon-like destruction and reconstruction of our industry.

The Seattle Times profiled Stephenie Landry, vice president of Amazon Prime Now. Before you read another word of this column, go here and read about Ms. Landry. There will be a test later and those who can’t pass it are doomed.

What Amazon decided to do a decade ago was play wrecking ball. They would take a devil’s eye view of a business and try to destroy it.  Business as usual?  Dead.  Create an insane, ill-advised new model that just might work?  Yeah, that’s the ticket. Why go head-to-head with a well-established and deeply entrenched business when you can dynamite the whole thing and start anew?

Sweep aside the rubble, they say, and build something entirely new, ignoring the pieces and parts of the old way.  Sometimes it works – check what their Amazon Prime has done – and sometimes it flops -they are no longer in the smart phone business.

According to the Times story, here’s how it works: “For members of the $99-a-year Amazon Prime subscription service, Prime Now delivers a whittled-down selection of products, as well as restaurant meals and bags of goods from selected grocers. Two-hour deliveries have no added charge; if you’re really in a rush, you can pay $7.99 to get that USB cable in an hour or less.”

The service started two years ago in New York City as a pre-Christmas rush experiment. It’s now ready to go in 30 cities. What’s really interesting is an ad I spotted in the electronic version of the Times story. It suggested you should call Ruth’s Chris Steak House and make a dinner reservation for next weekend. The story presented a more immediate idea: check in with Amazon Prime this afternoon and have a steak dinner delivered to your home or office by 5:00 PM.

Yeah, I know. It’s that old immediate gratification bugaboo. If you’re too damn lazy to hop in your car (or call Uber for a fast taxi ride), maybe you don’t deserve that steak dinner. Why on earth should marketers make it easier and/or more convenient to buy something? Now that’s a question worthy of asking the savviest of C - level execs at Sears, Ben Franklin, A&P, Circuit City or Mervyn’s.

If business is complicit in creating a new generation of consumers, it has to go along for the ride, too, or risk death by its own hand. Many in the newest generation of customers have access to more information about products on the market place but not as much buying power as us older folk. They want it cheaper, better, more accessible and definitely with a much more acceptable back story.

So maybe it’s time for a truly destructive force to shake up the beef industry, time for an Amazon-like destruction and reconstruction of our industry. The folks who insist on things being like “The Way They Were” need to stop playing that plaintive old Barbara Streisand tune in their heads and listen to the “Sounds of Silence” – not the sweetly sad old Simon and Garfunkel version from almost half a century ago but this recent cover by Disturbed. The music has changed; you can’t serve twenty-first century consumers with products and attitudes straight out of the middle of the twentieth century.

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