Things you can learn in business databases

I was looking at an industry profile of the US hot beverage industry, and noticed that one of the leading companies, Altria Group Inc. (MO), reportedly was a parent company of both Philip Morris USA (formerly with ticker PM USA, now not so sure) and Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT). This created a shocking mental image of money paid for Lunchables going into the same proverbial pockets as money paid for Marlboros. But when I looked up Philip Morris and Kraft Foods in another database, Altria Group was only listed as the parent company for the former…sort of. There’s Philip Morris International, Inc. (PM) which is listed as “public–parent” in Lexis-Nexis. Then there’s Philip Morris USA Inc. which doesn’t have a ticker, and is listed as a subsidiary of Altria Group. My curiosity was officially piqued.

If I regularly read the Financial Times or Forbes I would probably have known about this, but as a regular ol’ consumer, it is news to me. In 2008 Altria separated Philip Morris International from Phillip Morris USA. Why? According to a January 30, 2008 article from Forbes:

“the separation of Philip Morris International would yield higher shareholder value because it allows Altria to separate its faster-growing international arm, Philip Morris International, from its smaller American business, and the legal and public image problems it faces in the United States.[…] The spin-off will allow Philip Morris International to avoid pending legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to restrict tobacco advertising, regulate warning labels and remove hazardous ingredients.”

Nice. Real nice. It’s weird though, because I can’t imagine the regulation of warning labels in the US could surpass the warnings they already have in Europe. (wow thanks Wikipedia for that compendium of warning labels in numerous languages!) The article continues:

“The spin-off will leave Altria with Philip Morris USA, its domestic cigarette business, and a 28.6% stake in London-based beer company SABMiller, which makes Miller Genuine Draft, Pilsner Urquell and Snow.”

These corporate interminglings never cease to amaze me. But what about Kraft? Apparently, on March 30, 2007 Altria “divested” Kraft Foods. There’s even an NPR interview about it, though the title is a bit misleading. I wouldn’t say the CEO really explains the spin-off so much as she discusses hot dogs and how much people love mac ‘n’ cheese. Despite that, this seems like a pretty good moment of journalistic inquiry:

INSKEEP: The basics first, why split off from what was once known as Philip Morris?

Ms. ROSENFELD: Well, it’s a terrific opportunity for us to be able to make better use of some of our financial capabilities, as well as to pursue some new growth opportunities for the company.

INSKEEP: May I try to put that in layman’s terms. When you say make better use of your financial capabilities, do you mean make sure that Kraft’s money is not tied up in tobacco lawsuits?

Ms. ROSENFELD: No, I wouldn’t – certainly wouldn’t express it that way.

Of course not!

So, lessons learned in this little research adventure:
1. Don’t assume industry profiles have accurate information. The one I was reading was from a highly respected source, published in October 2008…many months after these spin-offs/divestments etc. took place, but it indicated nothing about all the aforementioned shapeshifting.

2. Don’t assume the profits from your Toblerone or candy pagers aren’t going to one of the worlds largest tobacco companies. (they might not be, anymore…for now, in this case only. maybe. hrm.) Back in the days when I was vigilant about finding this stuff out, I used the website Responsible Shopper (now “Green America”) a lot. I haven’t used it for years but from what I can tell it’s still got good info.

What a weird world we live in.

Snapshot from the “products” section of Business & Company Resource Center’s info on Altria Group:


Ads of the world

Ads of the world

I just came across this website through my extracurricular blog reading, but it seems like it could be useful for some of the marketing research questions we receive at the library (especially on the elusive topic of online advertising). The ad images and embedded videos can be browsed by media type, region, country, or industry. “Or” being an important word there, because it doesn’t seem like you can combine these categories to refine your search. Using the free text search box and searching by the category names (e.g. “TV Americas”) will return results, but they’re not limited just to ads that are tagged with those terms. Additionally, you can browse logos by category/industry and country. All the examples I looked at included production/creator credits for the ads. It seems like this might be a good way to track marketing trends, although it’s unclear how broad the coverage is. Also, it’s unclear exactly what criteria determine whether ads make it (or don’t make it) onto the site. The “Upload” page seems to imply that most, if not all, the content is submitted by advertising professionals and/or students, aka the people who are responsible for creating the content. Then there’s some sort of editorial/filtering process.

Even if I never end up using this site to help with research questions, I will definitely have fun browsing it. It’s interesting just to see the colors and styles that predominate certain media types, regions, and industries.

my personal business periodicals awards

I work with business periodicals every day. I’ve started to form a personal attachment to many of them. I’ve also formed some opinions about which ones deserve to be mentioned in the…

1st annual business periodicals awards!

Best title (name):
Public Utilities Fortnightly
Beverage World
Information Technology and People

Best cover art:
Conference Board Review
Mergers & Acquisitions

Best overall design/navigability:
Harvard Business Review
MIT Sloan Management Review

Most fun to read:
Advertising Age
Network World

Most irresistable cover stories:

Between now and next year I’ll think of some new categories. But to be honest I hope to not be working with these same periodicals at this time next year. If you catch my drift.
Disclaimer: the opinions represented in this blog post (and this entire blog!) are my own and do not have the slightest thing to do with my employer. IN CASE THERE WAS ANY DOUBT.

What bull run?!

Today’s covers tell me things are looking up with the market. Who knew?! The Economist and Barron’s both have very nice images to illustrate the situation of things seeming good, but with the possibility that it’s just an illusion hiding something even worse. I think these covers are pretty amazing in that they capture pretty much everything in one symbolic swoop.



Picturing the recession – bu$ine$$ periodicals part II

(I’m porting this post, and others, over from my old blog because I want my obsession with journals to be all in one place on the internet)

Is your money sinking in shark-infested waters?

Are you running from a blood-red tsunami?


Perhaps a tornado of pink slips?

Or is it just your computer that’s sinking?


No, I’ve got it now…your head’s in a vice!

Or maybe just your stack of cheese?

What’s that? You tried to jump-start your carefully hoarded pile of dollar bills….

…it caused a lightning bolt to travel through your power lines…

and now your cash is just burning! burning!

Try not to panic.

If you find yourself the victim of crippling insomnia…

Just remember, it could be worse.

Think of happy things, like hopscotch.

I was going to do another Bu$ine$$ periodicals Hall of Shame, but the economy has lead to so many deliciously metaphorical covers that I couldn’t just focus on the horribly designed ones (though many of them are here. Even Business Week makes this quasi-Hall of Shame because of the un-originality of its use of Munch.)

Bu$ine$$ periodicals hall of shame

(I’m porting this post, and others, over from my old blog because I want my obsession with journals to be all in one place on the internet)

I can’t stand it any longer.  I have to share some of the choice covers that show up on the periodicals I display (against my will) and shelve each day.  You’d think that in a field that includes marketing, things like this wouldn’t happen:


You gotta love the literal translation of text into images.  Not only is Main St. sinking….it’s taking the former U.S. comptroller general with it!!?!


Best’s is always good for the floating heads, and the real unflattering pictures of people.


That’s from the cover of this month’s The Region / Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.  “Hey, stand by these evergreens and look like you’re in the middle of saying something, okay?”

And the all-time winner of shame is….



I wanted to include NPA Magazine, but could’nt find any cover images for it.  Instead, my search for it brought me to: