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Two in Five Women Considered Leaving Their Jobs During Covid-19 Pandemic

According to a new survey, women felts it was difficult to balance working from home and caring for their family.
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March 12, 2021 3 min read
This story originally appeared on ValueWalk
The Covid-19 pandemic has upended the working lives of many Americans, with unemployment rates spiking to almost 15 percent last year—a number not seen since the late 1940s.
Job Losses Since The Start Of The Pandemic
Disproportionately affected by the pandemic-related job losses are women. Since February of 2020, women have lost over half a million net jobs and accounts for more than half of overall job loss since the start of the pandemic.
It doesn’t seem that the impact will lessen this year, either: In January of 2021 alone, almost 300,000 left the workforce altogether. Today, the participation of women in the labor force is just 57 percent, the lowest it’s been since 1988.
In light of these sobering statistics, The Loop Marketing surveyed 600 working women about their experience in the workforce during Covid-19.
Many said that they feel it’s difficult to balance working from home and caring for their family and are often left with feelings of burnout and stress. This is unsurprising, as more than 2 in 5 said they work between 8 and 12 hours per day and spend an additional 2 to 8 hours on childcare or housework.
Help With Childcare
When we asked what they need to succeed in the current climate, a majority said a better understanding of and help with childcare could make a huge difference.
“[I need] an understanding that because I am, my child expects more of me,” one anonymous respondent said. “As a result, work comes second.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by many.
“Having more support from my job when it comes to the needs and obligations regarding my child [would be helpful],” another said. “Also, being more understandable and supportive of my feelings and concerns.”
Women Are Considering To Downsize Their Career Or Leaving The Workforce Altogether
Certainly adding to the pressure is that lack of support, which one in four say has contributed to the burnout and added stress. Because of this, 2 in 5 say they have considered downsizing their career or leaving the workforce altogether at least once since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s important to understand what women need to succeed in the current climate. While answers varied, patterns did emerge. Most answers included help with or a better understanding of childcare, the ability to set boundaries, and a better offering of mental health benefits.
To keep women in the workforce in 2021 and beyond, we must meet them where they are.

Is It Time To Get Crazy With El Pollo Loco Stock?

The company’s core market is L.A., but it has been branching out into other areas and on the brink of a major growth accelerating.
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March 12, 2021 4 min read
This story originally appeared on MarketBeat El Pollo Loco (NASDAQ:LOCO) is an interesting play on fast food. The company’s core market is L.A. but it has been branching out into other areas and on the brink of a major growth accelerating. Over the past two years, the company executed and completed what they call the “Transformation Agenda” and is ready to begin a three-year “Acceleration Agenda” that should put the company in the national spotlight. The key highlight of the transformation and acceleration plans is the shift away from company-owned stores and L.A.-centric business into a franchise-driven model that could grow into virtually any market in the country. Mexican food ranks highly among Americans as a favorite and go-to food choice and we all like a little variety, something different, and El Pollo Loco brings that to the table.
“As we enter 2021, our company is well-positioned for the next phase of growth guided by our new three-year Acceleration Agenda. The strategies within our new agenda will focus on an asset light, franchise-driven growth model, continuing to digitize our business to compete more effectively and expanding on what makes us so unique – our L.A. Mex brand identity. We are optimistic about the future of our business and are confident that our go-forward strategies, combined with all we have accomplished to date, will drive sales and profit growth when we return to a more normalized operating environment,” says president and CEO Bernard Acoca.
El Pollo Loco Has Mixed Quarter Despite Good Results
There is one thing abundantly evident in El Pollo Loco’s Q4 results, the transformation plan is working and on the right track. The top-line revenue of $110.34 million is flat on a sequential basis but impacted by COVID-related restrictions in the core L.A. market. The revenue is above consensus but by a mere 20 basis points so not really showing much strength, at least not from the macro-perspective.
On a comp-basis, system-wide sales fell -0.2% and were offset by new store openings and strength in the franchisee channels. Company-owned comps which are primarily in the core L.A. region fell by -3.0% while franchisee comps rose by 1.8%. In terms of L.A., comps at L.A. stores fell -2.1% while everywhere else grew 3.3%.
The takeaway here is twofold. On the one hand, the company-owned core business is set to rebound during the spring and summer and will underpin growth. On the other hand, continued expansion into the franchised domain will continue to support and accelerated growth as we go forward. And that will equate into logarithmic earnings growth due to higher-margins associated with the transformation and franchise-oriented business. As for the Q4 period, cash from ops increased more than 50% including the COVID-related expenses and net income from operations grew by a similar amount.
Highly-Valued El Pollo Loco Maybe Not So Expensive
El Pollo Loco is trading at a rather high multiple compared to its peers. At 25X and 24X its earnings it is trading at a level akin to McDonald’s which is a much more stable company and one with a dividend. That said, El Pollo Loco has significant tailwinds driving it along with the prospect of the nationwide economic reopening. In that light, we expect to see the analyst’s estimates begin to rise and bring the value down a bit relative to recent price action.
The technical outlook for El Pollo Loco is a little hazy in the near-term but generally bullish for the long-term. In the near-term, the market is struggling with resistance at the 2020 high which is suspiciously close to the IPO opening price and a support level that formed soon after. If the price action can get above $19.55 with conviction we see this stock moving up to $22 and $24 by the summer of 2021.

Tien Tzuo of Zuora: The second decade of the Subscription Economy should aim to democratize access to everything for everyone

It was ten years ago last month that I first spoke with Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of subscription management platform Zuora, about what he was calling the Subscription Economy.  Back then people really didn’t know what it was all about as most of us were still buying things outright to own them.  Five years later when I next spoke with Tien things had changed dramatically as most of us were subscribing to at least one of the things we used to buy outright, like music, movies, clothes and even cars.
With it being five years later, it was time to talk with Tien to get his reflections on the first decade of the Subscription Economy, how the pandemic impacted SE companies, and of course to get his take on what the next five years will look like as we enter the second decade of the Subscription Economy.
My CRM Playaz co-host Paul Greenberg, and Playa-in-Residence Nicole France, join me for this wide-ranging LinkedIn Live conversation with Tien, where he also talks about the lessons he learned working at Salesforce, where he was employee number eleven and Chief Strategy Officer before founding Zuora.

Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation.  Click the embedded SoundCloud player to hear the full conversation.

The pandemic’s impact on the Subscription Economy
Tien Tzuo: 2020 was a huge victory for companies that had moved into the subscription economy. And so if you’re a pure subscription business, you probably thrived in 2020. And so you see that with Zoom. You see that with a bunch of other companies. And if you were a company that was dabbling into subscriptions, what you saw was that was the strongest part of your business. It probably was the fastest growing part of your business. In other places really declined. And we’re seeing this across the board.
Our study, we’re doing them monthly, and the last one was towards the end of the summer. And we showed that half the companies in the subscription economy really weren’t affected by the pandemic, about… Can’t remember the numbers. About 25% actually grew faster. And about 25% that grew slower, half of those, about a 1/8 of the whole pie, were still growing, just a little bit slower rate. In the last 1/8 that actually shrunk… Their revenues didn’t drop by 60, 70, 80%. Their revenue’s dropped by 5%, 10%. Because they have a recurring customer base that was loyal and they were able to pivot.
Subscription business models transformed and pivoted quickly
One of our favorite examples was restaurant services, restaurant reservation services, like Resy, obviously there’s no reservations, but they pivoted really quickly to say, “We’re going to help you with curbside pickup, home delivery, whatever it happens to be.” And so companies were really able to pivot and say, “Look, we understand your needs have changed. We understand you were talking to your customers. And so maybe what we used to do for you is not quite relevant, but look, we still have expertise. We still have innovation.” And they were able to pivot and hold on to the bulk of their customers. And then towards the back half of the year, they started growing again.
Another company that was a great example would be Kayo. They’re the sports streaming service, the number one sports streaming service down in Australia. And in March and April when there were no sports, they thought their service was just going to decline, but they did a couple of things. One, they had a second service around movies that they were going to launch towards the end of the year. They moved that up. And the sports service started… like the whole Michael Jordan series on ESPN. Because people still want to watch sports. They can’t watch live sports. Well, find some other stuff for them to watch. And they’re going to stick around. And so they found that their sport service actually didn’t decline. It actually accelerated. Now they pulled up the movie service. That’s accelerating too. And they’ve got these twin engines. And 2020 has just been a fantastic year for them.
And so that’s what we found. Companies that were subscription businesses really, really thrived. And people are just starting to wake up to the power of this business model. Last year was a complete game changer for us. I mean, we wrote our book. I think it came out in 2018. The last year because of shelter in place, because physical location, stores, all that kind of stuff really went out the window, we’ve just seen some amazing stories of companies transforming.
Fender Guitars 10X Subscriber Base in 30 Day…and sold more guitars than ever
We wrote about Fender in the book. It’s one of people’s favorite stories, because a lot of these things are IOT, but Fender’s like, “Nope. We’re not touching the guitar. We’re traditionalists. Guitar’s got to stay the same. Nobody wants smart guitar. No one wants to connect their guitar. But we’re going to build this whole digital experience with apps and tuning the guitar, teaching you how to play the guitar.” And that service is doing okay. And I think if you buy a guitar, they have little postcard saying, “Hey. Sign up for Fender Play. Sign up for Fender Digital.”
But when people in shelter in place in April, they decided, “Look. People are probably stuck at home. Some of them want to watch…” What was it about? Tiger King or something what was popular.
“Don’t watch Tiger King. Learn how to play the guitar. Get that guitar out of your closet, your attic.” And they 10X their subscriber base in 30 days. And if they didn’t have that digital relationship with their customers, they’re depending on customers to go to the guitar center, the physical store, they would have been a completely different company. But as a result, you look at their 2020 results, not only did they sign up a million subs, but they actually sold more guitars last year than they ever did. And so that digital relationship with your customers has been the game changer last year.
Selling subscription boxes doesn’t fully equate to being a Subscription Economy business
Small Business Trends: Amazon put out this page about their new Amazon subscription boxes, where it’s you could subscribe to all these different bundles of things in the category. When you see something like that, how does that make you feel?
Tien Tzuo: I think there’s certainly a lot of successful boxes out there, to choose out there. But I think the number one mistake that we see people make, companies make, is really to say, “Let me take my same business model of selling you a product and let me just do it on a recurring basis.” So we’ve got the whole stuff in the box market. And that’s not really what it’s about. If you go back that story of Salesforce, it’s really about you can actually understand more about your customers than you could ever do before. There’s no reason not to have a digital relationship with your customer. And I’m not talking about just the purchasing. I’m talking about understanding how they’re using your service. Are you delivering the value that you’re marketing and your brand or your sales people promise or whatever you sold them? And how do you build a relationship around that that delivers a higher value.
Subscriptions are about personalization and consumption
So Uber’s not just about renting a car ride.  Well, the whole point of the car is to help you get from point A to point B. Let me help you deliver that. The whole point of buying a tractor or an excavator is to move some dirt. But what if I can charge you based on how much dirt you moved? Wouldn’t that be better? Wouldn’t you be better off with that?” And so the successful boxes, I mean, if you look at, say, a Stitch Fix, it’s not just about, “Hey. You get some clothes.” You actually have a stylist that understands who you are, understands things are going in your life. You have somebody you could talk to. So they’re curating where they’re building the whole experience that delivers something real, something higher, of higher value that you’re really, really looking for it.
Reimagining customers as subscribers
And those are the companies that are doing something new, doing something innovative and really transform. But look, it starts… And you guys know this. It’s starts with the customer. It starts with the customer and it’s starts reimagining them as a subscriber to the innovations and the expertise that you have. Fundamentally, people are buying less and less stuff. And so if you’re a car company and your business model is based on cars sold, you’re going to have a hard time growing. But if your business model is based on miles driven, that continues to go up. Hours of base playing goes up. Console sales going down. Hours of news consumed, it just seems to be going way up, but number of newspapers sold, really coming down. And so this idea of tying what you do to customer value, to consumption and to usage into ongoing value, then you could just focus on increasing the value that you’re delivering to your customers and then the revenue model will take care of itself. Your revenue model will continue to grow.
Looking five years into the future….again
Small Business Trends: Since I asked you five years ago about where we were going to be five years from now, I think we need to ask you, where are we going to be talking about in the next five years with the subscription economy?
Tien Tzuo: Maybe I’ll give a slightly different answer this time. There’s a lot of stuff going on around us. It’s hard not to be affected by it, especially through a year like 2020 and even the craziness that continues. The ice storms down in Texas. And so we’re obviously huge believers in the subscription economy.
Just talking a few things about Salesforce, the Benioff reference. We used to talk a lot about the democratization of software. This idea that in 1998, 1997, you got to be a big, big company to take advantage of CRM. And when you move this model to a subscription model and it’s just all in the cloud. It’s just all a fleet of cars that you can access from your phone through Uber, there’s the ability to really democratize access to these capabilities and really give much, much greater benefit for all.
But in today’s world, there’s no guarantee that you have equal accessibility. And so is there a way that we can move into this new subscription economy world, the new world of lack of ownership, usership, accessibility, but do it in such a way that accessibility really is equitable across everybody in the world? And what does that really mean? Does that mean that every company should think about a free offering for people that might not have the advantages of accessing what they did. But how do we really think about this new world? And do it in such a way where accessibility is widespread? Because we have the potential to do that. The ownership model really breaks it down. And the shared usership and the shared ownership model really allows us to create a very, very different world going forward. And I like to hope that the industry thinks a lot about that in the next five years.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it’s an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Google Travel now allows hotels to appear for free in booking links

This means that they will not have to pay the search engine for the transactions made by travelers.
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March 12, 2021 3 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Thinking ahead , Google introduced the new policy of its travel platform , Google Travel , for hotels and travel companies to appear for free on booking links.
This means that the beneficiaries will not have to pay the search engine for the transactions carried out by travelers.
Now users will be able to explore, flights, hotels and vacations, and will have the opportunity to reserve and pay for their accommodation from the platform of the technology company without this implying a cost per transaction for the hotels or places that travelers choose for their accommodation.
All of this seems to be aimed at boosting the tourism industry once travel is safe again. In a statement the company explained that when travel is resumed it will be essential that people can find the information they need to easily contact online travel agencies.
The multinational company explains that they have long helped travelers find accommodation by offering hotel booking links through Hotel Ads, and that both users and partners have found it quite useful.
For this reason they are now “enhancing this experience” by allowing hotels and travel companies around the world to appear for free on these booking links, starting this week of March 9th.
“For all hotels and travel companies, this change provides a new, free way to reach potential customers. For advertisers, free booking links can extend the reach of existing Hotel Ads campaigns, ”Google explains in the statement .
Who will be the beneficiaries of this new Google Travel strategy?
Those who already participate in the Hotel Pricing API and its advertisements do not need to take any additional action to appear on the free booking links. Likewise, they comment that any hotel or travel company is eligible to participate in through their Hotel Center account.

Data Is the Cornerstone of Growth for D2C Brands in Today's Era of Customer Centricity

March 12, 2021 9 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
With retailers discovering the perks of selling their products directly to their consumers (including cutting down costs, establishing autonomy over supply chains and experimenting with distribution strategies), a new wave of direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce is here to challenge the traditional online marketplaces. 
Bridging the gap between products and consumers, the overall growth of the D2C sector was expected to grow by 24.3 percent in 2020. But with new opportunities come new challenges — the biggest being the ability to capture consumer attention in a cut-throat competitive market. 
The status quo of D2C brands 
As customers embrace the prospect of buying their favorite products directly from manufacturers and cutting out middlemen (retailers), businesses are still relying on the same age-old strategies to win them over and reach them. Spending heavily on social media and search ads, running glamorous influencer campaigns and expanding presence across channels to improve brand awareness and recall — they’re doing it all. 
In fact, D2C brands have increased their ad spends by 30 percent since the first quarter of 2020, a trend smaller businesses might not be able to keep up with. As it turns out, this model is neither sustainable nor scalable, according to Modern Retail. Businesses have to compete for the same limited mind space with dollars, especially now that newer D2C brands are coming up almost every day. 
Apart from solving daily operational and logistical challenges, businesses are now struggling to even establish their presence online. They’re continually combatting the rise in customer acquisition costs, competitive pricing and the dynamic demands of consumers. The game is in the favor of those who can play their data right. 
Related: These Are the Retail Trends in Ecommerce for This Year
A shift in approach is the need of the hour
The digital landscape is diverse, unpredictable, and inconsistent. Is the internet eating the world? Yes. Are your customers’ purchase decisions guided by the internet? Also yes. So the pressing need for doubling down on your digital marketing efforts is essential. However, you need to focus on the right channels. Some of the questions you need to get concrete data on for answers include: 
Which social media channel does your target audience prefer? 
What is the most common traffic source for your digital properties? 
Which device is most commonly used by your potential customers? 
Without specific answers to these questions, you will just be spreading your budget and efforts in all directions, thereby reducing your marketing ROI. You must observe the following five truths as you develop a plan to reach your customers.
1. The competition is ruthless and never-ending
Competition for market share is at an all-time high. D2C brands are fighting for the limited attention spans of similar consumers. Consumers are spoiled for choice, while sellers are having a tough time reaching them and keeping their attention captive. 
The average internet user sees up to 5,000 ads per day. The competition is endless, and unless you know who you’re talking to and where to reach them, there is no way for you to win this battle. The spray and pray technique will not work.  
2. Each customer’s needs are different and dynamic 
Apart from their interest in your brand and products, there might be nothing common between your customers. While some are looking for exclusivity, others could be looking for cost-friendly purchases. While some have a regular need for a product, others may find occasional buys enough. Their motivations to make a purchase are definitely different, so blindly advertising to win them over without understanding their preferences, likes and pain points can cost you. In fact, 80 percent of consumers actually expect personalization from brands. 
Related: Seven Ways to Make Your Customers Love You
3. Price is no longer the only buying criterion 
Gone are the days when all that buyers used to look for while making a purchase was a low price point. Today’s consumer demands a holistically delightful shopping experience, assurance of quality, trust and credibility, and a smooth post-purchase experience. 
Availability, convenience and value for money were the strongest drivers for purchase in 2020, according to a McKinsey study on consumer behavior shifts. Therefore, for D2C brand owners, the challenge is not to offer the lowest pricing point but also to learn and meet the other criteria. 
4. The demand for products is ever evolving and erratic
Customers’ needs are driven by market trends that tend to fluctuate frequently. The ongoing pandemic is proof that brands need to adapt to seasonal trends and situations, because these result in a change in demand for most products. For instance, the shopping intent for essentials like toiletries and sanitizers peaked like never before in 2020. While the other industries saw a slowdown, the high demand for these products choked supply chains. When possible, businesses should be able to predict these changes in time to adjust to the demand.  
5. The loyalty of consumer is hard to win over 
One 2017 study found that millennials are the most experimental consumers and are very willing to give newer brands a chance. With an endless array of options now available, customers are naturally going to be inclined toward more than just one brand in a particular category. This makes it exceedingly hard for any one brand to win their loyalty. The similar strategies that most brands use to entice online shoppers make this even harder. 
Related: 3 Ways to Use Big Data to Drive Repeat Sales
The way forward is data, not guesswork
The only way to combat competition is to bulletproof yourself with data. E-commerce businesses need to continually gather, analyze and put their data to work. The following five strategies can help.
1. Get to know your customers better 
Data can help you find answers to questions so you have to don’t rely on guesswork to know who you’re talking to and how you can get them to buy from you. Data can help you figure out where your customers prefer interacting with your brand and store, the device they use to browse your store, what their demographic attributes are, their purchase behavior and their motivations, among many other data points. 
When you understand your customers better, you can create consumer segments. With consumer segments in place, you ensure better personalization. For example, let’s say that you notice that a major segment of first-time customers doesn’t return to your store. To systematically win them over, you can target this customer segment with exclusive and irresistible deals periodically during their inactivity. 
2. Understand which marketing channels work
Analyzing your web analytics can help you discover the channels that are working well in driving traffic to your store, as well as identifying those that are not performing well. Once you have this information, you can use it to optimize your marketing spend so you allot the maximum budget to the best performing channels. You can also work out a plan to strategically improve the ROI on other channels. 
For example, if your analytics data tells you that a large percentage of your web traffic comes from organic search, you can polish your SEO strategy to rank better for relevant keywords and improve the traffic you bring in.  
3. Figure out the performance of your products
Product performance analytics help you understand trends and patterns in your products’ demand — and also predict it. This not only helps you plan your inventory and marketing activities better for hot-selling items but also for cold ones, so you can decide in advance how to clear your stocked-up shelves. Product data also helps predict consumer demand and map the changes there may be in current product consumption.
Related: Launching a Direct to Consumer Brand? Here Are the 8 Success Secrets.
4. A/B test pricing, discounts and other charges
Instead of blindly trying to beat your competitor over every pricing point, it’s wiser to A/B test your pricing strategies and figure out what works best for your target audience and drives the most amount of sales. 
For example, if your data shows you that your checkout page has a dangerously high bounce rate, you will want to analyze it further. Perhaps you deduce that shipping charges getting added at the very last step is causing people to drop off. In this case, you can devise an A/B test, and if your hypothesis proves to be right, you can change the interaction and be confident of improvement.
5. Boost customer loyalty 
Once you have created smart customer segments and identified your high-value customers, you can target them specifically with a loyalty and rewards program so you can steadily win over their trust to drive repeat purchases. Repeat customers spend more on your products, so identifying customers who are more likely to join your loyalty program is the first step (and it circles back to customer segments). 
Leverage data to unlock potential
With the relentless competition that is only predicted to rise in the future, your best bet would be to turn inward and leverage your own data to best understand the market and your customers so you can confidently fuel growth. By piggybacking on data that tells you what works best for your target audience, you can unlock limitless growth opportunities that are lurking in plain sight, or even identify a new one.

How To Use Humor To Beat Product Copycats

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A side by side comparison of the Amazon Basics bag and the Peak Design Everyday Sling.
Peak Design YouTube Channel
Here’s the reality for entrepreneurs, inventors, and startups: If your product launch is successful, the copycats won’t be far behind. Congratulations! You have a hot product. That’s no easy feat. Now it’s time to keep fighting to get paid. 
But how? There are numerous tools and strategies available for product developers to protect and defend their interests from knockoffs and infringers. Fundamentally, you need a multi-pronged approach to prepare for and respond to the competition. Today, one of your best bets is building an army of raging fans. In my opinion, that’s the best protection you can have right now. Not only will they come to your defense when you need them, they will continue purchasing your product along the way. 
Why fight in the court of law — which, speaking from first person experience, is expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally exhausting — when you can take the fight to social media? 
If you are in the business of making truly innovative products and services, you need to embrace being first and being the original with every fiber of your being. You need to use social media to tell your story over and over again in new and creative ways. The audience you cultivate with your authenticity will grow with you and cheer you along. There is strength in numbers. By cultivating a voice and using it, you can level the playing field. 

That’s exactly the approach that Peak Design, a 10-year-old San Francisco-based company that manufacturers high-end camera bags and other travel equipment, took when it recently discovered that Amazon had come out with a me-too product. Since it launched its first product on Kickstarter in 2011, Peak Design has utilized crowdfunding to involve its customers in its design process and reduce risk. In 2019, it raised a whopping $12 million dollars from more 27,000 backers to bring a more compact portable tripod to life. 
Last week, it published a new video on its popular YouTube channel entitled “A Tale of Two Slings: Peak Design and Amazon Basics.” It’s a brilliant response to the Amazon bag for numerous reasons. First and foremost, it’s entertaining. Clocking in at less than a minute and a half, it wastes no time getting down to business. Using tongue-in-cheek humor, playfulness, and creativity, the video focuses on pointing out the absurdity of the situation Peak Design finds itself in, which is to say, that one of its biggest partners — which happens to be the largest retailer on earth — decided to release a bag that is strikingly similar to its Everyday Sling, list it using the same name, and sell it for a third of the cost of the original. 

In the video, Peak Design isn’t asking you to feel sorry for them or outraged on their behalf. They don’t call out Amazon as the bad guy, referring to the company instead as “a revolutionary service that we use and benefit from heavily” in the copy below. They don’t even attempt to persuade the viewer not to purchase the Amazon version.
Instead, the video focuses on effectively relaying the reasons why the Peak Design bag costs so much more, leaving the final decision up to the consumer. The video ends with a voice-over that says, “The Everyday Sling: By Peak Design and Amazon Basics. Whichever one you buy, you’ll get exactly what you paid for.” Who can argue with that? No one!
Since the video was published last Wednesday, it has been viewed more than 4.5 million times. CNBC reported that Amazon changed the name of its bag soon after the video went live. Fans of Peak Design have flooded the page for the Amazon Basics bag with negative reviews. 
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
For CEO and founder Peter Dering and his marketing team, the response generated by the video could not be more thrilling — or fun. 
“We’ve heard back more profoundly and thoroughly from this than any piece of marketing collateral that we’ve ever put out. Which is funny, because I didn’t even really consider this to be an ad, or even marketing material. They threw a punch by knocking off our product, and this is just us punching back,” Dering told me in a phone interview. “Not only is this marketing collateral, it’s the best piece of marketing collateral we’ve ever created! It wasn’t immediately obvious to me that it was going to be that.”
The video has racked up tons of comments from people who sympathize with Peak Design and commend the company for its humorous and brave take.  
Humor is among the many strategies Peak Design is using to beat copycats and sell more product. Dering is a big believer in intellectual property. Typically, Peak Design bags are protected with design patents and trademarks. (Some aspects of its bags are also protected with utility patents.) Notably, Peak Design has a design patent on the 10-liter, 6-liter, and 3-liter versions of its Everyday Sling bag, but not the 5-liter version, which is the size of the Amazon Basics bag. 
However, Dering doesn’t believe that having a design patent on the 5-liter bag would have made much, if any, difference. After all, the designers at Amazon are smart and savvy, he pointed out. “I think that they’ve changed the design enough such that it could get around the design patent,” he said. 
Copycat products are nothing new for the company. Day in and day out, Peak Design plays a never-ending game of whack-a-mole against knockoffs online using intellectual property, with the help of the brand protection service OpSec. The Amazon Basics bag came on the company’s radar in December of last year. After Dering determined that they didn’t have a strong enough case via traditional intellectual property to pursue anything, he started brainstorming how to respond with his marketing team. Their main intention? To spark joy in their customers and fellow employees. 
It worked. “We’re having a blast,” Dering said. “This has been one of the funnest weeks in the history of Peak Design.”
Dering intends to continue filing patent applications in the United States and overseas. 
“We’re better at understanding which IP tools are effective and which ones we really need to have, and also in which regions, because we’re a very international business. It’s never a no-brainer to patent every aspect of a design or a product,” he told me.
Chinese and Taiwanese patents are the two most important to get overseas, he said. Why? Because China is prolific in the amount of knock-offs it generates, a huge market, and most often the point of shipment for these companies, and Taiwan is very proficient at making excellent knockoffs. 
Dering has also protected the interests of Peak Design by diversifying the way that it sells its products. Amazon accounts for about 20 percent of the company’s sales, putting them in the top slot. However, Peak Design products are also found at big-box retailers like REI and Best Buy, specialty camera stores across the states and around the world, and on its website. Building and maintaining all of these channels is hard work, Dering added. 
Peak Design’s response to copycatting is delightful. Today, everyone who is successful at the business of bringing new products to market knows what it feels like to get ripped off. But when you decide to sue someone, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll come out on top.
There are better ways of fighting back and getting paid for your creativity. By approaching an unfortunate and awkward situation with its signature blend of warmth, humor, and wit, Peak Design earned millions of views, loads of positive press, and loyal admiration from their fans. They’ve likely made a few sales along the way as well.

Johnson & Johnson vs. Moderna: Which Vaccine Stock is a Better Buy?

March 12, 2021 7 min read
This story originally appeared on StockNews
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, investors have been closely watching healthcare stocks and are tracking regulatory approvals for vaccine candidates developed by the pharmaceutical companies.  Johnson & Johnson (JNJ – Get Rating) and Moderna, Inc. (MRNA – Get Rating), two leading pharma players, have emerged as two of the winners in the race to develop effective coronavirus vaccines.
While neither of these companies had a first-mover advantage in receiving Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for their vaccines from the U.S. FDA, and people nationwide are primarily being inoculated with a vaccine developed jointly by Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX), the late-stage clinical trial results of both JNJ and MRNA vaccines are highly efficacious.
Both the stocks generated decent returns over the past year. While JNJ returned 15.4% over this period, MRNA has surged 480.8%. However, in terms of their past month’s performance, JNJ is down 4% compared to MRNA’s 27.7% loss. But which of these stocks is a better pick now? Let’s find out.
Vaccine efficacy
J&J’s jab, the world’s first single-shot Covid-19 vaccine, developed by its Janssen division, uses adenovirus-26, a rare variant of the cold virus. Last month,  the FDA issued the EUA based on the Phase 3 ENSEMBLE study that demonstrated the vaccine was 85% effective in preventing severe disease across all regions studied, and showed protection against COVID-19 related hospitalization and death, beginning 28 days after vaccination. JNJ has also submitted a European Conditional Marketing Authorization Application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as well as its filing for an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) with the World Health Organization.
The FDA authorized the emergency use of mRNA-1273, MRNA’s vaccine candidate, on December 18, 2020, based on a pivotal Phase 3 clinical study that indicated  an efficacy rate of 94.1% on the original variant. MRNA initially said that the vaccine produced neutralizing titers against all key variants. However, on February 24, the company manufactured variant-specific vaccine candidates that are under Phase 1 clinical trials. In addition, MRNA is testing using a third dose of its existing vaccine in addition to using a booster shot that targets the South African variant.
While both the JNJ and MRNA vaccines use messenger RNA technology, there are certain key characteristics, apart from the efficiency, that makes the JNJ candidate superior to the latter. The MRNA vaccine needs to be administered twice, while J&J’s candidate requires only one dose. Also, MRNA requires extremely cold temperatures, which complicates storage and delivery.  In comparison, J&J’s vaccine can be stored at normal refrigerated temperatures, which opens possibilities for delivery to  remote areas and to developing countries.
Recent financial results
In the fourth quarter (ended December 31, 2020), JNJ recorded a top-line of $22.5 billion, increasing 8.3% year-over-year. Its adjusted operational sales growth was  7.3%. The pharmaceutical segment has been witnessing a solid recovery in revenue over the trailing two quarters and, consequently, worldwide sales improved 16.3% year-over-year in the last reported quarter. The company delivered adjusted EPS of $1.86, which was relatively stable compared to the year-ago value of $1.88.
MRNA’s total revenue in the fourth quarter (ended December 31, 2020) came in at $571 million compared to the year-ago value of $14 million. This was driven primarily by an increase in grant revenue and product sales. In fact, grant sales surged 9,648% year-over-year to $341.37 million due to the BARDA award to accelerate development of its COVID-19 vaccine. The company began to recognize revenue from its vaccine in December 2020 after the EUA by the FDA. However, MRNA reported a loss of $0.69 per share, compared to the prior-year loss of $0.37 per share.
Past and Expected Financial Performance
JNJ’s revenues and EPS grew at CAGRs of 2.6% and 127.2%, respectively, over the past three years.
Analysts expect JNJ’s revenue to increase 6.3% in the current quarter (ending March 31, 2021), 11.4% in the current year and 4.7% next year. The company’s EPS is expected to improve 0.9% in the current quarter, 18.4% in the current year and 8% next year. Moreover, its EPS is expected to grow at a rate of 5.6% per annum over the next five years.
In comparison, MRNA’s revenue grew at a CAGR of 57.5%, over the past three years.
Analysts expect MRNA’s revenue to surge 26,790.9% in the current quarter (ending March 31, 2021) and 1,893.3% in the current year but decline 20.2% next year. The company’s EPS is expected to grow 960% in the current quarter and 1,183.7% in the current year but decline l 30.5% next year. However, MRNA’s EPS is expected to grow at an average rate of 16.8% per annum over the next five years.
JNJ’s trailing-12-month’s revenue is nearly 103 times MRNA’s. In addition, JNJ is more profitable with a gross profit margin of 65.7% versus MRNA’s negative value.
Moreover, JNJ’s ROE and ROA of 24% and 7.5%, respectively, compare favorably with MRNA’s negative values.
In terms of forward p/e, JNJ is currently trading at 19.33x, which is 212.8% more expensive than MRNA, which is currently trading at 6.18x. However, JNJ is significantly less expensive compared to MRNA in terms of trailing-12-month’s p/s (5.07x versus 61.59x).
In terms of trailing-12-month’s price/cash flow, MRNA’s 25.59x is 43.9% higher than JNJ’s 17.78x.
JNJ looks much more affordable here.
POWR Ratings
JNJ has an overall rating of B, which equates to a Buy in our proprietary POWR Ratings system. However, MRNA has an overall rating of C, which translates to Neutral. The POWR Ratings are calculated by considering 118 different factors with each factor weighted to an optimal degree.
Our proprietary rating system also evaluates each stock based on eight different categories. Among these categories, JNJ has a Quality Grade of B, which is consistent with its strong fundamentals. Here, the bleak prospect of MRNA is evident in its grade of C for Quality.
In terms of Stability Grade, JNJ has an A grade, reflecting that the stock is less volatile compared to its industry peers. In contrast, MRNA has been graded F.
Out of 240 stocks in the Medical – Pharmaceuticals industry, JNJ is ranked #10. In comparison,  MRNA is ranked #41 in the 487-stock Biotech industry.
Beyond what’s stated above, our POWR Ratings system has also rated both JNJ and MRNA for Growth, Value, Momentum and Sentiment. Get all the JNJ ratings here. Also, Click here to see the additional POWR Ratings for MRNA.
The winner
Both JNJ and MRNA have emerged as winners in the race to produce an effective coronavirus vaccine and have been receiving commercial authorization from multiple regulatory approval bodies throughout the world. With the vaccine acting as the most significant near-term catalyst, both the companies have been riding high on the back of multiple agreements with the governments of various countries. However, JNJ appears to be a better buy based on the factors discussed here.
JNJ expects to meet its commitment to deliver 100 million doses to the United States government by the end of June and is set to boost its top line for the next couple of years. In fact, the company plans to file for a Biologics License Application (BLA) with the FDA later in 2021. Even though JNJ does not expect to profit from this vaccination venture, it does not lack core business strength. There are approximately 50 therapeutic candidates in JNJ’s pipeline, ranging from neuroscience to oncology. The company has five phase 3 clinical data readouts this year along with nine potential drug approvals in 2021. In fact, JNJ expects to launch more than 14 new drugs by the end of 2023.
Hence, we view JNJ as a relatively cheaper option to bet on its advancing operating model, diversified product portfolio, and focus on global growth. The company is strategically investing into research and development and is innovating fast to ramp up manufacturing. Thus, we believe JNJ is a viable option to bet on as the world gets inoculated and the pandemic finally abates this year.