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Tom Dickson

BY CSA STAFF

Tom Dickson is an unlikely candidate to be a viral marketing superstar, but that’s exactly what he has become. And in so doing, he has transformed his formerly little-known blender company, Blendtec, into a national phenomenon.

It all started in November 2006, when Dickson, at the urging of his marketing director, starred in a series of quirky videos that featured him in a lab coat asking, “Will it blend? That is the question.” The clips, which were posted on the popular online video site YouTube, showed Dickson testing the strength of his product by blending an array of unorthodox objects—from Happy Meals to the handle of a rake.

“No one knew the Blendtec name and we wanted to change that,” said Dickson, CEO, Blendtec, Orem, Utah.

Until the videos broke, Blendtec was known primarily as a manufacturer of commercial heavy-duty blenders and dispensers, whose products were used in coffee shops, juice bars and restaurants worldwide. The company decided to go online to promote its consumer product line, available via its Web site and retail stores.

It succeeded beyond its wildest expectations. To date, the Blendtec infomercials have been viewed more than 60 million times, on both YouTube and the company’s own video site, WillItBlend.com, which now features a “Will It Blend?” blog. The videos helped get Dickson invitations to appear on “The Today Show” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Blendtec now sells “Will It Blend?” merchandise, including a spoof shirt with the slogan “Tom Dickson Is My Homeboy.” Most importantly, the viral campaign gave a jolt to consumer sales, which have skyrocketed during the past year.

Blendtec Orem, UtahAnnual sales: Approximately $40 millionType of business: Manufactures and sells blenders and dispensersArea of operation: Worldwide

“We took creative risks to boost brand awareness and the outcome was very successful,” Dickson said. Blendtec continues to add new clips on a regular basis.

The YouTube campaign reflects the 61-year-old San Francisco native’s philosophy: “Never give up.” Throughout his childhood, he struggled with dyslexia and was told he would never make it to college. But Dickson kept his nose to the grindstone, and honed his talent for putting things together. In high school, he manufactured motorcycle parts in shop class and sold them to a local auto store. He kept at it for years, using the money he earned to put himself through college. In 1971, he graduated from Brigham Young University, with a degree in engineering.

After graduation, he went to work at a pharmaceutical company, where he developed a motion-sickness patch. From there, he went on to invent a grain mill that revolutionized the way homemakers mill wheat into flour. That invention proved the foundation for the company that would become Blendtec.

“I’ve learned over the years that you can’t give up, you have to love what you do and you have to have fun with it,” Dickson said, adding that he fuses this mentality into all areas of his company’s culture. “We strive to make the office a fun place to be for all of our employees.”

Dickson’s new-found celebrity status has not gone to his head (people line up to get his autograph at trade shows). He still is most comfortable when he is designing, engineering and developing new products. He loves to work with his hands, and, in his free time, spends hours remodeling cars.

But above all else, Dickson is a family man. He keeps plenty busy with his 11 children and 27 grandchildren.

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CompUSA may get a new look

BY CSA STAFF

ADDISON, Tx. After opening a new format store last month, CompUSA may be changing the format of its other stores, depending on customer demand and product interest.

According to reports, the elements found in the prototype store, located in Texas, will be incorporated into other CompUSA locations across the United States.

The nearly 7,700 square-ft. relocation site includes an Apple shop featuring Mac computers, iPods and Apple accessories, and a full-length LCD TV wall.

Additional expansions include extended gaming, which includes an entire wall devoted to the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms, plus a PC gaming setup to test equipment and play new titles.

While businesses can get their share of support with a specialized services section, all consumers can visit the store’s redesigned IT support area.

“This new store aligns CompUSA’s vision to better serve its three core customers, the technology enthusiast, educated professional and small and medium businesses,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the retailer’s sales and operations evp.

CompUSA announced in April that it would narrow its focus to three core customer groups rather than try to serve a mass audience.

The move was part of a comprehensive restructuring, initiated last February, that included an overhaul of senior management and the closure of half its store base as the privately held chain looked to improve sales and profitability.

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Walgreens withdraws from CVS provider plans

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. After many months of talks over low and below-market payment rates by CVS Caremark for four prescription plans, Walgreens has withdrawn as a pharmacy provider from the plans.

Patients affected include members of prescription benefit plans managed by CVS Caremark for ArcelorMittal, Johnson Controls, Progressive Casualty Insurance and Wisconsin Education Association Trust.

Most of the affected members live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services, the managed care division of Walgreens, released the following statement:

“This is not where we wanted negotiations to lead,” he said. “We’re sorry that our pharmacy patients and CVS Caremark’s clients are caught in the middle, and we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition for our patients to another pharmacy. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work on resolving this issue with CVS Caremark.

“Leaving a benefits plan is an extraordinary step for us, but it demonstrates how extraordinarily low our payments were from CVS Caremark. We can’t continue accepting reimbursement rates that are drastically below market, while offering patients needed special services such as 24-hour pharmacy access and drive-thru pharmacies.”

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