John Mackey

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

The last few years, we’ve seen a divide in politics—bigger than we’ve seen in generations. In the U.S. … The most loyal of the Democrats and Republicans are each digging in deeper. Around the world, we are seeing the same divide … If your entire brand is about healthcare, I get that you should have a position on anything to do with healthcare. … But if you are selling organic groceries, fried chicken, washing machines or laptops, you’d be really stupid as a brand to pick a side and speak out. I love politics, but I love making money even

“Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one,” wrote journalist A.J. Liebling (1904-1963).

No more. Freedom of the press is available to any of the 6.7 billion people worldwide with a computer and Internet access.

A lost soul named Julie Powell who never finished anything she started decided to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and blog about it—365 days, 524 recipes. After a year of blogging and cooking, Powell had a following, wrote a book about her culinary adventures and got noticed by filmmaker Nora Ephron.

The result: “Julie & Julia,” a tour de force written and directed by Ephron. It also reconfirms that Meryl Streep, who's drop-dead brilliant as Julia Child, may be the greatest, most versatile actress in film history.

Talk about happy endings. Julie Powell’s third book will be published Dec. 1, 2009. And as Stephanie Clifford wrote in the Aug. 24 New York Times:

Almost 48 years after it was first published, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child is finally topping the best-seller list, bringing with it all the butter, salt and goose fat that home chefs had largely abandoned in the age of Lipitor. The book, given a huge lift from the recently released movie “Julie & Julia,” sold 22,000 copies in the most recent week tracked, according to Nielsen BookScan, which follows book sales. That is more copies than were sold in any full year since the book's appearance, according to Alfred A. Knopf, which published it.

For a blogger, life doesn’t get any better.

But for a number of bloggers (and journalists), it just got a whole lot worse.

Two summers ago, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was exposed for using a pseudonym to post negative comments about rival organic grocer Wild Oats on Yahoo Finance. At the same time, he was gushing about both his business leadership skills and his company’s value. What some chalked up to a bizarre display of self-aggrandizement, others pegged as unethical and possibly illegal behavior given that Whole Foods went on to purchase Wild Oats. The most important of those “others” is the Federal Trade Commission, which now is reviewing its advertising guidelines that relate to endorsements and testimonials.

My wife, Peggy, and I regularly shop at Whole Foods. I was interested to note last February that the company was about to acquire a rival, Wild Oats, for $565 million. The story entered my archive and languished. During this past couple of weeks a story has broken that a long-time blogger—writing under the handle of “Rahodeb”—had been saying very positive things about Whole Foods and roundly dumping on Wild Oats—its management and the value of its stock. It turned out that “Rahodeb” was an anagram for Deborah, the wife of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, and that the mystery blogger was Mackey himself.

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