Posts from — January 2012


Steve Phelps navigates innovative pathways at NASCAR. By Tim Manners. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey — all are great American pastimes with amazing stories to tell. But it’s hard to name a sport more organically rooted in American popular culture than stock-car racing — popularized, as it was, by bootleggers trying to outrun revenuers in the 1930s and ’40s.

When that race ended, it was only the beginning of what is now, after football, the second-most watched sport. Today, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing — NASCAR — claims tens of millions of fans across more than 150 countries.

And yet, as with any enterprise, keeping up demands new thinking. The 2008 economic meltdown was especially painful for NASCAR, striking as it did at the automotive industry, its very heart. Sponsorship and viewership flagged … read >>

January 1, 2012   1 Comment

Bolder & Brighter

Truly breakthrough ideas are both easier and harder to come by. A roundtable discussion featuring Deborah Conrad of Intel, Tony Post of Vibram USA, Ralph Santana of Samsung, Robert Walcott of Kellogg Innovation Network and Beth Ann Kaminkow of TracyLocke.

How should innovators think about consumers? Deborah Conrad: Innovation is about presenting information in a way that’s easy for consumers. Several years ago, marketers had a push mentality, where we were shouting from the highest building and hoping that consumers would sort it all out themselves.

Digital and social media now give us the ability to offer different solutions to consumers when and where they need them. So, it’s about using that innovative platform and not just relying on things like television ads. There’s a real intersection between the consumer searching for solutions and our opportunity to get them excited about what we have to offer … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Insanely Great

Remembering Steve Jobs and the NeXT big thing. By John Uppgren. Along with about 200 other NeXT, Inc., alumni, I traveled to Redwood City, California, in late October to celebrate Steve Jobs’ life. NeXT was the company Steve founded after his exile from Apple in 1985. Although most histories mention his time at NeXT, it was far more important than many people realize. While the company struggled to reinvent computing from the ground up, its contributions to the industry were unparalleled at the time.

The product ideas first commercialized at NeXT ultimately led to iTunes, HTML, seamless networking, single-board computers, integrated sound, multi-media mail and the use of objects in the development of software, just to name a few. NeXT also proved that UNIX based systems, which until that time were reserved for a technical audience, were also viable for consumers … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Shop Now!

The retail experience must be wherever shoppers want it to be. By Ann Carr. Technology is exploding into the world of retail, bringing with it a stunningly different approach. In this world, a store is no longer a place but a customized experience, requiring as much or as little interaction as the shopper chooses. The store is ubiquitous — on the shopper’s desktop, in her mailbox, on her phone, in a subway platform, in a kiosk by the gas pump — every bit as much as on the street corner in the shopper’s neighborhood.

Retailers today, all around the world, recognize that winning a larger share of the shopper’s wallet will only come to those who innovate and integrate — who make it easy for shoppers to shop now! … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Radical Basics

One brand’s innovation is another’s price-of-entry. By Spencer L. Hapoineu. Have you noticed that when you take Steve Jobs out of the equation there isn’t all that much innovation going on? Or is it just that our definition of innovation is the problem, and we’re seeing innovation disguised as other things? For example, would you say that creating a truly great hamburger is an innovation? Isn’t it all in the definition of "truly great?"

About 20 years ago, a chef named Henry Meer and a butcher’s son named Pat LaFrieda decided to create what they thought would be a truly great hamburger. Chef Meer was opening his now-successful City Hall restaurant in Lower Manhattan, and Mr. LaFrieda was taking over his father’s struggling meat supply business. Together, they combined short-rib, chuck, and brisket in a secret mixture that delivers a truly great hamburger every time. Now, this helped establish Mr. Meer’s restaurant while also reviving the LaFrieda’s meat business … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Do The Math

The future belongs to those who measure the total brand experience. By Al Wittemen. Each and every one of us has endured our share of pain over the last several years. In all my years in marketing, it’s safe to say I’ve never experienced anything quite like the last five. It now appears that the worst of the economic calamity is behind us, but it would be foolish to think that the pain is over.

In fact, in many ways, it is just beginning. A recent IBM survey of 1,700 chief marketing officers across 64 countries spelled out the sources of our discomfort. It identified some of the biggest challenges facing chief marketing officers, each of which is a pervasive and universal game changer … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Brands Be Nimble

Principles and practices for better branding. By Ayo Seligman and Kay Whitchurch. We hear it every day: Everything is changing. Social media, globalization and climate change are just a few of the powerful — and complex — forces at work in our lives. Not only are people more connected, with constant access to a world of opinion mixed with fact, but they’re also feeling less confident, lacking control over everything from home to work to politics.

Nearly every business category is more crowded, too. The grocery aisle was once the most salient example of brand proliferation. Now consumer electronics, fashion, entertainment, travel, and even finance boast a dizzying array of product and service brands … read >>

January 1, 2012   1 Comment

Game Changer

The future of sports is in the hands of fans, not team owners. By Rick Burton. The death of Steve Jobs and the subsequent publication of his biography by Walter Isaacson quickly moved the discussion of general innovation into the forefront of numerous water-cooler and cocktail party conversations. Where, we seem to have started asking, would we be without the invention of iPods, iPhones, iTouches and iPads?

From there, someone invariably talks about how entire industries such as music, literature and film have been transformed in the ways that suddenly allowed the masses to custom-order the exact product they wanted for use any time or anywhere … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

On The Line

Below-the-line agencies are rising to the top. By Paul Kramer. In the past, when asked what their biggest asset was, marketers would invariably reply, "our brand." In today’s environment, you are just as likely to get the answer, "our customers," defined as both retailers and their shoppers.

Yet surprisingly, in today’s highly visible world of brand building and mass advertising, the reality is that traditional, above-the-line agencies often lose focus on the most important part of the equation — the customer. The better agencies tend to be adept at growing brands while also building customer relationships. Below-the-line agencies, where the focus is on targeted, direct and measurable customer interactions, are well-positioned to meet today’s challenges, and tomorrow’s … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

The Right Question

A different kind of query can produce a fresh set of answers. By Brent Shedd. It seems everyone these days has opinions on how to achieve innovation. A quick web search reveals myriad blogs, articles, and presentations on innovation, as well as equal numbers of seminars and courses that claim to teach its secrets. From armchair pundits to bleeding-edge thinkers, talk of innovation and its formulation are inescapable.

People often associate innovation with cutting-edge technology and the latest in research, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it can only be attained with these tools. Unfortunately, having access to the latest and greatest tools is no guarantee that innovation will follow. Sometimes the best way to bring about innovation is just a change in perspective … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

The Demand Cycle

Technology re-defines the traditional path-to-purchase. By Mitch Blum and Jeff Williams. The current era of consumer empowerment is a wonderful thing — if you’re a consumer. From a marketer’s standpoint, things have gotten exponentially more complex and challenging. Time-shifting, customization, social integration, personalization and real-time customer service are all examples of how consumers are demanding more from brands while simultaneously expecting to pay less.

Underneath this consumer empowerment is one consistent catalyst: technology. Digital innovations have trained consumers to expect exactly what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and all at the best value. Woe betide the brand that fails to deliver on the consumer’s heightened expectations. They’ll be punished with a scathing blog post, a negative review, a mocking hashtag and perhaps even a YouTube video about a broken guitar that receives more than 11 million views … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

DSM 3.0

A new study shows shopper technology has come of age. By Seth Diamond and Brian Cohen. The magic of early-stage technology is amazing to witness, but its application is more akin to mystery.

Potential users who get early exposure to these miracles of advancement go through the predictable litany of mental questions: "Wow, how did they do that? … How does it work? … Wait, what does it do again?"

Way back in 2009, when we really started tracking Digital Shopper-Marketing (DSM) in earnest, that was a pretty good approximation for how shoppers viewed this market — lots of cool, but experimental apps, widgets and interactive in-store hardware, but few real tools that could actually make the shopping experience faster, cheaper or better …
read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Hacking for Humanity

Old-school definitions of hacking are slipping away. By John Gerzema. Lost in the hype of the next, latest, greatest release of virtually any tablet wannabe is the fact that Microsoft has continued to build on its quite attractive figure of eleven million Kinects in market and growing. The product’s remarkable user experience is responsible, in part, for its success.

But that isn’t the whole story behind the Kinect sales number: When Microsoft released the product on November 4th, 2010, my friends Phil Torrone and Limor Fried at Adafruit Industries offered $3,000 to the first person who could hack the Kinect and post the information to GitHub, a public repository for code. Eleven days later, when the hack appeared, officials at Microsoft didn’t go nuts. They actually went on National Public Radio to embrace the deed … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Pivot Point: Our Hero

It’s innovation that makes our daily lives better. One can only wonder whether, some 2,000 years from now, Steve Jobs will be as well remembered as Heron of Alexandria.

What? Who was Heron of Alexandria? His friends called him Hero, and for good reason. He was a Greek mathematician and engineer whose inventions, circa 100 AD, included the steam engine, wind power and the vending machine.

These three inventions, as it happens, had a decidedly spiritual dimension. The steam engine was used to open temple doors, the "windwheel" to power an organ and the vending machine dispensed holy water … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Apple of Your Life

How much did Steve Jobs change your life? Totally? Somewhat? Not at all? An executive summary of a Hub survey. The wave of emotion on the morning of October 6, 2011 could not have been more intense had Steve Jobs orchestrated it himself.

Then again, in a way he did — only this time the response was not to the introduction of a product, but to the summation of a life. A common thread in the tsunami of eulogies following his death was that Steve Jobs changed our lives.

It seemed only fitting that we go to our readers to try to bring a little more definition to exactly what it was that Steve Jobs did that changed us. So, we broke it down, product by product, innovation by innovation, and asked readers how much difference each one made in their lives …
read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments

Cool News

Unchained Mentality, Jumbo Innovation and Creativity Costs. The frustrations of limitations enable us to "think in a more holistic and creative fashion," according to a study led by Janina Marguc of the University of Amsterdam. The study involved a series of experiments in which subjects were subjected to various obstacles while trying to solve problems.

For example, they worked on "anagram puzzles while a distracting voice played the role of obstacle," and were then given "sensory tests to measure their ability to reason without becoming enmeshed in detail." The result was that those who endured the "distracting voice" demonstrated greater "perceptual scope," while "those who hadn’t dealt with the hindrance lagged behind" … read >>

January 1, 2012   Comments