Will Power

under armour steve battista

At Under Armour, says brand chief Steve Battista, innovation is a lifestyle choice. By Tim Manners. Like so many other long-shot teams, Under Armour did time as a cellar dweller. In founder Kevin Plank’s case, this wasn’t figurative. He really did start what is today a $2 billion enterprise in his grandmother’s basement. As a subterranean entrepreneur, Kevin faced both trials and trivialities. Stymied because 800-numbers had too many digits to spell out ‘Under Armor,’ he added an extra ‘u’ to the name. Problem solved. No big deal.

The real deal was that Kevin hated the cotton T-shirt under his University of Maryland football uniform. It got soaking wet. It felt icky. But he knew it didn’t have to be that way, having heard something about the moisture-wicking properties of ladies’ lingerie. Any sweat evaporated quickly, keeping the wearer cool and dry. He got himself some of that fabric and stitched away in his grandma’s basement until he got it exactly right.

Smart, resourceful and tenacious, yes — but becoming a brand also meant finding a voice. That’s where brand chief Steve Battista came in. Under Armour was the underdog, going up against the likes of Nike and Adidas. Promoting the moisture-wicking properties of feminine fabrics wasn’t going to cut it. The answer came in the form of a testosterone-drenched question: ‘Will You Protect This House?’ And the emphatic, now-iconic response: ‘I Will!’

That was back in 2002, when the relatively humble goal was simply to play with the giants. Today, Kevin Plank makes no secret that he’s way past joining them. He wants to beat them. This means going global, starting with a wildly experiential store in Shanghai. It means expanding the base beyond tough guys to include women. It means, most of all, stoking ostensibly insane innovation in footwear … such as a running shoe that fits like a brassiere. You read that right.

Like so many other successful companies, innovation at Under Armour is not just about having better ideas. It’s not enough to have forever changed the way athletes suit up. At Under Armour, innovation is an attitude. And it is relentless. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Just For You

design innovation roundatable

A remarkable brand experience is all about exceptional design. A roundtable discussion featuring Mark Crumpacker of Chipotle Mexican Grill; Scott Moffitt of Nintendo, America; Sheryl Adkins-Green of Mary Kay; Jay Gillespie of Fiskars; and Randall Stone of Lippincott.

How do you see the role of design in the brand experience?

Mark Crumpacker: Every aspect of the brand experience should be designed. This would include everything from interactions with prospective customers and the marketing, all the way through to the experience at a Chipotle restaurant. The music, the seating, the packaging — we design every single bit of it as carefully as we can.

It’s always been that way at Chipotle. Steve Ells, our founder, studied art history at the University of Colorado and then went to cooking school. He designed the first restaurant and built it out of things he could find at the lumberyard. He used exposed conduits for the lighting fixtures and bare bulbs, plywood, corrugated metal, and so forth. Design is something that Steve has always been keenly interested in, so it started from the very beginning that way. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Sip It Good

alfredo martel caribouCaribou Coffee SVP Alfredo Martel details how the Caribou spirit has infused the brand experience both in its coffee shops and on the supermarket shelf. At Caribou Coffee, we believe that we learn every day. We assimilate tools as we bring a branded experience into our stores. But we also sell packaged-goods coffee. It’s an interesting challenge to balance the coffee shop experience with what we do on a supermarket shelf.

Let’s start with our origin and identity. Our founders, Kim and John Puckett, were management consultants for Bain. Their idea was a differentiated coffee-shop experience, inspired by their love of the Northern woods. What they built, in 1992, began as a modest, one-shop operation. It was so simple. A story of lore is that every now and then their shop would run out of milk. So they would literally find the fourth person in line, give them some change, and ask them to go down the street to the grocery store and get a couple of gallons of milk. That was the beginning of a really interesting relationship between the brand and its guests. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

The New Drill

paul kramer catapultMarketers and technologists must collaborate to create data-driven innovation. By Paul Kramer. In this era of the ever-evolving chief marketing officer, it is no longer enough for them to steep themselves in the creative aspects of advertising. Consider, for example, that nearly two-thirds of the 600 brands recently surveyed by the CMO Club have either bought, or are planning to buy, programmatic media directly from demand-side ad buying platforms without assistance from their agencies. In other words, marketers believe they now have the necessary data at their fingertips to reach customers in the most effective way — so why not just cut out the middleman?

The results of this survey are a testament to the power of Big Data to transform not only the way in which brands communicate with consumers, but also the very role that marketers play in carrying out their fundamental responsibilities.

It’s quite possible that we’ve become so comfortable throwing around the term ‘Big Data’ that we’ve lost sight of what it really means. Data is much more than a commodity. It is not merely the fuel but also the very engine that drives creativity, innovation and change. This can be seen at the granular level, such as when customer feedback informs a new product design or marketing campaign; or on a larger scale, for example, when retailers use loyalty-card data to tailor store formats and merchandise to different consumer groups based on their previous purchases. In this way, data can enhance the brand experience, which, after all, is one of the primary goals of marketing. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Breaking Dad

lynne robertson fameThe new male role at home is changing every rule at retail. By Lynne Robertson. Man, oh man, have things changed in the shopping aisle. These days, virtual carts outnumber store carts, coupons are being clicked instead of clipped, and fitting rooms have been replaced with magic mirrors that let you slip something on without slipping anything off.

It is not only the way we shop today that’s changing, though; who’s doing the shopping is changing, too. More men than ever are taking over the traditionally female role of ‘shopper-in-chief’ — and not just for ‘boy toys,’ but also for food, cleaning products, diapers and even their kids’ holiday gifts.

According to Hartman, the Seattle-based, consumer-insight group, men are becoming formidable shoppers in their own right. Recent shopping trends show some 40 percent of men today are now the primary grocery shopper in the household. Perhaps even more surprising, a whopping 86 percent say they’re okay with their new role at home, partaking in tasks that are "necessary to keep the household running," including child rearing, shopping and gift purchases. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Show Time

beth ann kaminkowThe art gallery is a corollary for innovative retail experiences. By Beth Ann Kaminkow. Mass retail: whether grocery, drug, big-box, or convenience, can change the game by taking a close look at a very different variety of retail — the art gallery. What does a purveyor of an art gallery know and get right that most retailers could learn from? A lot. Their goal is to draw a captive audience of repeat visitors, as well as new ones. The intent is to sell art, inventory and deliver an experience. They must continuously innovate to attract visitors and generate buzz.

Context matters, arrangement matters, navigation and flow matter — so much thought and planning goes into each new exhibit, yet most of this is invisible to the end-user. What you experience is the art, the sense of the space, and the way both make you feel. Whether you are an art connoisseur or a novice, the retail environment has the same appeal.

We can easily get stuck and blocked by listing the dramatic differences between an art gallery and mass retail. Or, we can take a moment to suspend reality and embrace the concept to generate new thinking and ideas. The art gallery as a corollary and model for today’s retail serves as a roadmap to more inspired, trip-worthy shopping experiences. We need new frames-of-reference to drive new outcomes in the retail space. So much of Main Street retail is lackluster, commonplace, and uninspired. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Empathic Innovation

tom kelley david kelleyViewing the world through customer eyes can lead to unexpected ideas. By Tom Kelley and David Kelley. In organizations with millions of customers, or in industries serving the broad public, there is a temptation to stereotype or de-personalize the customer. They become a number, a transaction, a data point on a bell curve, or part of a composite character built on market segmentation data. That type of shortcut might seem useful for understanding the data, but we’ve found that it doesn’t work well when designing for real people.

The notion of empathy and human-centeredness is still not widely practiced in many corporations. Business people rarely navigate their own websites or watch how people use their products in a real-world setting. And if you do a word association with ‘business person,’ the word ‘empathy’ doesn’t come up much.

What do we mean by empathy in terms of creativity and innovation? For us, it’s the ability to see an experience through another person’s eyes, to recognize why people do what they do. It’s when you go into the field and watch people interact with products and services in real time — what we sometimes refer to as ‘design research.’ continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Fun With Numbers

spencer hapoienuData gives brands the opportunity to add personality and a personal touch. By Spencer L. Hapoienu. Before the digital revolution, creativity was driven primarily by television and print ads. Creativity meant clever, impactful design and smart copy. In many ways, the speed of digital communications and the diminished visual impact through smaller screens has led to less creativity from a communications perspective. Copy is less important and treated as such, and less effort is put into design because it is so fleeting.

We are certainly seeing more creativity from a technological perspective, but less from a design perspective. It seems that most of the great design is going into products like the iPad. The trend away from communication design and copy has continued and accelerated because of the data revolution. The more data is used to drive targeting, relevance, and specific promotion offers, the more need there is for templates and ease of functionality that can reduce costs and simplify the delivery process. The thinking has been that if the offer is relevant to the specific customer, the importance of the communication creativity in terms of copy and design is reduced. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Social Creativity

brad lawless collective biasLet your most enthusiastic customers solve your content conundrum. By Brad Lawless. Shoppers expect to find their favorite companies on established platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as on up-and-coming services such as Instagram and Pinterest. Plenty of brands understand this. According to a Facebook report, the social network hosted more than 18 million pages (mostly focused on businesses) as of June 30, 2013, and added new pages to its platform at a rate of one million per month.

The best brands go far beyond a mere presence on popular social platforms, and it’s pretty amazing what some companies can do with just 140 characters on Twitter. These companies connect and talk with their fans, provide inspiration and sometimes even make them laugh.

Dos Equis (@DosEquis) publishes witticisms from ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’ on a regular basis. In addition to providing sales notifications and customer service replies, furniture seller Ikea (@DesignByIKEA) provides its followers with decorating how-to’s and links to innovative design bloggers. Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) has capitalized on the buzz it created with its famous ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl power outage, following up throughout the year with daily snark and funny videos. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Pixel Dust

rebecca waltDigital innovations bring new magic to brick-and-mortar stores. By Rebecca Walt. By shifting the balance of power to connected consumers, digital innovation has changed retail forever. Far beyond the simple power to purchase, today’s shoppers can take advantage of the convenience of smartphones and the flexibility of online retailers to decide when, where and how they will transact, even going so far as to customize the merchandise itself.

The landscape is set to change even further as key players like Amazon develop logistics models that will allow a purchase to be delivered within a matter of hours (with or without the use of drones!). In this environment, big-box retailers face challenges from all sides as they strive to grow revenue with their own online presence, while online-retail competitors introduce pop-up stores and other new experiential formats that contrast with traditional brick-and-mortar.

In view of digital’s rise, what attracts a customer to a physical store today? This question represents a game-changing opportunity for traditional retailers. Stores still offer several advantages: Shoppers can interact with brands, discuss products with on-site associates, and walk out with goods in hand. These advantages at retail can now be leveraged to turn a shopping trip into an experience by introducing digital innovations. Digital can guide customers through detailed purchase decisions, offer interactive and engaging demonstrations, and provide memorable, theatrical moments that customers will share with others. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Mothers of Reinvention

sharon love tpnThe experience is the springboard from which innovation must bounce. By Sharon Love. The very meaning of the word ‘innovation’ is at risk of becoming background noise — similar to the way words like ‘leverage,’ ‘synergy’ and ‘disruption’ were enervated of their meaning and impact. Yet the notion of innovation should be virtually impossible to overuse: It amounts to the life-blood of a business or brand. Innovation is the energy force essential for creating and selling big ideas. It continually needs to deliver the next better idea, app or tool.

Without innovation, a business can find itself in danger of stagnation, or worse. Consider, for example, the diverging paths of two erstwhile competitors: Kodak and Fujifilm. At one time they were fierce combatants in a robust category, selling rolls of film at a healthy clip. Both were faced with the same calamity as the digital wave rolled in. Today, however, Fujifilm is prospering, while Kodak is just now pulling out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

As its name would suggest, Fujifilm is still in the film business, but according to The New York Times, film now generates only about one percent of its total sales. Most of its revenues now come from "pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and office machines." But that’s not the innovation. Perhaps ironically, Fujifilm is finding its way forward with high-tech cameras dressed up in old-school style. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Fashion Forward

jorgeFashion houses are a petri dish for business-model innovation. By Jorge Aguilar. The good news: The US economy is finally rebounding and showing some momentum. The bad news: Not really, not for everyone. While consumer spending has increased across many categories over the past year, not all players are receiving their fair share.

Take the fashion industry. Over the past 12 months, gains in fashion stocks have trailed those of the S&P 500 at 9.2 percent versus 16.5 percent, respectively. Even worse, some in-vogue fashion brands, such as Coach and Lululemon, have seen the value of their stocks drop during this same period.

Lululemon, in particular, has seen the value of its stock reduced and the equity of its brand tarnished, given the recent recall of its $98 (almost see-through) yoga pants and the subsequent response by its CEO, who placed blame on the customers themselves instead of the quality or design of the product ("Quite frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it. They don’t work for some women’s bodies…"). The recession is certainly not over for them. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Pivot Point: It’s So Easy

pivot pointCreativity, design and innovation are for you and me. My mother never told me that it was just as easy to fall in love with a rich girl. That’s just not the kind of counsel she would give. She did, however, once say that creativity was a simple matter of taking someone else’s idea and making it your own.

I was reminded of my mother’s advice while planning this issue of The Hub, centered as it is on creativity, design and innovation. In the world of the brand experience, it’s the breakthroughs that separate the winners from the losers. This is intimidating. It doesn’t help that the greatest of innovators — Archimedes, Nikola Tesla, The Wright Brothers — were geniuses who changed the world. They make even today’s most celebrated innovators —Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos — look like also-rans.

This is truer still in branding, a business of creativity and design that so often seems bereft of anything that could fairly be called ‘innovative’. However, you really don’t need to be an Einstein to be innovative in the branding business; you just need to understand relativity. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Creative Destruction

creative destructionHow many brands deserve to be called innovative? And what does it mean to be innovative anyway? An executive summary of a reader survey. How many brands deserve to be called ‘innovative’? And what does it mean to be innovative anyway? Innovative is an attribute nearly every brand claims, but few customers believe. Sensing this, we fielded a survey in which we asked respondents to rate various brands as either ‘overrated,’ ‘underrated,’ or ‘neither’ in terms of their reputation for innovation.

Of the 20 brands, only three — Amazon, Google and Samsung — were judged ‘underrated’ for innovation by more than 50 percent. Just one — Miley Cyrus — was deemed ‘overrated’ by more than 50 percent (granted, her inclusion in the survey was, um, cheeky). The rest washed out as ‘neither.’ This could mean that most brands are not considered innovative on any level, or that they get a fair amount of credit for innovation. For clarity, we asked respondents why they answered as they did, and this is where things got interesting. continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Cool News

cool newsCreative Mess, Electrolux Triangle, and Whiteboard Design. "A cluttered environment fosters innovation," according to Kathleen D. Vohs, a University of Minnesota marketing professor who conducted two studies on the subject. In the first study, the laboratory was "arranged to look either tidy … or messy." A total of 188 adults were invited in for a visit, with each "assigned to either a messy or tidy room."

Each "was shown a menu" of three fruit smoothies. In one version of the menu, the word ‘classic’ highlighted one of three smoothies, while on the other menu the word ‘new’ promoted the very same smoothie. Those in the tidy room chose the ‘classic’ smoothie "almost twice" as often as the other two choices, while those in the messy room selected ‘new’ more than twice as often. "Thus, people greatly preferred convention in the tidy room and novelty in the messy room." continue

January 1, 2014   Comments

Cool Books

cool booksInventing the American Guitar, Smarter Than You Think and Strings Attached. Christian Friedrich Martin was "a sublime craftsman and canny entrepreneur," as well as "a design and technology innovator of the first order," reports Larry Rohter in The New York Times (10/15/13). Martin — if you don’t recognize the name — invented the modern American guitar back in the 1840s.

A new coffee table book, Inventing The American Guitar, tells his story and sheds new light that surprised even Chris Martin, the founder’s great-great-great grandson and current head of CF Martin & Company. Along with most others, Chris believed that "the period between World Wars I and II" was "the company’s golden era of innovation." But Chris says this new book has forced him to re-think that, and piqued his interest in "those earliest years." continue

January 1, 2014   Comments