Heads up to Core77 for bringing this NYtimes article to my attention.
The NYtimes has a great article on the impact of rising resource costs and its subsequent influence on innovation. Walmart, wanted to change its milk system. It came up with a fantastic design solution to a mass-product/problem, is eco-friendly, and relies on smart design to impact both the consumer and the business.
Excerpt from Core77 & NYtimes: “Introduced by Sam's Club last November, the cardboard and plastic can be recycled, it eliminates the need to maintain and wash milk crates and reduces the typical number of weekly deliveries from 4-5 trips down to 2.
The redesign of the gallon milk jug, experts say, is an example of the changes likely to play out in the American economy over the next two decades. In an era of soaring global demand and higher costs for energy and materials, virtually every aspect of the economy needs to be re-examined, they say, and many products must be redesigned for greater efficiency.
Sam's Club who estimate this method of shipping has reduced labor by half and water usage by 60-70 percent. Sam's Club can now store 224 gallons of milk in a cooler that used to hold 80.”
This article got me thinking about what great innovation is. I think it can be broken into 3 more digestible areas, but i see this a fantastic example of what innovation should be. 1) the coming redesign of the American Economy and infrastructure due to the soaring costs of materials, 2) heightened importance of design, 3) impact of proper innovation
1)The Market (American Economy)
American Economy and other established nations face extraordinary challenges based on the current power and fuel infrastructure. This design solution has an instant impact that ripples across the broader market (the business, the transportation, the storage, the manpower). True innovation changes the market it plays in. There will be enormous opportunity to redesign the American Economy and its infrastructure due to the cost and availability of materials. Material sourcing could be HUGE!
2)The Consumer (Design impacts Consumption)
The consumer pretty much dictates trends, and developments these days. I would argue they brought about the whole design bit, given how they invest their values in the products they like, hoping they reflect emotions and beliefs they have. Sounds like the design is more family and fridge-friendly. Consumers are often slow to change, but this is where businesses and brands can lead. Plus the new design is a way to stand-out for those premium-mom types. Who wouldn't want to help the environment? Here design could potentially impact consumption habits, which is game-changing.
3)The Brand (Proper Innovation builds the brand too)
Lastly, proper innovation is one that encompasses the consumer, the business and the brand. Benefiting all groups, helps to establish the brand as a leader environmentally and fiscally. This is something unique to Walmart and there particular challenges. This reminds me a bit of Target and their pill holder redesign. Walmart really should try and play up the brand bit here, to get all they can from it. The more they can do to connect with the consumer, the more they can make consumers care about the behind-the-scene process/sourcing which seems to be a growing trend in the food world.
Very cool design solution to a business problem; It wasn't necessarily a consumer problem, but this innovation really stretched all three and when done right, looks to be spot on.
Ultimately this got me thinking about all the common everyday objects in need of efficient-design innovation.....
Monday, June 30, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Nau, a clothing company which mixed high-fashion with high sustainability and regard for the environment underwent a metamorphosis as of late. The products were highly tailored and often made of recycled goods. It was even dubbed "Prada meets Patagonia".
First it launched, wasn't that successful, but garnered much praise and following.
Then it folded.
Now it has been acquired and will be relaunched.
Treehugger, has an in-depth article looking at the rebirth of the beloved brand. Distribution will apparently be more widespreadm including wholesale. This was apparently severely limiting growth, by being too niche and relying on the brands few boutique outposts (brands usually get distribution wholesale before launching their own channels). Fatal mistake! The brand had a few sustainability and philanthropy programs which may or may not continue. Also apparently revenue was off the charts during the 50% off sales, even more so than regular sales. That might beg to a too high of a premium pricing. But the brand is widely known, or so it states, for its influence amongst the broader outdoor market.
Certainly acquisitions aren't new and Its nice that it is coming back, but it begs a few questions:
- Is Nau really being incarnated or is it a different brand?
Horny Toad apparently stepped in and purchased the assets. While the brand is different, they do share some ideals. Its quite interesting to see the brand acting in a "big brother" capacity. Could we see more like-minded brands operating together in the future? Probably not if they aren't connected financially, but its an interesting notion.
-Can a brand's philosophy be bigger than a "brand" itself?
Nau failed for a reason, but remained popular based on its innovative and blend of outdoor-urban sensibilities. While there is some baggage with the purchase, it seems that HT is in fact accepting the ideals of a more popular company. This is to interpret that a brand's essence can define a brand more so than the brand itself? It really beckons towards strictly the strengths of the emotional equities of the brand. Consumers are ultimately more motivated by emotional values than the functions of products themselves. Or are they? A brand encompasses everything facing-forward about a company from products, to image to dialect. So what are the consumers connecting with? In this case its outdoor activity or urban sensibility. And experiences are certain bigger than brands themselves, and lend themselves most to creating emotional equity. Its difficult to pinpoint, but Nau seems to be perfectly balanced to deliver on style and substance. It's an ideal situation for HT, to take on a brand whose emotional equities outweigh the pull of its actual products. But it still has to sell the products come sunset.
-Is it possible to be a brand "host"?
This is the question which first popped in my head upon hearing this. Can brands curate other brands (not in the sub-brand type of way)? Is HT taking Nau on as a separate entity? Only time will tell. Many brands have swallowed others over time, but have brands "presented" other brands? Collaborations in the streetwear scene come to mind, with one brands almost always living off the other's coattails. It's a somewhat parasitic relationship. But it begs me to look at the inter-brand relationships. Is the connection via consumer values? Or is it brand values? Which matters more?
Ultimately it may not matter. Consumers invest their values through the products they buy, and if a corporation doesn't reflect it, they simply go elsewhere. Nau is living due to the overwhelming resonance of consumer values. The true test will be if consumer's behaviors actually match their stated values. In this case it seems potentially that distribution was truly limiting this; but will the masses care? Almost as important is the manner in which HT presents Nau, being the new curator and torch bearer. Consumer behavior didnt match consumer values. HT bought a brand based on its values and must live up to consumer's expectations by allowing the values to breathe.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Nike is at it again. Nike has implemented a visual importation program utilizing your cellphone. Consumers can snap away with Nike PhotoID, as it "aims to tap into the habits of the digital generation and the growing expectations of consumers to customise their lives". It takes the dominant colors and makes them the primary colors for the kicks. Alas, its only 2 of the dominant colors, but you do get the nice canvas of the 1985 Dunk high-top. Maybe this is living off the b&w plus 1 dominant color thing popping up on cameras right now.
While Nike described the service as a "watershed moment in mobile campaign activity", its interesting use is that visualization. Consumers are probably more likely to find inspiration out in real-world experiences than just surfing on the web, so its great to implement technology that enables existing behaviors. I don't personally send MMS's, so i wonder if ian email would be sufficient. Also the two color bit, is somewhat limited. The big question is can it really force people to adopt mms as a long-term behavior on their phones? I could see people trying it as a novelty, but then heading back to id for their bread and butter ID designs. Why not meld it into ID and let people implement their 2 colors of choice with the standard ones on all the shoes?
I dont see it as that watershed of a moment, but maybe the euros really do use their phones differerently. Nike aims to have people use this longterm, but is this really going to change their behavior? I'm struggling to find the how, next to the cool factor. Feels a little one-off.
It was creaked by AKQA and is launching in nine European countries today. See it in video here
Monday, June 09, 2008
Ok so ive gone back into silent mode, as evident by the past few months. Work as you probably guessed it, takes up so much of my creative and rational thinking juice, its very hard to get my mind to continue to expunge thoughts when i get home at night. I sadly need time off, to recoup and reassemble myself. I have been busy though, putting thoughts into relevant topics that i will expand on soon. Flying across the country is weirdly an introspective opportunity to put some thoughts down. Anyways lots going on in the work field, but as soon as i get off fast forward i can finally put my thoughts down. Hope there are still some folks around to kick the thoughts about.