Sunday, September 30, 2012

Toygaroo: A Shark Tank Failure

Shark Tank, a television show on ABC in which entrepreneurs and innovators are able to show potential investors their ideas, sees a wide range of potential products and services. The judges, also known as the “sharks”, are able to deliberate and decide which idea is worth investing in. For the typical marketing/entrepreneurship student, Shark Tank is a show worth investing time to watch. Each time that I watch an episode, the creative side of my brain likes to think of what products have not been invented yet. It also gets me wondering- if I were Barbara Corcoran, would I invest?


This week’s assignment was to find a Shark Tank episode that we would not invest in. After searching, I finally found what I discovered to be one of the most bizarre yet intriguing pitches: a company named Toygaroo.

Toygaroo Products

Back on Season 2 of Shark Tank, Toygaroo founder Nikki Pope appeared to pitch her product idea. Toygaroo is a company that sends toys to your doorstep for a monthly rate so that any children in the house can play with new toys if (and when) they get bored of their own toys. Pope created a website, and described her venture as “Netflix for toys.” They offered different “plans” on the website so that the customer could choose how many toys they want to be sent to them, and the amount of money that you spend adjusts to each plan. When the child is done playing with the toy, the customer sends it back to Toygaroo; they then have to wait for their next month’s shipments of toys.

While at first, this new venture proves to be interesting. However, there are many reasons why I personally would not invest, regardless of the company being the first one of its kind to create “Netflix for toys.” For me, although the company did eventually receive some investors from Shark Tank, it is not worth any investment. My first reaction to this idea was, simply, “gross.” Although the idea is intriguing itself, I would never have toys shipped to my door that other toddlers have played with. What the Shark Tank Blog refers to as the “Ick Factor” resonates with me enough for me to never do business with Toygaroo. According to the blog, SNL even spoke on the company’s ill regard for the possible germs that could be passed from toy to toy. On the ‘Weekend Update with Seth Meyers’, Meyers announced:

 “A new website has launched called ‘Toygaroo,’ which is a Netflix style system that allows parents to rent toys for their children and send them back for new ones. It’s all part of an effort to make the movie ‘Contagion’ come true.”

 Even if I thought about visiting their website for a subscription, after hearing this I would steer clear of the company. This is a classic example of how the media’s scrutiny of a company can pull a company under slowly.

Explaining Why Not Investing Is Best

In Winning At New Products, Cooper discusses the "Seven Goals of a New Product Process." By analyzing his goals, I can explain in more detail why I would not invest in this company.

Goal #1: Quality of Execution – This is very important for a new venture, as the innovator should focus on completeness, quality, and the important aspects of their company before the plan is executed. This goal explains that there must be “no gaps, no omissions, a complete process.” While it would be difficult for any innovator to come onto Shark Tank without the professionals digging to find the gaps within their product, they are more than willing to invest in a mostly good idea. As Pope explained the process of her company, the “sharks” could not get over the gap of sanitation. Her idea was good, but the quality of her execution remained low as the “Ick Factor” could not be fixed easily enough for people to invest.

Goal #2: Sharper Focus, Better Prioritization – Cooper explains, “Most companies’ new product efforts suffer from a lack of focus: too many projects and not enough resources.” What Pope lacked were resources- people that would use her company. Although she briefly talked about people that would use her company, yet people tend to be very careful with their toddlers and germs. Instead of asking “Are we still in the game?” she should have considered “Can we get into the game?” If you were to ask me, I would say they couldn’t. There was no target market strong enough for Pope to focus on that would risk the germs that wouldn’t, simply, buy new toys for their toddlers.

Goal #5: A Strong Market Orientation with Voice of the Customer Built In – I can sum this up easily: the “voice of the customer” was not built in to her company, yet it was her voice. Part of creating innovation means that it starts with a problem that you have. Once the innovator steps back and sees there is a bigger problem than what they have (i.e. other people have the same problem and would benefit from the venture), then it is time to brainstorm a solution. Pope may have eleven brothers and sisters as well as thirteen nieces and nephews that get sick of toys, but the majority of the population does not. It seems to me that this she does not have a strong enough market orientation to find her niche in the market. That, for me, is not worth investing in.

How Pope Failed

Fast Company’s "7 Key Activities For Getting Innovation Right" (by Seth Kahan) explains how Pope could have created a different company that would appeal to her target market better:
1) Discover Inflection Points – Pope needed to focus on what “would propel [us] forward.”
2) Build Capacity – Innovation leaders (such as Pope) need to contain stresses (pressures of everyday operations, movement and stress that comes with new ideas, and market forces) to power through.
3) Gather Business Intelligence- Pope lacked the “sea of information about products, services, customers,” etc. She went with the idea that would best serve her family, yet it would not appeal to others.
4) Shift Perspective- “In order to see new opportunity you must be able to get out of your own box.” Pope may have thought that she was thinking outside of the box with creating Toygaroo, yet her focus was narrow as she was just trying to create a company using her own issues.
5) Exploit Disruption – The company may have caused disruption themselves if a toddler was exposed to germs that would result in them becoming sick.
6) Generate Value- “Skillful innovators understand what drives value and how to generate it,” according to Fast Company. Pope may have thought she was generating value with her venture yet it fell short.
7) Drive Uptake- Kahan states: “Every stage of the innovation process holds opportunity to engage the community of people who will be most interested in your offerings.” Toygaroo’s goal was to serve the community of people with toddlers who got sick of playing with the same toys. However, there was not enough benefit in the company to unite the community together to share toys.

Toygaroo Update

Toygaroo: Start Playing (?)

Toygaroo, on Shark Tank, did get some of the sharks to invest.

Toygaroo is now closed. The website states: “On behalf of the team, I want to thank you for being part of our journey. It has been an amazing year but the growth we experienced at the end of 2011 was simply too fast and we were not able to secure the additional investment we needed to take care of all of our current and new members.” According to the Shark Tank blog, Toygaroo filed for bankruptcy in April of 2012.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Move Over Men, Gatorade Brand Is Run By Women

“For most of the last quarter of a century, the branding of the sports drink of choice for hulking linebackers and towering centers has been handled by women.” –AdAge

Who Knew? 

The quote above is about Gatorade, a product of company PepsiCo that can be described as “a sports brand closely linked to the National Football League and male athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan” (AdAge). The article goes on to say how unusual it is for women to lead any sector of the sports industry, because as we all know, men dominate that area.

This may sound odd for me to say, but I’ll go ahead: I was raised in a household where my mom was constantly pushing me to outdo the boys. She always told me, as many moms would, “You can do anything that a man does.” I always brushed it off and rolled my eyes a little because it became a cliché statement to hear.

Due to the fact that I am now a senior in college and double majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship (the latter being a major that I have come to realize is dominated by males on Elon’s campus) this advice from my mother has developed more meaning for me. In a brand such as Gatorade, I tend to think of men’s sports a little more. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve seen many male spokespeople for the brand over the years (such as, as stated above, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan).

Now that I know that a few women have run the brand since 1985, my opinion of the brand has changed. The brand that we know today as Gatorade would be completely different if the brand managers were men. Morgan Flatley, VP of marketing for Gatorade, says, “Women tend to lead differently than men. They bring a more inclusive and consensus-building style, which has worked really well for this brand.” She also states that, “Women tend to bring creative problem solving in how they approach business issues.”

Gatorade Ad

Men Vs. Women Branding: Becoming An Equal Playing Field?

Let me just say that men are also wonderful at branding. However, this makes me backtrack a little into our classes and think about which brands are male-dominant and which are female-dominant. The fact that males and females think differently in terms of branding makes me wonder how different our favorite brands would be if a few of the brand managers were switched out.

In Brand Revitalization, “Leadership Marketing” is discussed in Chapter 4. When I read this article about Gatorade, I thought back to a quote that I read: “Leadership means leading the way to the future…marketers need to lead the way to a new brand destination” (pg.75). As I think about marketing for the future, I am also reminded that these women are doing just that. Years ago, I bet no one could imagine a brand like Gatorade being run by women. Now, women have taken the brand and have completely made it their own, and are succeeding.

This article about women branders running Gatorade is not the apocalypse of branding. It will not change the way that we think of the cool, refreshing beverage that we indulge in after working out or playing a sport. It does, however, change the way I look at Gatorade as a brand. We are moving forward in the marketing sector by allowing the professionals, whatever gender they are, to lead brand revitalization.

Be Tough- No Excuses

Gatorade is paving the way for women empowerment in branding. They're making it known that the people that can "Be Tough" and have "No Excuses" can also be women athletes. I am not sure how long it will be before the next time that I read an article about an all-women executive branding board. However, I do know that Gatorade just changed the way that I view their brand. Isn’t that the point?


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Patagonia: King Of "Brands Maintaining Values"

Why Patagonia?

original website for picture

Patagonia, Inc., creator and vendor of outdoor clothing and gear, has one of the absolute best market positioning strategies of this day and age. It can be wonderfully summed up by a quote from their mission statement, which reads:

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis" (Patagonia Company Info).

This company may seem an obvious choice for most when it comes to strong brand positioning. However, there is a reason for its success in the marketplace (and why I chose it to be my brand to “rant and rave” about).

What You May Not Know About The Company

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, “claims not to be a businessman and he spends more than half of his time roaming the globe engaging in a multitude of outdoor activities, his business philosophy and orientation is actually quite sharp" (Williamette). How does this matter when it comes to market segmentation and positioning?

His appeal to the "outdoorsy" type of people is strong. Chouinard not only develops their products, but he is out continuously looking for new product ideas by venturing out into the outdoor world himself. The company is always looking for outlets to keep their products as sustainable as possible while creating new products for the average outdoor lover. They have paved the way for businesses that want to be environmentally friendly, which is very appealing to consumers that believe in the “green initiative.”

Consumers of Patagonia recognize the company’s desire to make a difference with their products. In a research study done on Patagonia’s Marketing Strategy, the author writes, “Patagonia uses recycled polyester in the manufacturing of all the clothing lines, instead of using pesticides-intensive cottons.  Because of this dedication to the environment and to manufacturing processes that do not harm the environment, Patagonia’s total sales in 2009 were $340 million”, which was found on the Patagonia website (Jason Stevens, Many consumers are also aware of the founder of Patagonia’s love for the outdoors and how it overpowers his desire to focus solely on the sales of the company; the consumers get a mix of both an environmental and customer-oriented company.

Who Is The Target Market?

Patagonia’s target market consists of a wide variety of people: males, females, and children, at any age. The company reaches a wide range of markets- specifically to outdoor lovers. This may sound broad, however, the company meets the needs of its vast majority of consumers. This is one of the reasons why its market presence is so large; the brand is well-known enough to appeal to any consumers seeking products that will last them a while, and consumers will also shop to say they are being environmentally friendly.

In addition to targeting their market of avid outdoorsmen, they appeal to a non-consumerism sector. Olivia Sprinkel, blogger on SalterBaxer Blog, explains: "Patagonia’s stance challenges the standard model of consumerism, especially if we are going to follow through when we make the pledge to Reduce: ‘I pledge to buy only what I need'" (SalterBaxer). While I will discuss Patagonia's stance on reducing consumerism later, it is important to keep in mind that they also capture the attention of the market that wants to remain sustainable by buying less.

Exemplifying The Words "Do What You Love"

When I think of Patagonia, I am reminded of Professor Palin’s advice that he gave to our branding class: “do what you love.” Patagonia, although extremely successful, does not focus on profits as a means for the company’s existence. Instead, they reflect “a strong market orientation with voice of the customer built in”, as explained in Winning at New Products. Although this particular chapter discusses the new product process, it is a perfect example of why Patagonia has become so well known in their sector. Goal #5, "A Strong Market Orientation with Voice of the Consumer Built In", states:

“If superb new product success rates are the goal, then a market orientation – executing the key marketing activities in a quality fashion – must be built into the new product process as a matter of routine, rather than by exception" (Cooper).

Patagonia, when innovating new products, follows this rule flawlessly. They routinely create new products that will benefit their customers, not focusing on sales. Saying that they put their customers first could sum up their market success.

If you still aren’t convinced that Patagonia isn’t as concerned with sales as it is with their customers, I would recommend reading Fast Company’s article about Patagonia asking their customers to buy less. According to the Ben Schiller, “The Californian apparel company last month launched an initiative encouraging their customers to reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle their clothing and equipment. Their ad even features the line: "Reduce what you buy," in bold caps, much like something out of an anti-capitalism rally" (Fast Company).

original website for picture

Patagonia: How They Challenge Their Competition

Calling out other companies with “environmental initiatives”, such as Dell, P&G, and Chevy, the article lays out all the facts that make Patagonia the environmentalist king. Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s environmental VP, explains in the article that this initiative is “less about improving sales and customer retention, than a sincere response to the planetary crisis" (Fast Company).

My reason for picking Patagonia as a brand with strong, relevant positioning in the marketplace is because not only do they place customers first and strive to live up to their environmental reputation, but they also challenge their competitors. No one can match up to Patagonia because the company has created its own marketing position by vowing to remain true to their core values of creating customer satisfaction while being sustainable. You could even refer to them as a company that had a “blue ocean strategy”, because no company has ever asked their customers to buy less at the risk of losing sales (with meaning). They are continuously reinforcing what they believe in to their consumers, and in effect, they keep coming back for more.

Ridgeway insists this is not a marketing ploy, and that their executives are not concerned with wealth. Their customers are concerned with buying quality products that will last them long enough to make their money well spent, as well as being environmental. Patagonia more than meets the needs of their customers by branding the company separately than every other outdoor apparel store.

original website for picture

Original Patagonia Positioning Statement

As the brand manager of Patagonia, my positioning statement would be as follows:

For people who love the outdoors and the earth, Patagonia shares your passions. Our products are made from quality, recycled materials that mirror our sustainability initiative while accompanying adventurers as they embark into the outside world. Only with Patagonia products can our customers enjoy knowing they are sustainable and doing what they love at the same time.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

American Idol: Personal Brand Builder?

Click here to go to original website

We all know about American Idol, the television show. But what about American Idol, personal branding professionals?

According to Forbes, “Idol is a perfect example of an integrated brand platform that’s based on building strong emotional connections with its audience.” When a lot of people think of American Idol, they simply think of the television show as a brand itself. But what about the smaller brands that they produce during the making of the show?

The show is about talented singers trying to break their way into the entertainment business, for sure. One thing that I find interesting is the fact that we, over the course of the show, really get to know the contestants. We get to know their likes, where their from, their idols, and most importantly, what their “entertainment personalities” would be.

Take for instance one of the most powerful personalities that emerged from the show: Carrie Underwood. Although she dates all the way back to season 4 of American Idol, we all remember her presence as she reigned on the show: bubbly, Christian-raised, blonde, and country. As she got further into the competition, we started to learn more about her, and we started to root for her more. Now she is a country superstar. However, her image and her personal brand started developing when she appeared on American Idol.

Click here to go to original website

The show has a way of branding itself by being THE brander of new musical personalities. We get to know the singers. We laugh with them and we cry with them. We feel as if we get to truly know them over the course of the season. And, by the time they exit the show, we felt connected to them. This circles back to American Idol’s brand, making them seem as dream makers. The Forbes article that I read speaks solely of how American Idol is a lesson in branding; however, I can see brand extension within the show since it creating smaller, personal brands in their singers.

American Idol was the first “dream maker” show of its kind. Other shows like The X Factor, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent soon emerged. They, like American Idol, brand themselves as “dream makers” by showing the world unknown talents and uniquely branding them as the show goes on.

We can learn a very important lesson from American Idol: brands create other brands, which create other brands.  Simplified, American Idol created Carrie Underwood. Carrie Underwood created Carrie Underwood products, such as albums, posters, t-shirts, etc.

Kellogg on Branding says: “Brands are assets” (pg 91). American Idol’s brand helps them recruit new talent, and their new talent’s personal brand is unleashed in the process. Thanks to American Idol, Carrie Underwood went from this:

To this:


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Amazon's Recommendation Engine: Serving Us While Conducting Research

A Quote To Keep In Mind

In Kellogg On Branding (page 73), Tim Calkins states: “Buyers do not always consider all the options, weigh them carefully, and reach a deliberate choice in the conventional sense of rationality. Moreover, buyers do not always know what they want. Instead, individuals learn what they like, and they learn how to choose.”

The New Era Of Customer Research

When it comes to customer research, there are many ways to find the information you need. There are surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups, all of which have been a typical route in the past for many companies. However, many customers find this irritating. Unless I am specifically interested in a company, I do not want them calling me to ask for information. I want to go to the company myself and provide input as desired.

Today’s smart customer research is all about accessibility. Surveys and questionnaires can be skewed. Focus groups work, but the times are changing. Today, customers want their own customer research tools. How is this done? By creating a killer website that allows the customers to navigate for themselves, see options of products, and give opinions accordingly.

I realize that surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups should not be ruled out. They are still important; however, having websites that allow for engagement and interaction will help the company in the long run. Online shopping has become such an important staple to consumers now, thus it is important to engage with your customers as much as possible through the website.

Amazon's Recommendation Engine: A Beautiful Thing

Click Here For Original Website

Take for example: Amazon. They a recommendation engine, which “processes huge quantities of customer insight every day, is viewed not as a crude cross-selling device but as a valuable service identifying products which otherwise might have been missed” (Research-Live). This recommendation engine easily became my friend when I shopped on Amazon’s website. It is simple, yet connects my experience to another potential experience that I can have later on if I choose to buy something like my original product. It keeps me interested, and it makes me feel as if Amazon is monitoring my purchases to find other things that I may desire.

Click Here For Original Website

This is an example of a personal experience that I share with Amazon every time that I go on their website. It is not just a place for me to wander aimlessly, looking for the right product. Amazon takes my interests into consideration and creates a mini-database that is catered specifically to me. I develop a love for the company because of this.

Connecting Our Love Of Customization To Customer Research

How is this all connected? It's easy. Amazon has come up with the perfect strategy: pleasing their customers by creating an easy-to-navigate page that keeps their customers coming back for more. The upside? They are conducting research as well. Not only are they "connecting the dots" for their customers by finding similar products that may help in their journey for the perfect product, they are also connecting the dots for themselves. By using this customization tool, they are creating a better experience for customers in the future. As more and more people use Amazon, the more the company learns about our buying patterns. Simply, they are teaching us to (as Calkins said) learn how to choose our products, and we are teaching them how to appeal to the everyday Amazon customer.

Amazon has done their research: consumers like customizable features. Like Calkins said, they also need to learn how to choose the products they like. Not only am I coming to Amazon to shop and find other things that I may like, but they are coming to their customers to research as well. It is an incredible example of how to receive customer research, while maintaining a personal relationship with the customer at the same time.

Amazon also tracks spending periods. For example, if I buy something at Amazon each month, the company notices this. They then might send me an email asking if I want to set up an automatic shopping experience that allows for the product of my choice to be shipped to me at the same time each month. In short, Amazon is educating its consumers on the importance of the personal relationship. They have conducted their research well enough to know that customers enjoy suggestions and extra care. As a result, many companies have followed suit to copy Amazon's personalization idea.

I may be looking at a product that I like, but I may not know enough information about it. In comes the Amazon recommendation bar, which asks, “What about this?” It piques my interest, therefore I look at this product instead. Oh, this is ACTUALLY what I want and need. Thanks Amazon!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The New Brand: Being A Great Company

Stripping Companies Down

Click here to go to original webpage
“The Naked Brand” is a documentary by an ad agency named Questus, about social responsibility and advertising. I love the idea of this documentary. A new way to establish your brand is simply by being a great company. This article proved to be very intriguing to me, as it advocates good citizenship for businesses.

Ken Wheaton, the author of this particular article, goes straight to a company that many of us have heard of: Apple. Only instead, Apple is not being praised. In fact, Apple is finally called out for not being a perfect company. Wheaton explains, “Apple [and Walmart].... neither of which immediately jumps to mind when one thinks of good corporate citizenship… Apple is one of the least transparent companies around.”

Apple has prided itself on being simplistic, the Steve Jobs strategy. According to Jeff Rosenblum, writer and co-director of “The Naked Brand”, “advertising isn’t enough to cover for bad corporate behavior.” I am, of course, referring to the Foxconn/Apple incident. If you have never heard of this small issue before, I will sum it up for you: Apple (and Foxconn) is now on the spot for “better treatment of the workers who assemble iPads and iPhones in China” (Workforce).

Apple is officially “on the spot”. Because there is so much “behind the scenes” work, it can appear that Apple is not concerned with these allegations. Yet, this is how Apple is defined: secretive, successful, and not like other companies. This is a perfect example of the brand that “got away” with bad corporate behavior and remained successful. Yet, other brands would fall to this misstep.

“The Naked Brand” documentary emphasizes the importance of socially responsible and green advertising. By this, I mean “advertising can save the planet one small step at a time,” as Wheaton said in his article.

                                           Click Here To Watch Video On Youtube

Lessons On How To Be The Best Company...Ever.

The people have spoken: they like their green companies. They like their green companies advertising their environmental efforts: green advertising. So, what is “green advertising”? In this article by AdWeek, Ronald Urbach explains:

“Companies across the spectrum recognize that consumers want to support businesses they perceive as environmentally conscious. As a result, companies – and more specifically their advertising -- are touting the environmental value of their business and products more than ever before.”

Disclaimer: I am intertwining two issues together -- “Green Advertising” and “Social Responsibility.” They are not the same, yet they are categorized together. Is it socially responsible to be “green”?

“Greenwashing”, which according to Urbach, “describes a company that spends more time and money claiming to be green through advertising than actually minimizing its negative environmental impact,” is what “The Naked Brand” is attempting to speak to consumers about.

Consumers in the world have become so wrapped up in buying environmentally-friendly products that, in my opinion, some companies run the risk of becoming obsolete if they do not. A few years ago, it was a bonus that a company cared about the environment and the way their business affected it. Over the years, we have shifted into convincing ourselves that “green companies” are the best companies. Simplified, they care about their consumers and they care about the earth. This is what matters to consumers now. Social responsibility is an extension of being “green”- it establishes a company’s view of how they should function in society. Some companies find it necessary to be both; some, neither.

Does Apple need to recreate their company to establish an “environmentally responsible” logo? Most likely not. They are accepted as they are within the business and marketing world already. They have already infiltrated the market, and their success solidifies their reputation. Up-and-coming companies, however, should focus on the green/social responsibility initiative. Why? Because caring about the world is important enough to capture the attention of your potential customers, and it is (still) trending for the year of 2012.

I want my companies to be as environmentally friendly as they possibly can, but I do not want to invest my time in companies that try to cover for their bad behavior. Truth and trust is where it's at. Only after this have you stolen my (branding) heart.

Trust and companies make a good combination

Companies, The Best Of Social Responsibility

All of these articles about social responsibility and being green made me wonder what companies were the best of the best, the trendsetters.

This article at AdAge explains the 10 Companies With Social Responsibility At The Core (in no particular order):

- Burt’s Bees
- GE
- Method
- The Body Shop
- Starbuck’s Coffee
- Ben & Jerry’s
- Kenneth Cole
- Pedigree
- TOMS Shoes
- Whole Foods
(read more about these here!!!)

Other Sources Cited:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Need Power? It's In The Bag.

The Powerbag

There is a new product that most definitely exemplifies the following drivers of innovation: technology advances and changing customer needs. This new product goes by the name of Powerbag.

Click here to go to website

The Powerbag focuses in on one major problem that all technology-driven people are having: our phones, computers, and other items running out of battery. Let’s face it, phone batteries do not usually stay fully charged for very long. I myself can not touch my phone for hours, and by the next time I need it, I have 10% battery left.

The official website for Powerbag states:

"We’ve been there. You reach into your bag or backpack for your phone and the battery is dying or dead. Sure, you can charge it through a wall outlet or your car charger but how about those times when you’re away from electricity or forgotten your cords? Powerbag makes those problems a thing of the past. 
Equipped with a complete charging system -- battery, Apple connector, Micro- and Mini-USB connectors and an on-board USB port – Powerbag is ready to charge up to 4 devices at once anywhere, anytime. One Powerbag charge will boost the average smartphone at least 2X, and having the most common connectors out there means HUNDREDS of devices are covered. Even eReaders and tablets can be topped off! Plus with exclusive designs by fūl, carry everything you need in looks that suit your style."

The Powerbag addresses the needs of the constantly changing technological world. As Cooper said in Winning at New Products, “The world’s base of technology and know-how increases at an exponential rate, making possible solutions and products not even dreamed of a decade or so ago” (pg 8).  This product would not have been necessary even a decade ago, as the need for technological products has become more necessary as the years pass by. So, the innovators of the Powerbag asked themselves one question: how can the typical on-the-go person with many devices keep their batteries from dying? Contact (through smart phones and computers) has become vital. As my mother would say: your day has the possibility of being very unproductive if your favorite technological device dies.

The Powerbag had the answer: creating a mobile device (the bag) that can charge up to four devices at one time. Not only has this product addressed technology advances, it exemplifies how customer needs change over time. We have crossed the bridge from people wanting their phones to be charged to people needing their phones to be charged. When we were not in the digital age, this bag would have been rendered useless. Now, the Powerbag could have many possible markets to sell to: college students, business people, and travelers are just a few examples.

No one wants to have their phone die!

Potential Pitfalls

If I were personally on the Powerbag development team, I would be concerned about one of Cooper’s pitfalls in particular: a lack of market orientation.

This particular pitfall may apply to the Powerbag, as the presence of this brand has not quite gathered the technological “buzz” that many new devices do. Although they have seemed to adequately researched their potential markets, this particular invention should have been raved about the second it hit the market. We have been waiting for some device that could keep our batteries from running low as we move about our day. So why have I not heard of this before?

It may take time for the success or failure of this product to be visible, but one thing is for sure: it holds a lot of potential.

Separate from the “pitfall” of market orientation, I will also be interested to see if they can avoid the “pitfall” of poor quality of execution. Sure, we would all enjoy a bag that can charge up to four devices. But, will that drain all of the power from the bag? Has the Powerbag company tried so hard to make this bag assessable to people with multiple devices that they ignored the fact that four devices may overload the bag? The general idea is wonderful. As a developer of this product, I would make sure that the bags were tested and retested to withstand four constantly charging devices.

I am a little skeptical that the product may be at risk for malfunction and lacking market support thus far, but this product has been a long time coming. It is perfect for our technology-filled, fast-paced world, and I would have been proud to have been on the innovation team for this product.

For more information on the Powerbag, go to their home page:

Friday, September 7, 2012

"But I Hate Group Projects"

Myer’s Briggs & Business

I am currently talking to my roommate a little less than usual. Why? Today is the day that I am going to be journaling what it is like to act the “opposite” of my Myers Briggs personality. As an “ENFJ” (Extrovert, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging), my ways of life contradict the ISTP (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving). I may have only been awake for an hour, but my day has already been radically different. It hasn’t bothered me yet; I am appreciating seeing the difference of how other people live.

However, this assignment has officially piqued my interest. While others may find it a waste of time, I enjoy real assignments such as these. As I started thinking about the Myer’s Briggs test and how it can relate to the business world, I desired to understand how it could truly define a person’s lifestyle and brand.

“Human Nature” And Collaboration: No Bueno

It is also extremely important to understand other people. According to Thejendra:

“Human beings are fiercely independent animals and will have always their own opinions and independent methods of doing something, though they may be unwilling to express it openly. This is the way we humans are hardwired by nature from millions of years. Except for a very small percentage of people, sharing and collaboration with others is not exactly programmed inside every human being. This is because each person is mainly concerned about his or her rewards, appreciation, need for power over others, and so on. But teamwork insists on everyone playing an unnatural ballgame that aligns our mindsets in a cooperative and usually selfless manner towards a specific business purpose. And this involves unpalatable stuff like sacrifices, compromises, sharing of rewards, sharing blame and punishments, suppression of personal opinions, etc., which is not acceptable to almost anyone. No matter what is expressed on the outside, internally it is always, ‘What is in it for me?’ rather than, ‘What is in it for us?’”

No wonder collaboration can be so difficult. It’s strictly against our nature! Regardless, businesses don’t grow without insight from others and collaborative tools. The only way to really get better at working with others is to learn how to understand them. The rut of business conversations may occur when groups of people are unwilling to concede on a choice that will majorly affect the business; this is common. The only way that group work and partnerships can move forward is to have a general understanding of how the other thinks.

Click here to go to picture website.

A good way to teach ourselves how to understand others is by using the Myer’s Briggs test to understand those opposite of you. For example, as I scored highly in the “Feeling” category:

If you have a preference for Feeling and your teammates have a preference for Thinking:
1. Practice laying out arguments by discussing the causes and effects.
2. Understand that critical feedback is given in the spirit of improving your professionalism
3. Use brief and concise language to express people’s wants and needs.
4. Bring attention to stakeholders’ concerns regarding the projects or work.

This and others can be viewed on this website. In order to maximize group activity, I believe it would be best if everyone studied a little about how to interact with someone that lives their life differently. This is a great tool for learning how to better communicate with people both in the business and social world.

Connecting It To Branding

Who we are (and our characteristics) strongly correlates to what type of brand we would create.

An article on Viget (that you can view here) states: “Understanding who you are will help others understand your brand positioning.” This also applies to teamwork, as understanding others will help you understand their brand positioning.

If business were a type of person, it would be a “people person.” Ignoring how to understand others hinders your understanding of the world. Work, work, work to understand others and the aspirations that they have and, in effect, better understand yourself.

Click here to go to picture website.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Innovators + Passion = Spectacular Things

Message: Passion Keeps The World Turning

Bill Strickland, the author of Make The Impossible Possible, was quoted in The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs (written by Carmine Gallo) saying, “Passion won’t protect you against setbacks, but it will ensure that no failure is ever final.”

As I read this, it was as if I was slapped in the face with something that I thought I already knew. Did we ever really have passion for the thing we gave up on? How do we know what real passion looks like, and what can keep our eye on the prize after multiple “failures”? 

After reading comments from Bill Strickland, it hit me: innovators are not hindered. I myself end up becoming frustrated with what I perceive as failures. I can safely say that I bought into this “misconception” that if something does not end up successful the first time, then I am a failure. 

What I did not know is that this is the furthest thing from the truth. Failures, instead of hindering, should fuel the fire of our passions. If we are truly passionate about something, should we not gratefully accept our failures as a way to rule out options? 

The issue is, EVERYONE must know that passion ensures that no failure is ever final. If you want to make a difference, you must try, try again. The innovation road is not smoothly paved; the only way you can find your way is to venture off to foreign territories. We must use our passions to go boldly where no man has ever gone before.

Sam Calagione (author of Brewing Up A Business) wholeheartedly agrees, stating in his book, “If you want something bad enough and are willing to do anything necessary to make it happen, you can make it happen.” 

The message is this: if the passion within you to create something extraordinary is real, you will find a way to make a difference. As someone who sets to make a difference once I am out of school, this is something that I cannot and will not forget. We all have the opportunity to pull a “Steve Jobs” and make a difference. The only thing that matters is if we can keep our passionate fire from burning out when we hit a roadblock.

A True Passion-Follower: Blake Mycoskie

Passion may know no boundaries, but it lives within the physical world. When I think of a passion-follower, I automatically am programmed to think of Steve Jobs and his persistence. However, if I were to go back in time before I read The Innovation Secrets Of Steve Jobs, I may have a different view of a passion-follower.

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, is the man behind the One for One program. According to his bio (which can be found at 600,000 pairs of new shoes were given to children around the world as of April 2010. Now, I don’t know how many more have been given out since then, but I can imagine it is an incredible number. 

Did Blake Mycoskie run into issues while trying to start up his company, TOMS? Probably. Has he made a huge dent in the world by following through with his plan to make a difference? Absolutely. 

And if that doesn’t interest you, go to There is an official day set up for people to go one day without shoes. It is believed that the lack of shoes will make people curious, which will result in conversation. The point is to spread the word about the hazards of living without shoes in other countries. 

Blake Mycoskie made a difference. He is one person, and he defines what I think of when I think of passion. I am amazed when I think about his journey and what he has already done for the world. His favorite quote seems to reflect his view on life:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” –Gandhi

Click here to see website