Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Customers help design new product innovations at Lululemon

... and some tweaks to some old favorites. This, another observation from my recent visit to their Robson St. store in Vancouver, was particularly impressive. Much more than a one-sided token attempt to make themselves look like they care what you think, this simple low-tech chalkboard was a hive of insight.

"more flow-n-go tanks"

"mens CHIEF shirts"

"a wunder underpant with a groove waste band so it won't fall down"

"bigger chest pocket in men's hoodies for iphone (don't want to have to cram it)"

"Lululemon bathing suits"

Imagine the consumer research savings and the faster time to market this leading brand achieves through this simple approach. Not to mention the good will it engenders in customers who feel heard and given a chance to share their ideas.

This is brilliant, and another example of how Lulu lives their brand and creates an experience in every little detail to bring it to life in their own unique way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lululemon brand experience - alive, well, and meaningful in their Robson St. Vancouver store

Lululemon, the healthy lifestyle brand displays this fun, organic piece of advice outside the door to the change room in their Vancouver Robson St. store. I love it! As you shop for and try on Lululemon wear this message makes you stop and think about the small things you can do to live a healthier life (achievable with or without the $92 sweat pants/leggings you are about to buy). Totally on-brand. And not something you'd see down the street at the Roots store or the Nike store.

What it says to me, is this brand cares about their customers and about living their brand promise in every tiny little detail.

How many other branded environments have you experienced lately where you've felt that to be the case? I know I am anxious to check out a few of my favorite grocery stores now to see if this diagram proves true. I'm sure the likes of Paco Underhill, who has spent a lifetime studying store design and product placement could tell us why this is. But thanks go to Lululemon for pointing it out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Plane Brain Manifesto

Plane time is thinking time for me. This morning the flight that afforded this brain time was to Seattle, then on to Vancouver to see the family for Easter - the nieces, and nephew - can't wait.

Perhaps it's the crazy times we've faced in business the past few years. Or perhaps it's the continual changes in the world of marketing - from new technologies that require us to participate with customers differently than ever before, to the changing role of brands. Whatever the motivator, some semblance of a manifesto came to mind today and I wanted to share it now. I'm still not sure if it's a manifesto on the creative life, or just on life itself.

I'll be thinking and exploring these ideas a lot more in my quiet thinking time over the next while.

Ride down the middle of the road and you will get crushed. Venture out. Touch the edges.


Get out an observe. See things and experience things you don't usually do.

Be relevant. Be observant. Engage.

Get into the customer's business. Understand what matters and what success looks like. Care. Contribute. Challenge. Track an issue, and the conversation.

Tell me what you think. Don't always agree with me. Please bring your different experiences to our shared one.

Read. Learn. Breathe fresh air.

Have a similar work ethic. And a different point of view. Bring both every day when you show up.

Screw the excuses and the reasons why not. Chase challenges and dish up the solutions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Do you really need all that "stuff"?

An article from Smart Money Magazine appeared this morning in my news feed. It's about aging Boomers coping with the inevitability of getting rid of all their "stuff" as they decide to downsize or simplify life. The point of the article (link below) is with so many people entering the stage in life when they are deciding to simplify, the market (and value) of the stuff is dropping. Simple laws of supply and demand. The more stuff, the more supply. The more supply, the lower the value.

I guess many of these sellers of stuff were counting on it for some added value in their retirement accounts. That won't be the case if grandma's old upright piano fetches $11 as the article claims. I read with interest the hypothesis that many of these aging Boomers are buying smaller homes - we see a lot of that each day in our communities. And there's the school of thought that says the American Dream of home ownership is changed forever and many are choosing not to buy again, if they can sell what they own. There are opinions and arguments to be made on both sides of both of these.

What I'm interested in is the longevity of "stuff" going forward. What matters most today? With our consumer culture of planned obsolescence where today's new release of almost anything is outdated almost as soon as the hard-to-open packaging is discarded, what is our relationship to material things? How deep is our relationship to these goods and things? Is a wedding gift of a silver tea service as coveted as funds toward an experiential honeymoon? If so, will there come a time, 40 years from now, when the married couple looks around and realizes they don't have a sterling silver flatware set to pass to the next generation? Or will new kinds of family traditions begin to emerge, less tied to things, and more tied to something else?

Read the article that spurred this thought here:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A generational imprint + shifting perspective

We are enjoying a visit with a 22-year old member of our family, from out of town. He's a smart guy, in his third year of university. Curious about the world around him and pretty perceptive overall. In generational terms he fits smack in the middle of "Generation Y", also called the "Millenials". There have been tomes written about his generation, interpreting all manner of research studies over the years.

We've had some great conversations and he's afforded us a peak through his window on the world. Fascinating. The absence of technology for anyone older than Gen Y has given us a whole different vocabulary. Like postage.

We were talking about a card that arrived in the mail, and he had no idea that the postage to get it here was the number on the stamp of the envelope. He asked me how much the stamp cost and how we knew. I explained the concept of postage and the differing value depending on origin and destination. He asked me how much more than the stamp postage cost. It was not something in his reality. His is a generation driven by technology in every way. "Snail mail" letters are not just a thing of the past, they are a thing that doesn't exist in current vocabulary. His birthday wishes come as e-cards or e-mails, his Mother's Day wishes are a phone call or a text, and all his banking is done online, no checks mailed to cover a payment.

I learned a lot from this short conversation and haven't stopped thinking about it since. His view on the world is no lesser or greater than mine - it's just different. Nothing can be taken for granted. If you are a boss, colleague or teacher of someone with a different generational imprint than you, listen, be patient and seek to understand. Look at the world from the outside-in, and it may reveal some new opportunities you'd miss if you march ahead, looking only through the window you know.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Consumer Trends & Street Fairs

At the Encinitas Stret Fair this weekend I noticed a few things different than last year's fair. There were fewer vendors selling handmade soaps and organic soy candles. Down from four soap booths to one, and down from three candle booths to two. There were even more unique food choices than in previous years, including a true wood-fired pizza oven complete with tall chimney, hauled out to the fair on a flatbed truck and set up with attention to retail design that rivals some of the most incredible branded store experiences, complete with chalkboard menu.

There were the health-testing booths, seemed like more of them as well. And what appeared a corresponding decrease in the "custom-designed jewelry" options and stone art on a string. But the most obvious difference to me was the huge increase in the number of vendors selling handmade totally unique dog collars and leashes. Full disclaimer: dogs are a huge part of my reason for existing, but still, my friends attending the fair with me pointed this out before I had done the math, after the fourth such booth. By the end of covering the entire street, we'd seen five total, plus the vendor who had so obviously knocked off the idea from Bert and John Jacobs of Life is good T-shirt fame with their "Life is Dog" booth. My favorite thing they were selling? The T-shirt that read, "It's all fun and games until somebody ends up in a cone".

Follow the logic for a moment that street fair vendors and the artists/entrepreneurs are on the front edge of consumer trends - their livelihood depends on it. Arguably the things one finds at these fairs are for the most part discretionary and emotional treasures. So this year's increase in dog gear means something.

Interesting that just a few days earlier in the week we reviewed a consumer research report for a new community we are creating, and despite having asked the question on similar surveys all over the country for many years, "dog park" actually came up as a top preferred amenity for the first time. Comfort in these crazy times? If I take to heart the wares of the fair ... hug your furry friends, lose yourself in the affordable tasty pleasures of some funky foods, and pay attention to your blood sugar!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How does a poet see what others miss?


What the oven is to the baker,

so the window is to the poet.
An entry point into observation.
A place through which to chase a thought.
The opportunity for reflection,
of either love or maybe loss.
Sometimes in longing, others in despair.
A poet looks through the window -
to comprehend what's there.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Reflections on a simple day off.

What's life worth if you can't step back from it occasionally and just observe?
How can you feel the power of context if you don't put yourself in different places?
In the eye of the storm, days may seem very long, but the years are getting shorter. My recent birthday brings that home even more. And even this quadruple type-A personality's tank gets a little empty now and then.

So for the first time in I can't recall how long (other than recuperating from surgery, which just doesn't count) I took a simple day off just for me. No family obligations. Just a day for me. Here's what I now know to be true, after this simple day:

The best time to shop for groceries is Monday morning. Everything's fresh and you can park closer.

There are gold specks in the sand on the beach. They are the same color gold I see in my bangs, blown into my eyes by the ocean breeze.

Two flocks of cormorants can fly directly at each other, bank on the wind and miss any wing or other contact completely. Perfect engineering in motion.

Their shadows fly up the side of the cliffs, the shape of the land making it appear they are turning inland, when they are really flying straight up the coastline. Imperfect human perception at work, fooled by the shape of the earth.

People are happier when they walk the beach, including the woman who exclaimed, "I found a bonanza" as she passed me, her hands full of barnacle-encrusted shells and rocks. I found my own 1/4 mile further down the beach, in a piece of corral with tide-worn shells attached.

The public restroom at the beach makes a perfect pit stop for motorbike riders - in and out in under 5 minutes and no need to buy a coffee to feel polite. Note to self on our next ride.

The waves keep coming.

I can see, smell and hear more than usual. And it took me less than a morning to turn down the velocity, and turn up the observations.