Jan 02, 2017

Learnings from Fast Company's Innovation Festival (3/4)

Cross-Industry Collaboration

This is the third entry in a series of learnings from Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. The first two principles, internal valorization and diversity, lay the foundation for brands that can appeal genuinely to a consumer. This week we continue to flesh out another primary theme from the conference that can help brands further cement lasting engagement from their consumers.

Cross-Industry Collaboration

It’s easy to be caught in the trap of “expertise isolation”. Yet many of the panels at the Innovation Festival demonstrated that collaborating with creators in other sectors can spark a brand’s understanding of itself and open up new opportunities of what it can do.

At its core, Squarespace is nothing more than customizable coding that allows customers to create their own websites. But as David Lee, the CCO of Squarespace has seen, by working with creative collaborators like photographer David Guttenfelder or comedians Key and Peele he able to change how he viewed his own product. “We want to see what the web can be and we use these collaborations to boost that horsepower. Whenever you reach the ceiling, build another.” After seeing new ways that Squarespace could be used, Lee adjusted his business offering.

Another way to create authentic connections with consumers is to gain perspective on how they are actually living. SoulCycle has become a lifestyle for many people. (Perhaps even a cult?). Melanie Whelan, it’s CEO, wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. In fact, she embraces it, wanting to provide even more for the members of SoulCycle, or “riders” as she prefers to refer to them. Yet she knows there is more to their lives. SoulCycle features events with other brands, capitalizing on all the interests of her riders. Each SoulCycle boutique also offers products that extend beyond riding, again leveraging other industries to ingrain her own brand even more deeply into her riders’ lives. Whelan doesn’t view other boutique gyms as her competition: “Our biggest competitor is Netflix. We want to be the best part of riders’ days.”

Many products are increasingly fulfilling more than one role in consumer’s lives. Brands that recognize their products as multidimensional have a harder challenge, but the result is more rewarding and long lasting. Those in the food industry face a complex set of dilemmas. Together with Sam Kass, Food Innovator and former White House chef, and Kirst Saenz Tobey, Founder of Revolution Foods, Jonathan Nema, Co-CEO of Sweetgreen, said, “So much is broken. This is an industry that is produced for price and taste, not for what it does to our bodies. We face health, seasonality, education, waste, and climate change.” Together, these three shed light on many issues, but they insisted that solutions for the food industry (and the brands that seek uniqueness and longevity) come from all corners. From lawyers learning to speak about agriculture to marketers making fiber sexy, Kass pointed out, “[t]hese problems and solutions are more nuanced.”

It is difficult to become an expert in a field. For many brands, that ivory tower of excellence is their only claim. But brands that push beyond, seeking inspiration from other experts and sources, can gain the added value of creating an innovation that speaks to consumers in more ways than one. When layered upon our first two learnings of internal valorization and diversity, cross-industry collaboration can place a brand within a consumer’s life in an irreplaceable way.

Authored by CBA Brand Strategist, Chelsea Brown



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