EP 6 - iTunes Innovation

Inside the Innovative Mind: Glimpsing the Future

One of the questions that I find consistently fascinating and informative is “How do entrepreneurs find world-changing insights?” For those with active, searching minds, inspiration can be found in many places, but the insights that have shaped product development and consumer behavior over the last several decades often came from where we might least expect them. By studying innovative minds and their sometimes surprising influences, we can learn a lot about how to create vital, transformative products ourselves. Continue Reading

EP 5 - Casper Marketing for Millennials

Casper: Innovative Mattress Marketing for Millennials

The online mattress brand Casper has emerged over the last two years as a force in social media marketing, disrupting the department store mattress racket and building its success on an unlikely target market. Casper’s novel approach bears examination; their path to market, product development, and audience outreach each contain valuable lessons for today’s entrepreneurs.
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EP 4 - Propaganda Hate

If Hate is a Brand, Propaganda is its Marketing Strategy

Bloomberg View recently ran a powerful article titled, “Islamic State Is Just an Umbrella Brand for Hate.” Leonid Bershidsky’s compelling piece reaffirms to me that a large part of ISIS’ success has sprung from its deft combination of the age-old rules of propaganda with the novel accessibility of social media. ISIS’ twisted (yet carefully calibrated) message can be broadcast both faster and more directly than ever to horrific effect.

The message that propagandists cultivate tends to grow through three stages of attack. First, propaganda demeans the target group, then degrades them, and ultimately dehumanizes them entirely. This subtle escalation of rhetoric is the slippery slope that allows propagandists to infect the minds and hearts of those who hear their message.
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EP 3 - Innovation Talks

Innovation Talks: Finding A Better Way

I recently read an inspirational, deeply honest commencement address that has really stuck with me in a way that few such speeches do. It was delivered at the graduation ceremony at the University of Illinois in May by a man named Jeff Huber, a lifelong entrepreneur who previously worked at eBay and Google and is now the CEO of a company called GRAIL. I believe it contains an important message of hope and also a challenge for those of us who consider ourselves to be innovators.

Huber uses stories from his own life to reveal a larger experience and exhort these young graduates (and, by extension, all of us who hear or read his words) to “find a better way.” His speech still resonates with me weeks later, and I’d like to share some of the thoughts it has stirred with you.
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EP 2 - Visual Branding

Visual Branding in the Age of Social Media

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and today’s consumers are more visual than ever. Due in large part to the dominance of social media, we live in a world that is saturated with images. With so many selfies and “foodie” photos flashing in front of our eyes everyday, we’re over-exposed and yet primed for visual communication.

For marketers and branding experts, the challenge is to cut through the clutter and make your brand and your product stand out (both online and on the shelves). How can you tell your brand story visually? Here are a few tentpoles of visual branding to consider.
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EP 1 - Learning Through Failure

Learning Through Failure: Startup Edition

Failure is a fact of life. While some people prefer to gloss over that reality, I would rather embrace it. In any endeavor we undertake, no matter how successful it ultimately proves, we will fail in some small way. That’s a deeply humanizing truth, and while it may seem pessimistic, our failures (small or large) often hold the key to our success. If we can learn from our mistakes, we emerge stronger, smarter, and more resilient.

I’ve written previously about what we can learn from products that failed, and even highlighted a few prime examples of major missteps from some of the most successful companies in the world. While major corporations often experience failure, it’s an even greater specter in the startup world. Passionate entrepreneurs are launching innovative new ventures every day despite the fact that 90% of startups fail, as Neil Patel recently reminded us in Forbes. Thankfully, this harsh truth conceals a silver lining.
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Basic Benchmarks to Prevent Product Failure: 2 Case Studies

 

waterbottlesPredicting product success can be nearly impossible. Just ask the five major venture capital firms that turned Brian Chesky and his roommates away back in 2008. Granted, their product and plan were a little unusual: A new mobile application where homeowners could rent either their couches, guestrooms or entire homes to complete strangers while they were on vacation. It may have seemed a bit far-fetched back in 2008, but the application has blossomed into the multi-billion dollar business we now know as Airbnb.

While this anecdote might highlight Airbnb’s resounding success, it also highlights the imperfect science of predicting product success. The fact that some of the top venture capital professionals in the world were unable to foresee Airbnb’s rise to global prominence should come as no surprise. Whether you’re developing the next Airbnb or just your next type of air freshener, product predictions can be difficult and can often leave us clinging to a product or service that was doomed from the start.
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