customer engagement

The Three Basic Tools of Innovation: Eyes, Ears & Feet


Innovation Insights

One of a series by Ken Tencer, Spyder Works CEO

During a recent presentation on product innovation to the HBA Global Expo in New York City, I was asked a great question:  “What tools do I need to be a great innovator?”  My answer surprised many people with its simplicity: “Your eyes and ears.” Innovations are all around us, and when we take time to notice them they can stimulate more creative thoughts within each of us.  And I really should have also added “feet,” because the day before I had walked 40 Manhattanblocks looking for interesting and outrageous inputs to spur my own innovative thinking.  Here are two examples of what I found:

First, I noted that Ben & Jerry’s has introduced new Greek frozen yogurt.  They’re jumping on the trend that has seen smoother, higher-protein Greek yogurt double sales in each of the past three years.  It’s still not that healthy – Ben & Jerry’s positions its Greek frozen yogurt as a “reasonable reward,” not health food.  But it’s a fast, clever move to harness consumers’ changing tastes and growing health concerns, while maintaining Ben & Jerry’s reputation for flamboyant branding.  Who else would sell Greek frozen yogurt in flavors such as Strawberry Shortcake, Raspberry Fudge Chunk and Banana Peanut Butter?

I couldn’t miss the A&E TV show Storage Wars.  Why do people love this reality show?  It’s about discovery.  Four (and now more) modern-day treasure hunters, competing to find abandoned storage lockers concealing antiques, bargains, collectibles and other forgotten finds.  In tough economic times, this combination of hope, disappointment and triumph has become a magic elixir to lighten our daily struggles.

If you’re a product developer or retailer, the point is this: little discoveries and everyday surprises are all it takes to engage today’s cash-strapped consumers.

Next time you’re in a distant city – or even a new part of town – don’t even think of sitting back in a cab or going deep underground in the subway.  Take a walk.  Look up, look down, notice what people are wearing, venture into stores you’d never normally go into.  The more we get out of the office to see and hear other people, other products, other places and new approaches, the more ideas we can gather to make our own work more innovative and impactful.

Plus, it’s healthy.

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The Cake Pop is the Essence of Innovation


Innovation Insights

One of a series by Ken Tencer, Spyder Works CEO

Some say that successful innovations “mask the complexity behind them”. I put it a bit differently – I believe that successful innovations harness the obvious. One of the great examples of this is the cake pop. These deceptively simple desserts –  frosted balls of cake on a lollipop stick – reflect everything that is right about innovation. It’s a bold new use for a traditional product that opens up huge opportunities for creativity and new sales venues, while reflecting a societal shift to healthier lifestyles (smaller portions), more frugal indulgences, and ease of access for people on the go (look ma, no fork!).

Let me say that again: cake pops didn’t come out of nowhere. Invented by blogger/baker Angie “Bakerella” Dudley in early 2008, they took off a month later when Martha Stewart invited Dudley to make cake pops on her TV show. But cake pops succeeded because they addressed changes in societal norms and consumer behavior.  They also met one other need: they brought a rare and fun originality to the baking and catering industries. Covered with sprinkles or styled to resemble mini ice-cream cones, cupcakes, Christmas trees and even flowers, cake pops can now be found at birthday parties (where they leave much less mess behind than slices of cake), weddings, corporate events and family dinners – anyplace where gracious hosts and hostesses are always competing to serve the newest of the new.

Understanding consumer needs and capitalizing on market shifts represent the essence of innovation. It’s bringing new things to market to continuously re-engage your customers and meet their changing needs. Surprise your customers, delight them and solve their problems, and watch your sales pop.


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Coke is timeless. Pepsi is timely.

Branding Insights
One of a series by John Paulo Cardoso, Spyder Works Chief Creative Officer


As a designer and branding junkie, I have always been fascinated by the marketing machinations of Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. As two of the savviest and most successful marketing companies in the world, you might imagine that the two companies would have evolved a similar, shadow approach to branding. But, the way I see it, they come at it from totally opposite directions. Coca-Cola, whose logo probably would have looked the same on Noah’s Ark, has steadfastly traded on its timeless, iconic connection to consumers, while Pepsi seems to juggle the look of its red, white and blue logo like a waverunner. It seems to me that Coke’s branding follows its consumers while Pepsi tries to anticipate them.

Which approach is right for your company?

If your corporate culture is about leadership and maintaining an enduring relationship with your customers, the Coca-Cola model will focus you on consistency, connection and continuous improvement. If you have an aggressive hunter/disruptor culture, the Pepsi model of continuous re-invention will keep your people and your customers on their toes. It will encourage constant re-assessment and promote maverick thinking. My mantra to clients is to be true to who you are and reflect it in your branding and re-branding. If your culture is about continuous improvement, you’ll grow by enhancing and nurturing. If it’s about continuous re-invention, your corporate destiny is finding the next big thing.

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