As digital sales increase, experience is becoming the new differentiator for brick and mortar retailers. They are facing huge pressures to innovative which requires risk. This is evident in the latest JC Penny transformation, where sales are now down 25 percent to $13 billion, meaning $4.3 billion in revenue is just gone. One has to ask if CEO Ron Johnson would have been better off spending more time trying to figure out what customers wanted from a "new" JC Penny's.
frog always takes a people-centric approach to design and what Gap Inc.'s Annika Dubrall spoke about in today's SXSW panel, Pop(up) Culture large retailers using pop-up stores to innovate by prototyping ideas and experiences outside the boundaries of the mothership. It is often very difficult to innovate within large retailers because the scale, potential impacts to the brand, and extremely tight operational and distribution models don't allow any room to be wrong.
A pop-up design strategy for large retailers has many benefits. What if I want to experiment with new products and engage a new demographic outside the core market? Pop ups are great because they are limited in long term investment, commitment, and stock, allowing for larger retailers to experiment without taking a hit. Development of new digital engagement tools to test new experiences can be quickly prototyped without being constrained by large IT systems. Experimenting with new ways to engage customers across multiple digital and physical channels can be explored and measured more accurately when the plan is factored in from the beginning. Lastly, Pop ups could be mobile, allowing for very easy regional distribution and testing. I bet Mr. Johnson is wishing he would have tried a few more pop-up prototypes, because perhaps the biggest benefit is there is no pressure to be right.
Mitch Murphy is a creative director in frog's Austin studio.
Granted, I am not a fashion designer—but I do love fashion. I admit it. I'm a sneakerhead and have an unhealthy fetish with vintage watches. This interest led me to stop by the 3D Fashion: Nonstop Innovation in Production and Fit panel to see what they had to say. I’d like to start out by saying the panel approach to SXSW can be either really good or really bad. Unfortunately, the dynamic of this panel wasn’t the best. But, as I sat listening to this bumpy discussion about something so seemingly insignificant as how couture fashion is now accessible to everyone through 3D printing technology, I had to think they might be missing the point. I know the maker community and most of them have no idea who Jean-Paul Gaultier is.
What we really should be talking about is user-centered fashion design and its impact on retailers and the marketplace. Believe me, I am a firm believer that if you give people a chance to be creative they will surpass your expectations. Still, I'm not sold that everyone being their own fashion designer is a good thing (or the fashion police might actually exist.) Instead, will there be a time when each of us has a ‘style signature'? A rich picture of what I like, my own style, palettes, fits, and exact measurements, combined with hyper-local data like extended forecasts and specific events that I may be attending. Could I take all this data, tap an upcoming date on my iCal, and order a custom fit suit with a tie inspired by a picture of the fall foliage in my front yard? Are we entering an age where our clothing is code?
The SXSW Interactive whirlwind is descending upon Austin this week. In anticipation, we have spent hours planning and optimizing our schedules to make sure we do not miss the next big thing that will be unveiled at this year’s conference.
The implications of connected devices and the data they create will be dominating this year’s event. While interaction design, product innovation, Big Data, gaming, and start-up culture still remain hot topics of conversation, it is the Internet of Things that is clearly top of mind.
From smart infrastructure and sensor-embedded environments, to wearables capable of helping us to live healthier lives, we are excited to share our 2013 SXSWi Panel Picks.
In December 2012 I traveled to Afghanistan with fellow frogs Jan Chipchase and Cara Silver to study the intersection of mobile technology and consumer banking. We were there to study financial services and access in a country where only 9 percent of people use financial institutions but 65 percent own a mobile phone. Today we're releasing the full report of our findings, entitled "In the Hands of God: A Study of Risk and Savings in Afghanistan." Download the PDF here.
“For the next 20 years, experimentation in food will be equivalent to the kinds of experimentation we’ve seen with the Internet over the last 20 years.” Keynote speaker Dr. David Edwards, founder and director of Le Laboratoire in Paris, France, served up this prediction to a room of farmers, historians, architects, entrepreneurs, and community organizers at the Food, the City, and Innovation Conference held in Austin, Texas.
David Edward’s presentation offered a radical vision of a future with breathable foods and edible packaging, which effectively set the tone for a two-day roundtable discussion aimed at expanding perceptions of what constitutes food and community in the digital age. After inviting members of the audience to take a collective “whif” from his breathable food samples called AeroShot Energy (imagine lipstick-sized inhalers), Dr. Edwards concluded his keynote by emphasizing the importance of designing for food experience which he believes will serve as a path to innovative solutions for solving our complex global food system. The notion that our food system will undergo changes comparable to what we’ve seen in the last couple decades of the Internet is an inspiring, if not terrifying provocation and the uneasiness of the conference participants (who were well-caffeinated thanks to the energy inhalers) was palpable as the panel discussions began.
For the past four winters, the Davos Hub Culture Pavilion has opened its doors across the street from the World Economic Forum’s epicenter during the organization’s Annual Meeting. Inside, “the global collaboration network” and its partners—2013’s lineup included Blackberry, Cognizant, CNN, GE, and the Wall Street Journal with additional support from Edelman and frog—host brainstorming and deal-making sessions focused on creating unexpected connections between people, ideas, and capital around the world.
The following is the introduction to Design Forward: Creative Strategies for Sustainable Change by frog’s founder Hartmut Esslinger. The book will be released on Feburary 16, 2013 and is available for pre-order now.
After a long career with frog — the design agency I founded in 1969 — and as a creative consultant for some of the world’s best and most successful entrepreneurs, executives, and companies, I wrote my first book, A Fine Line — How Design Strategies Are Shaping the Future of Business. In that book, I focused on the corporate side of the business-design alliance and outlined why Strategic Design is most successful when it is an integral part of a company’s innovation and business strategy. Due to both the business focus and the limited space, A Fine Line wasn’t as complete as many would have wished, and I fielded many questions about organization and process in the field of design and in the working relationship between business and design. Because A Fine Line was published in German, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, the feedback was — and still is — global in nature. I used the questions, comments, and criticism that I received about my first book as my motivation for writing Design Forward as well as for structuring the information I offer within it.
When Phil Duncan speaks, whether on stage or in a one-on-one conversation, you can hear the emotion in his voice and read it on his face. You can practically hear him smile.
And he’s not shy about admitting that he cries when he hears moving stories of real-life moms sharing their pride over their children, when they have qualified to compete at the Olympic Games. As the Global Design Officer of Procter & Gamble, Duncan knows that tapping into consumers’ emotions—as well as those of the P&G staff—is an effective way to build not only individual consumer-goods brands, but also a behemoth of a company such as P&G.
He and I met up in New York after he gave a talk at the Design Management Institute’s annual conference this past fall. His presentation had many of the executives and creatives in the audience choked up when he shared videos from the 2012 London Olympics, where P&G hosted a family center for athletes and their kin. The center featured P&G products and, quite honestly, some pretty lovely furniture and décor. Competitors could treat their moms to a salon treatment; there was a man-cave-like environment where it was possible to sit back and watch sports in a relaxed way. There was food; there were diapers. It was a huge production, but it tied beautifully into those inspiring TV ads that ran during the Olympics, claiming that P&G is…the sponsor of moms. (Cue the tears! I admit, I was guilty of crying when I saw the ads, too).
Here’s our lightly edited and condensed chat about what Duncan calls ‘the next chapter in design strategy,’ now that many major corporations have design in the C-suite. Not surprisingly, it centers around tapping into consumer emotions.
Why is it so important for a brand to spur an intense reaction, such as tears?
When you have a deep insight of consumers and are truly empathetic to them, it’s important to hold true to that understanding with every aspect of strategy. For instance, our approach during the Olympics was to show that we are in service to moms and families. We didn’t get distracted with “broad consumer activations.” The idea of communicating how P&G supports families above all else paid off from a company and business standpoint. And from a personal standpoint, too. Honestly, it was a transformative experience internally. I felt that I moved from being a design officer to being in service to moms and the home across the world.
That said, what are some specific and practical tips that you have for drawing people in emotionally, both internally and externally?
I use the saying, “the fruits are in the roots.” What I mean by that is that it can be very helpful to take inspiration from a deep understanding of a brand’s heritage, where it comes from. Then, tap into a new mindset, and new insight, and add an element of creativity to keep that insight fresh. I tell my colleagues that it is the responsibility of brand teams to write the next chapter for the P&G book, not to write a new book. The goal is always to keep the story interesting and moving forward. Keep the characters going. And never stop writing. Otherwise, there is always the temptation of changing everything to follow some sort of trend. Then you risk being disingenuous. At P&G, we always keep in mind the brands people know and love, and then figure out how to make them contemporary by figuring out their relevance in people’s real lives, and then tie that sense back to the company’s heritage.
If you can do so, then you’ll tap the source of truth and inspiration of the brand. But of course it’s really important to then place it into the context of contemporary competition in the marketplace.
“What is interesting and important happens mostly in secret, in places where there is no power,” novelist Michael Ondaatje writes in The Cat’s Table, and it was a strange coincidence that I came across this enigmatic line on the descent down from Davos, the Swiss ski resort that had just convened some of the world’s most powerful men and women for the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum.
The paradox of Davos is that it is both highly public and highly secretive. Relationships and business transactions are on show, as much as they are taking place in back room meetings and private encounters on the peripheries, far away from the glitz and glamour and where the buzzing doesn’t need buzzwords. Davos is the great equalizer and the great divider at the same time. The hierarchies are both formal and explicit (manifest by the color of your badge), as well as situational and subtle, with small smart mobs forming around the most sought-after, both on- and offsite (“one minute you’re in, the next you’re out”), in emotional roller coaster, funicular, and shuttle rides between recognition and rejection, belonging and alienation.
The SCAD graduate students split up into teams and gathered around their copies of the Collective Action Toolkit (CAT), considering their homework assignment for their next class period. Their task: To pilot the first activity they would use with local high school students as their first introduction to working together in a group. In two days, they’d have to do a dry run with their classmates. As they looked over the toolkit’s action map, they began to where they should they begin? By having a “Knowledge Fest” or a “Skill Share?” By helping their group identify a goal right away, or by having fun and getting to know each other?
The CAT has been out for almost two months, and from the emails and conversations we’ve received since releasing the CAT, situations such as the above are happening more and more. The toolkit is being deployed far more broadly than expected, such as in our new Chinese language edition. People are finding new uses for it, from local education to entrepreneurship in global organizations. And we’ve embarked on our first educational pilot, working with SCAD’s Design for Sustainability program.
How did this happen? And in what ways can you use the CAT that you may not have considered?