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Welcome to the New Lantern blog. Our goal is to shine light on leading innovators and creative artists, and how your business can learn and profit from them. Companies large, medium, and small can benefit from employees who think more creatively. New Lantern may be just the source of inspiration your company needs to spark more innovative products, services, and processes.

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Archive for Tag 'brand'

Innovation By Design

Posted by on October 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I draw your attention to this month’s Fast Company magazine, which it refers to as its “Design Issue.” The entire issue focuses on the important role that design plays in business innovation as a positive disruptive force.

As the magazine points out, the marriage of design and innovation is not a new concept. For it was the legendary CEO of IBM, Thomas Watson, Jr., who noted almost 40 years ago that “good design is good business.” And scores of companies since then, including IBM, have ably demonstrated the truism of these words.

The magazine spotlights the latest social media darling, Pinterest, and its 30-year-old CEO, Ben Silbermann, as shown in the cover photo above. Silbermann has leveraged the power of the Internet to turn the age-old idea of the scrapbook into a must-go-to web destination. In the last year alone, the number of monthly unique visitors to Pinterest has soared from 600,000 to over 20 million.

Of course, 20 million users is a drop in the bucket compared to the social media behemoth, Facebook, which just past the 1 billion mark in users. Yet, Pinterest tops both Facebook and Twitter in its ability to translate visitors into product sales.

Fast Company also uses this month’s issue to highlight its “2012 Innovation By Design Award” nominees at 1,700 strong across nine categories. Nominees include companies and products such as Boeing’s fuel efficient 787, Nike’s lightweight Flyknit shoe, and Nest Labs’ slick and simple-to-use “smart” home thermostat. Winners will be announced on October 16 in New York City.

I urge you to spend more time in Q4 and in 2013 thinking about good design and how it can be good for your business. It might just be the best decision you make over the coming year — and could lead to your company’s nomination in a future Fast Company’s Design Issue.

Remembering a Lively Red Bull

Posted by on March 22, 2012 at 11:06 pm

The Red Bull energy drink founder, Chaleo Yoovidhya, died last week in Bangkok at the age of 89. Chaleo was worth $5 billion according to Bloomberg, which made him the third richest man in Thailand.

Chaleo was born to a poor Chinese immigrant family in northern Thailand in 1923, and was a duck farmer early in his career before importing antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, as reported by Time.

In 1962, Chaleo developed a highly caffeinated, sugary, non-carbonated drink, which he named Krating Daeng, meaning “red bull” in Thai. He targeted working class Thai consumers in an effort to build “the brand to convey strength and power.”

Red Bull soon became very popular in Thailand as the sleep-deprived began purchasing the high energy drink on a regular basis, including farmers, truck and taxi drivers, and factory workers.

Then in 1982, an Austrian toothpaste salesman, Deitrich Mateschitz, was traveling in Thailand and tried Chaleo’s drink and found that it cured his jet lag. Two years later, Mateschitz approached Chaleo and suggested that he carbonate the beverage and market it worldwide. The two men formed a 49-49 partnership with two percent of the company owned by his son.

And the rest is Red Bull history as they say.

Red Bull’s success spawned an entire high-caffeine energy industry. Over the years, numerous competitors have tried to emulate the Austrian-based Red Bull energy drink king, but none has quite measured up. Last year, Red Bull sold 4.6 billion cans – up 11 percent from the previous year. The Austrian-based company employs 8,000 worldwide.

Chaleo’s business empire included a pharmaceutical company, a hospital chain, a winery in Thailand and two international soccer teams: the New York Red Bulls and the Red Bulls Salzburg in Austria.

Throughout his career Chaleo was always friendly and kept a low-profile, preferring to let Mateschitz serve as the company’s more showy executive. His son Sarawut described his father as “lively and happy,” content with his work, and someone who “valued honesty and credibility.”

These ingredients are as important to one’s success as they are for building a global brand-leading energy drink. We all would be wise to follow the lead of this Thai business entrepreneur. And that’s no bull.

When in Rome

Posted by on September 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I was recently in Rome where I toured the artistic creations of the 173-year-old marble floor company, Ditta Medici.

Located on Via dei Papareschi not far from the Tiber, Ditta Medici has been designing and restoring marble floors for some of the most discriminating clients on the globe since 1838. Clients have included the Vatican, Westminster Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Getty Museum, several Bulgari stores, and hundreds of private clients.

Priscilla Grazioli Medici is the latest family member to run the oldest marble workshop in Rome, who gave me a tour of her factory. She showed me some beautiful and unique marbles, which I have not seen in the States — some of which have not been quarried for two thousand years.

Ditta Medici has a number of floor designs which they can customize to your floor, or they can work with you to design a completely one-of-a-kind floor using the rarest of marbles.

You clearly pay a premium for custom and unique. It’s always been this way. Yet, what is a relatively new phenomenon in today’s flatter world is less emphasis on creativity and design, and more on instant gratification, low cost and sameness.

Today, you can buy the same designer label dress or suit in London, Tampa, Minneapolis or Beijing. Is this ubiquity a bad thing? Yes, if it means that many small, individual designers are pushed to the curb in the process.

Have you happened to stroll through the storied neighborhood streets of Greenwich Village in Manhattan in the last two years? Gone are many of the decades-old, sole proprietor shops where you could find rare books, clothing, art, and household items. They have been replaced by global designer brand stores that drive up the rent for everyone else, and in turn, drive out the eclectic and the exceptional.

Unfortunately, a similar fate may await Ditta Medici of Rome and many exclusive and creative shops around the globe.

But I’m not counting out the creative class just yet.

All of us should do what we can to celebrate the artisans and innovators still among us, and those young artists and designers who aspire to make a career in the creative arts.

I’m still convinced that the most creative businesses will not only succeed, but will far outlast the competition. Much like the lasting beauty of a fine Italian marble floor.

The Smell of Success

Posted by on July 22, 2011 at 1:50 pm

“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air.”

When the Eagles released the song Hotel California as a single in February 1977 (from the album by the same name), the band had already released four other albums, and had enjoyed numerous weeks at the top of the charts during the mid-1970’s. Yet, it was Hotel California that helped solidify the Eagles’ place in rock and roll history.

In 1977, Hotel California spent eight weeks as the number one album in America, and landed the Eagles two Grammys. Since its release, over 16 million copies of the album have been sold. Rolling Stone magazine ranks Hotel California at #37 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The song still resonates in my head today as freshly as it did in 1977, and why is that? It is timeless, memorable, and generally appealing to a wide and diverse audience.

Are there corporate equivalents to Hotel California? Maybe so. Kleenex, Gatorade, and Harley Davidson come to mind.

Good marketing, strong product performance, and dogged customer focus keep great products and brands at the top of the charts year after year.

One-hit wonders and flashy products come and go each year, but the truly deserving survive.

If your company gives considerable attention to these important fundamentals, the sweet smell of success will follow. Or is that the smell of colitas?

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Posted by on November 17, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Chevrolet celebrated its 99th birthday earlier this month. Yesterday it celebrated winning Motor Trend’s coveted “Car of the Year Award” for its widely acclaimed new electric car — the “Volt.” The company’s founder and namesake, Louis Chevrolet (1878-1941) would be proud.

Chevrolet was acquired by General Motors in 1917, and to this day continues to be GM’s highest selling brand. With the accolades pouring in over the Volt, GM has even more reason to be smiling these days. The company’s stock resumes selling this week on the New York Stock Exchange after GM’s near-death experience in the last two years living through bankruptcy and government bailouts.

The road ahead for GM will still be rocky, but it has at least delivered on its electric car promise that it made only a few years ago. Compared to an electric-only car, the Volt has an electric motor that can go 40 miles on a single charge, but can then kick on a gasoline engine to get you to your destination while also helping to recharge your battery.

The four-door Volt will retail for around $40,000, not including a $7,500 federal tax credit. GM has stated its intention to begin selling the Volt by year’s end in seven U.S. markets, including Washington DC, California, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas. Chevrolet dealers in these cities are already reporting very strong demand and long waiting lists. Plans are to sell the car nationwide 12-18 months later.

I’m hoping the Volt will live up to its hype. GM clearly needs its flagship green car to be a success if it hopes to continue down the path of survival. And frankly America needs a successful home-grown electric vehicle offering to compete with Nissan’s new electric “Leaf,” and popular electric hybrids from Toyota and Honda.

Equally important is the lesson for other old-line businesses which are struggling to compete with younger companies from around the globe. While age can many times be a liability for a company, it can also prove beneficial in weathering unexpected storms. But it will require older companies to stay nimble through innovative executive and manager training, exposure to creative thinkers and doers, and a corporate culture that embraces risk-taking.

With the appropriate focus in these areas, your old dog may soon be doing tricks you never thought possible.

Cobbler to the Gods

Posted by on August 24, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Nike CEO, Mark Parker, is featured in Fast Company’s September edition cover story, “The World’s Most Creative CEO.” It chronicles Parker’s internal rise to Nike’s chief executive and his recipe for success by using “elite athletes, artists, and his own shoe designs to drive a $34 billion business.”

Parker is not a household name outside of Nike and the sports industry, compared to co-founder and chairman, Phil Knight. Knight was CEO for almost 40 years until he stepped down in 2004, when he brought in an outsider from S.C. Johnson, William Perez, to replace him. Perez lasted only 18 months before hanging up his cleats, saying that the culture at Nike was too difficult. That’s when Nike turned to Parker, a long-time Nike executive and über footwear designer.

Parker came to Nike in 1979 as a product designer and footwear tester. It wasn’t long before executives realized his talent in creating some of the most memorable and profitable Nike shoe products in the company’s history. His creations have adorned some of the globe’s most celebrated athletes, including John McEnroe, Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and Kobe Bryant – a veritable “cobbler to the gods” as described by Fast Company.

An avid marathoner himself, Mark Parker knows a thing or two about athletes and footwear. Most important, he brings a creative mind to the CEO role, which he continues to nurture every day. According to the article, he “regularly hosts dinners for about 25 artist friends to just talk and kick around ideas.”

It’s no surprise that Parker stays laser-focused on Nike’s design and R&D work. He frequents the company’s secretive “Innovation Kitchen” sessions, an internal think tank of sorts, “where athletic ambition, art, and a bit of mad science are cooked into the stuff that made Nike the dominate player in sports shoes and apparel.”

Parker also spends a lot of time and attention on sustainability and cutting product waste. And, Parker recently outlined some pretty big goals of increasing sales by 40 percent by 2015. He’ll have his work cut out for him, but stretch goals and competing hard are nothing new for a company which aligns itself with world class athletes and sports.

If you want a little insight into what makes this successful corporate executive tick, take a look at his choice for the new company mission statement nine years ago: “To bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world.”

Since becoming CEO, Parker has also developed nine “maxims” that he wants to serve as guiding principles at Nike. His favorite is No. 6, “Be a sponge. Curiosity is life. Assumption is death.” Parker says that was one his grandmother taught him.

Parker’s approach demonstrates that curiosity and a hearty appetite for creativity are a powerful combo for Nike — and for any other company seeking to compete and win.