Ideas for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Product Repositioning Pays Off for iRobot

Posted by Paul Metaxatos

Here’s a great read from Entrepreneur magazine, featuring iRobot’s repositioning of the value proposition for Roomba, its robotic vacuum cleaner. According to Dwight Brown, iRobot’s senior VP of global marketing, marketplace acceptance can be based on adjusting customer expectations, rather than changing the product.

In our work with Dwight, both at iRobot and Keurig, we’ve witnessed how his strategic marketing ideas benefited both products. According to Dwight, not everyone loves gadgets, and by appealing to early technology adopters companies may be missing the vast majority of consumers who are more interested in product benefits. For iRobot that core message involved convenience, and for Kuerig it was a better coffee-making experience. And in both cases, those pitches paid off.

Click here to read.

Insights and Innovations: Wendell Colson

Posted by Bill Sterling

Our latest interview is with inventor Wendell Colson – Vice President of Research & Development at Hunter Douglas – who holds more than 100 patents. Wendell provides a rare perspective on what inspires individuals who are hard-wired to always be seeking new and better solutions to everyday problems.

Our conversation with Wendell covers a broad range of topics, including the reasons why new product development opportunities in the “low tech” category are often overlooked; and the steps that inventors must take to transition their product from the conceptual stage to commercial success in the marketplace.

Wendell also shares his thinking on the difference between craftsmen and inventors, and explains the important relationship between invention and product design. To learn more about the fascinating (and often quirky) world of product invention, click here to read Wendell’s interview.

Three Ways to Create Enduring Product Design Solutions

Posted by Paul Metaxatos

Whether the design task involves a product or packaging, most often our goal is to create enduring solutions that will stand the test of time; not only to amortize product development costs, but also to sustain brand recognition and customer loyalty over time.

Once in a very great while, enduring design solutions can become brand icons. The contoured glass Coca-Cola bottle, created in 1915, has achieved that status. But most product manufacturers would be satisfied with a product or packaging design shelf life that’s far shorter than a century. In some industries, a design solution that’s relevant for more than five years is considered a great success.

There’s no established playbook that makes enduring design solutions any easier to achieve, but at Motiv, there are lessons we’ve learned over the past decade that help shape our thinking. Here are three of them:

1. Understand the user and market applications. When Motiv designed the Sharpie Professional Chisel Tip marker for the construction trades, for example, we invested considerable time on job sites to understand how the pen was being used, and under what conditions. Based on those real-world insights, our enduring design solution included a strong tip capable of writing on abrasive surfaces, quick drying ink; a non-slip cap that was easy to remove even when wearing gloves; and an oval-shaped barrel to prevent the pen from rolling off flat surfaces. Those product design features, based on a thorough understanding of the end-user’s needs, have helped to make the Sharpie Professional the leading construction site permanent marker.

2. Design for tomorrow, rather than today. Keurig changed the way that people drink coffee, and that journey began with brewers designed to accommodate groups of people in the workplace, rather than individuals and families in the home. Similar to the lessons learned by automobile manufacturers with their high-performance vehicles at racetrack, Keurig stress-tested and perfected their brewers’ operating issues based on its usage in a high-volume environment.

When Keurig asked Motiv to help them design its single cup coffee brewer for the home, we understood that – unlike the commercial market application – the product’s design would be a critical factor in changing consumers’ well-entrenched coffee brewing habits. We also understood, based on our experience designing other kitchen appliances, that the consumers who would initially purchase the Keurig brewers were seeking more than a quick, single serving of coffee. They were making a personal statement about themselves and their lifestyle.

In fact, the enduring design solution for the Keurig brewer was not based on focus group testing of any type. Instead, our design thinking was shaped by trends we had observed outside of the housewares category, such as the SEMA Show (the world’s largest display of customized vehicles) and KBIS Show (kitchen and bath fixtures) that we attend every year. Based in part on what we considered to be forward-looking design ideas, we created a sleek, modern-looking appliance unlike existing in-home coffee makers, using high quality materials that would satisfy aspirational consumer tastes, and also support a relatively high price point for the small electrics category. Looking further down the road, we believed that the early adopters of Keurig’s home product would both want and pay for a very different coffee experience, and that the mass market would follow their lead. And that forecast is exactly what occurred.

3. Resist change simply for the sake of change. With some frequency, we are asked by a client to re-design their product primarily because a major retailer is pressuring them for something new, often as a means to increase consumer interest for a particular category. When that occurs, prior to putting pen to paper we typically analyze the request by both closely examining the basis on which their retailer believes that a design change will improve market traction and by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the current design through a landscape assessment, design trending and from the consumer’s perspective through research.

Very often, the outcome of a deeper inquiry convinces the client that the product is unlikely to benefit from a total redesign, unless:
– it will drive a meaningful value and behavioral shift through the addition of true innovation;
– or the brand’s Visual Brand Language (VBL) is in dire need of an overhaul to remain competitive.

In many cases, there are ways to placate retailers by creating unique variants of their core design – through color and finish solutions – that will support and burnish the current VBL. What many product marketers have learned, sometimes after investing in a complete redesign without a legitimate reason such as a new and truly useful consumer benefit, is that their retail partners do not always know the customer as well as they need to.

In many cases, their target consumer is still learning to embrace the current design and a change would lessen the brand’s validity in their eyes as a solid, long-term player. Driven by a desire to increase revenue by any means, retailers are always asking manufacturers to “give us something new and interesting.” In the current market, where traditional brick & mortar retailers are fighting for survival against online competitors, it’s even more important for product manufacturers to resist design change simply for the sake of change.

At Motiv, we’re constantly seeking new ways to produce enduring design solutions for two reasons: not only because it’s of benefit to our clients, but also because, as design professionals, it strengthens our sense of personal pride and ownership in ideas that stand the test of time.

Insights and Innovations: Steven Berg

Posted by Paul Metaxatos

In his interview with Motiv, Steve Berg – Managing Partner of the Boston-based private equity firm Castenea Partners – provides a candid behind-the-scenes view into how his firm helps emerging growth companies to reach the next level of growth.

Our conversation with Steve covers a broad range of topics, including the process he applies to select portfolio companies; why having “passionate customers’ is so important for retail companies; and the reasons why private equity companies sometimes fail. On the personal side, Steve also explains how his undergraduate degree in engineering continues to help his career, and why he and his firm have maintained such a low public profile, relative to other private equity firms.

Learn what drives this seasoned private equity professional, and what qualities your company should be seeking in a relationship with a private equity firm. Click here to read Steve’s interview.

Seeking Future Design Trends in Fringe Markets

Posted by Paul Metaxatos

We’re always studying “fringe markets” that don’t represent mainstream tastes, because they can provide meaningful insights into future consumer preferences. Counter-culture trends also help fuel our ideas for design and new products. For that reason, every year we attend the SEMA Show, the world’s largest showcase of automotive specialty products.

Download our SEMA 2016 Trend Report, to see what we discovered at the most recent show in Las Vegas.

If I Knew Then..

Posted by Bill Sterling

In its ongoing “If I Knew Then…” series, Crain’s Boston magazine asks executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy. This month, the column featured Motiv’s co-founder, Paul Metaxatos, who suggests jumping into the business ownership pool sooner, rather than later. According to Paul, “You need a lot of energy to run a business.” But we’ve seen no shortage of that asset from Paul at Motiv.

Read the full article here.

Insights and Innovations: Nick Lazaris

Posted by Paul Metaxatos

In his interview with Motiv, Nick Lazaris — the former President and CEO of Keurig and other successful ventures — provides insight into the underlying razor / razor-blade business model on which Green Mountain, Coravin and other companies have created new product categories.

Our conversation with Nick covers a broad range of topics, including lessons learned from his experience as chief of staff for West Virginia Governor Jay Rockefeller; and guidance for early stage companies seeking to replicate Keurig’s rapid growth rate. On the personal side, Nick also explains his Greek roots, and his connection with Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s classic, The Odyssey.

Learn what drives this marketing legend, and what items are next on his “to do” list. Click here to read Nick’s interview.

Four Business Lessons from Motiv’s Favorite Bartender

Posted by Glenn Sundin

Professionalism and good business practices are often transferrable across a diverse range of occupations. That lesson was reinforced for Motiv recently, at a fun, after-hours group tutorial in the art & science of adult beverages, presented to our team by John Drew, the longtime head bartender at Boston’s Blue Dragon, who recently joined Beam Suntory as luxury spirits specialist.

Over the course of his 90-minute, informal presentation from behind the bar, John delivered some important lessons that can be applied to any type of business. Notably:

1. Be Authentic. Right up front, John made a point of describing his craft using simple, easy to understand terminology. “I’m a bartender,” he explained, “and please don’t call me a ‘mixologist’.” His modest, unassuming approach gained our immediate trust and credibility. By not attempting to either hype or apologize for the nature of his work, John also increased the stature that we assigned to bartending, and to him as a professional bartender. In most businesses, customers are not impressed with (and often suspicious of) hype and complex explanations. They prefer to engage with professionals who explain or demonstrate what they do clearly, manage expectations, and deliver on what they promise.

2. Tailor Your Message. John had several topics he intended to cover in his presentation. But individuals within our group had varying interests and endless questions that took him down unanticipated discussion paths. Some had questions about history. Some wanted to know about flavors. Some wanted practical tips. Others wanted to hear anecdotes. John was able to go off-script with ease, switching topics as required, but always finding a way back to his agenda. Keeping an audience engaged, and creating a natural discussion journey is a critical skill in business, whether you’re talking to an individual or a group, and whether you’re standing on a podium, or sitting across the desk from them.

3. Don’t be a Sucker for Trends. John told several stories of customers “saddling” up to the bar, eager to impress him with their knowledge of exotic new drinks, requesting that he create one of their concoctions. But his standard response was not to accept their challenge immediately. Instead, he would turn the tables; asking for their preferences in flavors, ingredients, etc. Then John would create a drink better suited to their individual tastes, rather than the trendy drink they had requested. In any business, listening to what a customer wants is always important, but greater value can be delivered by asking the right questions and producing a tailored solution they would not have discovered on their own.

4. Be a Student of Your Craft. John’s authenticity as a bartender was based on his extensive knowledge, which far exceeds his inventory of cocktail recipes. His deep understanding of complex topics – the alcohol aging process, the influence of barrel materials, distinguishing brand-specific flavor profiles, etc. – kept everyone’s interest. But the key to John’s success, as a bartender and as our instructor, was based on the level of enjoyment and enthusiasm that he conveyed to us. In any industry, remaining excited about what you do for a living, and being a constant student of your own craft, is an essential ingredient for long- term success. Customers can feel the joy and commitment you bring to your profession. It’s always infectious, and serves as the cornerstone of your brand.

So Motiv raises its cups to you, John Drew, for the spirits you delivered, and for the important lessons we took away from that enjoyable evening. Cheers.

[Note: If you’re interested in learning more about John, here are some additional insights from Nightclub & Bar magazine.]

Insights and Innovations: Sam Aquillano

Posted by Paul Metaxatos

In his interview with Motiv, Sam Aquillano, the founder and executive director of Design Museum Foundation provides insights into his nomadic, multi-site design museum operating in Boston, Portland and San Francisco.

Sam’s mission is to bring the transformative power of design everywhere, as a means to inspire a world full of creative problem solvers. Design is everywhere, so his museum has no permanent address – instead, Sam and his team have turned the museum concept inside out and turned entire cities into locally-focused – but nationally connected – collections built around place-making and community.

Sam explains his vision to create an accessible hub for thought leadership around design impact, both online and through branches in every major city. Through his Design Museum Foundation, he’s created a uniquely scalable model that can deliver his approach to just about anywhere.

Learn what has inspired Sam to blaze this new trail in museums, and to take on an important thought leadership role in the world of design thinking. Click here to read his interview.

HBR Webinar Topic – The Internet of Things: Design, Not Just Technology

Posted by Paul Metaxatos

Don’t miss the upcoming HBR webinar, scheduled for July 26th, based on our recent Harvard Business Review article, The Internet of Things: Design, Not Just Technology co-authored by technologist Scott Nelson.

The webinar will explore the product development mistakes that many companies are making by overlooking design, and offer specific ways that technology and design teams can build partnerships to ensure success in IoT 2.0.

To register for the free video webinar, Click Here.