When used in reference to technology, innovation has become a sort of cliche buzzword nowadays. And although the topic can lend itself towards flashiness over substance, there are other areas upon which innovation is seen on a daily basis: customer experience and social consciousness. In fact, Forbes refers to the time we’re living in as the ‘Golden Age of Consumers’.
The closer consumers become to brands through avenues like social media, the more they begin to long for—and eventually, expect—authentic, high quality experiences. With this in mind, the product innovation that has emerged has signaled a shift towards social consciousness, and a desire to develop brands that serve the people versus the other way around. And consumers are receiving them with open arms. Since 2009, $18B in market share has shifted away from the top 25 largest brands to smaller brands.
From a small business/growing brand perspective, this should be good news. There’s value in being the ‘little guy’, but how do you go about leveraging authenticity for your brand in a way that resonates with people on a long term level? Imitation and reinvention, of course.
This San Francisco based company was started in 2011 by four graduates on a mission - to pay homage to the retro short-shorts lifestyle they all adhered to throughout their college days. According to co-founder Tom Montgomery, “If you had a really cool pair of shorts, people would talk about it.” And talk about it they have.
During their “Fourth of Julyber Monday” in 2014 (a summertime version of Cyber Monday) sales reached nearly $1 million on the one day alone. In that same year, this brand innovation group also secured $4.4 million in funding. Those types of numbers have only continued to grow since.
The appeal that sets them apart comes from unique, audience-centric, and light-hearted marketing campaigns. Chubbies knows their target audience and the tone that resonates with those college demographics. It’s managed to build them a loyal base of ambassadors, endearingly referred to as ‘Chubsters.’ By embracing user generated content, relevant curated content, and low production value video, the brand is able to connect with people through humor and clever conceptualization.
Lime Crime MakeupMakeup and beauty enthusiasts are probably no strangers to the Lime Crime brand. Founded by Doe Deere 2008, this Russia born and New York raised eccentrist chose to channel a side of beauty based on more of what an individual feels rather than how they look.
The brand gained traction through its production of non-traditional color palettes, cruelty-free cosmetics, and followers from Deere’s previous LiveJournal popularity. It became a cult brand touting the motto, “makeup for unicorns”. The products themselves were less about makeup and more about what makeup can symbolize for an individual—a form of freedom and self-expression.
A trendsetter within social media and digital spheres, Lime Crime has over 2 million followers across Instagram and Facebook alone. It’s no surprise why when you consider the personalization Deere brings to her brand accounts. With personal stories, looks she’s been inspired by, and influencer pieces, she’s able to deliver to her fans based on their interests rather than branded motivation. The company engages with consumers regularly with featured reviews from fans, looks by makeup artists using her products in professional settings, and directly in comments and posts.
Alo YogaAlo Yoga was launched back in 2008 by founders Danny Harris and Marco DeGeorge. The two were high school friends, who had previously been running a t-shirt production company dating back to the early 90s. These brand innovators decided to pivot from t-shirts to namaste upon realizing that their business hadn’t been an accurate representation of who they were as individuals. They were both practicing yogis, organic eaters, and passionate about healthy living, which were interests that lead them to Alo.
The name Alo is a reflection of the earthly elements: air, land, and ocean. Harris and DeGeorge wanted their brand to embody all that is yoga and a respect for our surroundings. “Because in order to have a clean practice and a clean mind, you have to have a clean environment,” says Harris. Their company adheres to eco-friendly standards with a green HQ in Los Angeles and products made from organic cottons and bamboo.
Having been said to be the most photographed fashion brand in the world, a great deal of effort in building their followership came from working with yogi Instagram influencers. With consumers seeing Alo products move and function within the posts of practicing yoga masters, a perception of superiority developed. Their blend of yoga-centric mantras with an environmental focus help the brand resonate at a much deeper level than would be possible through product alone.
LemonadeOne of the winners of Forbes’ CircleUp25, Lemonade is said to be one of the most innovative brands of 2016. Founder Alan Jackson sits at the head of a company that has revitalized the conventional cafeteria experience with a brighter, fun, California vibe. People are hungry for a twist on fast food and fast casual concepts and Lemonade aims to serve.
In understanding the trend towards conscious eating, this branding innovation also understands the sense of elitism that can become entwined with it. Once again, the mission behind the brand answers a call made by consumers. Lemonade strives to create seasonal, fresh, and healthy meals for the everyman. And in doing so they’ve managed to hit 24 locations and continue to grow.
Impossible FoodsHave you ever eaten a burger that tastes, smells, and looks like meat but is entirely made of plants? If so, it’s probably due to the food science driving the mission behind Impossible Foods. Founded by Patrick O. Brown and Tal Ronnen, the two wanted to create a brand innovation that would work with the conflicting tastes of society and planetary needs, rather than continue to pit them against each other.
The company appeals to a scientific need to address health and planetary concerns for the future while understanding that it may not have to be at the expense of flavor. It’s a burger that becomes more than just a burger—it becomes a statement.
When it comes to innovative brands, the common factors featured here are:
A commitment to quality
A passion for what they do
Atypical execution in their category
Are you impressed by these examples of brand driven innovation? We’d love to hear about your favorite innovative brands! Share your the companies that come to mind with @pixlee on Twitter!
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