Logos, Emojis and Shakespeare Meet Great Design

It’s Waterloo time for brands as the sea of private label obsessed retailers low ball their way across the globe leveraging technology and new distribution channels to blitzkrieg around the branded “Maginot Lines”.

Design is where brands can beat private label whose masters and commanders are less obsessed with design than with margins. So it was with pleasure that I heard Michael Bierut one of the best designers of our age is coming out with a new book titled Now You See It and Other Essays on Design. It’s a series of essays which can lead you to some of his other works which will inspire you to design higher.

In a hundred years there will not be a single private label brand displayed in the Museum of Modern Art. But hopefully one of yours (or our) brands will be featured. Read this terrific and witty interview about Bierut and I promise you’ll feel the potential for design. How can you not enjoy a writer who says, “My favorite cartoon character is Wile E. Coyote. He had this endless faith and brand loyalty and never thought to try the competition even though Acme products failed him time and time again.”

Free to download Bierut-designed emoji

Emoji by Michael Bierut

Innovation and Amazon? Size, As Well as Pizza, Matters!

To understand Amazon‘s success, I need to digress a bit. A few years ago I visited a leading mid-western department store retailer on a regular basis overseeing their work with a brand they licensed from me and my partner. At the first few meetings in 2008 there were 5 people in the room (three from the retailer) as we meandered through a “new” corporate headquarters filled with empty chairs and easy parking.

Within two years the meetings were with a team of over 25 people (we were still 2 people) and my partner was introducing members of the retailer’s team to each other after fighting to find a big enough and unused conference room, never mind finding a parking place. Other than killing our brand along with many others they licensed during that period, the handwriting of bad management was literally around the overcrowded table around which no one could move forward.

With that story in mind, one of the better “digestif” pieces about Amazon/Whole Foods is in Harvard Business Review. The analysis focuses on investment in R&D and its clear where this story will end. But there is a chart buried in the story that is amazing. It lists, by year, the new initiatives taken by Amazon and whether it was successful or not. Red means bad and blue means success. Blue outnumbers red, but not by as much as you’d think. What is “Blue and Red”, is how innovative Amazon is relative to all others. We all knew this, but the chart captures the epic pace of innovation.

As I said in an earlier post, this is the Waterloo moment for the grocery industry and all of supporting brands because of the private label angle. Scott Galloway of L2 has a chart that illustrates private label penetration at Whole Foods vs Amazon Fresh. Brands must innovate and fast.

So what is the HBR secret innovation sauce analysis? “Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously believes that if you can’t feed the team with two pizzas, it is too large”.  Thank God my competitors don’t even think of pizzas! There is clearly much more to innovation, but as they say, size matters.

Our New Advertising Campaign

It’s not easy selling to the mass market. After 15 years of seriously sweating to grow, we finally achieved number one status (along with two and three) in the value market. Power Stick in body wash, body spray and antiperspirant/deodorant dominates the value retail channel. But we have lots of room to grow with new items and some new customers. So this year we launched our newest trade/retail oriented campaign through Mass Market Retailers magazine. I know, it’s your go to magazine for all that is good in life, so I’ll save you reading it. Just click here and open to the second inside page. More to come!

Dollar Shave vs Dollar General?

Last week saw two important retail events. Unilever’s purchase of Dollar Shave Club and Dollar General’s announcement that it purchased 41 former Wal-Mart stores. A billion dollar purchase for a consumer direct business is exciting and a sign of Continue reading “Dollar Shave vs Dollar General?”