Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

DesignAid (developed by Inventables) addresses a real need in a world obsessed with anything that sparks creative product ideas. As there are only so many trade-shows you can physically visit, DesignAid brings the tradeshow to your desk. It’s a hands-on combination of a magazine about unique materials and technologies, and a box with actual samples of the 20 or so materials and technologies covered in the issue. Some example items from past issues include aluminum foam, plastics that are heavier than metal, and an adhesive that can be removed with electricity. Access to an online database for more information on the samples of new materials and technologies is included as well, saving you time by providing details on sourcing, pricing, technical details, explanations of uses, related websites, etc. Clients include IBM, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Herman Miller, Black & Decker, Coca-Cola, Pitney Bowes, Lexmark, Tupperware, Nike and Fossil. An annual subscription (four issues), costs USD 3,600.

Opportunities

You cannot have too much inspiration. And if one picture says more than a thousand words, then holding and using an item says more than a thousand pictures. Inventables understands this. However, they mainly cater to the US market. And they’re quite alone in this market. Furthermore, they only go for the ‘science’ stuff. So that spells second player opportunity, international opportunity, and cross-industry opportunity; Springwise believes each and every industry could do with a DesignAid, TasteAid, ToolAid, HipAid, or TechAid. May 1000 trade-shows-in-a-box bloom 😉 American Apparel isn’t a brand-new idea, but is now rapidly becoming REALLY successful. The company’s core selling point is truly innovative, and expansion outside the home market is still in its infancy (read: global opportunities!). So — time for a highlight in this newsletter! What’s all the buzz about? In their own words, American Apparel is “the most passionate and innovative wholesale blank T-shirt manufacturer and distributor in the world. We are committed to leveraging art, design, and technology to produce garments of the highest quality, while pioneering industry standards of social responsibility in the workplace.” And the latter is exactly what gets customers (and us) excited: American Apparel is all about “Sweatshop Free” T-shirts. Again, in their own words: “Our goal is to seek profits through innovation, not exploitation. We are advancing a hyper capitalist-socialist business fusion. By relentlessly pursuing efficiencies in management and production, we aim to demonstrate that the use of exploitative labor tactics is not only unnecessary but actually counterproductive. We recognize that over-reliance on low-wage and ill-treated labor impedes progress and technological advancement by relying on an outmoded and inhumane way of thinking about human potential that continues to cripple third-world countries and consumer values.” Which means that everything American Apparel produces is sewn in their own downtown LA building, without subcontractors. They’re environmentally aware as well: thousands of tons of fabric are recycled annually. And customers love it: in 2003, American Apparel grossed USD 80 million, double its sales figures for 2002. Those numbers are expected to double again in 2004 (source: Salon.com). Last November, the company opened its first retail stores, two in New York City and one in Los Angeles, again with great success. It doesn’t hurt that the T-shirts (grounded in the ‘commodity fashion’ roots of U.S. apparel, according to the founder) are of excellent quality. Sounds like the American Dream, styled for a new generation that values honesty and responsibility above anything else!

Opportunities

American Apparel has proven that conducting business in a completely ethical manner can be successful. Besides further expansion in the US and Canada, the race is now on to prove it can work in the rest of the world as well. Shops in London, Frankfurt and Berlin are high on the list. So franchisees, distributors and license fanatics worldwide: time for a quick trip to down-town LA? And for those subscribers who aren’t in the fashion and apparel business: do you know of any areas where your firm should clean up its act and turn ethical behavior into an integral part of your brand, message and profits? Ben & Jerry’s did, Starbucks is doing it. You have to give to get! Three years ago, Philips and Sara Lee successfully introduced Senseo, a home concept for coffee, including a special machine (which works not unlike an espresso machine) and special coffee pods. Now, after selling more than 5 million Senseo machines in Europe, Philips is about to enter the US market, hoping to sell 2 million machines annually, at a retail price of USD 69.99. A multi-million dollar advertising campaign is in the works, and there’s an exclusive pre-sales section on the amazon.com site (a trend in itself!). But competition in the coffeehouse-style coffee at home arena is brewing: Procter & Gamble recently announced its new Home Cafe product line, which involves its Folgers and Millstone coffee brands partnering with appliance makers Black & Decker, Krups, Mr. Coffee and Hamilton Beach. Like the Senseo, the competitors machines will allow people to brew single servings of cafe-style coffee from specially designed packets. Which means better quality, less brewing time, and, as the pods come in various flavors, more choice for individuals and entire households. And as if this market isn’t going to be crowded enough, Kraft just announced its own on-demand, roast coffee system called Tassimo, combining its Carte Noire coffees with a dedicated appliance by espresso machine manufacturer Saeco. Tassimo will first be rolled out in France, avoiding the oncoming P&G vs Sara Lee bloodbath in the US. Setting it apart from its competitors is a liquid milk disc that creates froth without the use of a steam wand. Yes, innovation lives. 😉 (more…) First there were Flagship stores, then Experience stores, then BEING SPACES and now… Brand spaces? Coca-Cola Company in December launched Coca-Cola Red Lounges, an interesting experience-based innovation that targets teens in malls in Illinois and Los Angeles (source: Promo Xtra). The first lounges opened two months ago in Chicago-area Westfield Hawthorne Shoppingtown, Illinois, and Los Angeles’ Westfield Topanga Plaza. The move makes sense, considering Coke’s President and COO Steve Heyer’s recent statement that “the days of mass, homogenous marketing are behind us”. The lounge areas offer exclusive music, movie and games programming from FUSE, G4, Sony, ESPN Video Games and Twentieth Century Fox and come with custom-built furniture, a plasma-screen media wall and sound domes. First and foremost a place where teens can relax in comfort, hang out with friends, socialize and enjoy great entertainment, the areas also host teen-targeted events and occasional promos awarding prizes to visitors, timed to key shopping periods. Needless to say, vending machines sell Coke, Sprite, Dasani water and Minute Maid juices. Red Lounges are a commercial version of the ‘Coca-Cola Red Room’ which was part of the set for American Idol. The lounges were designed by the Rockwell Group, who know a thing or two about GRAND BOUTIQUE: current and past projects include Cirque du Soleil at Walt Disney World, W New York and Nobu restaurant in New York.

Opportunities

With virtually every consumer brand becoming a lifestyle brand, Springwise expects (if not fears) that soon every mall and street corner will have a Brand Space catering to fatigued teens: a Vodafone lounge to relax sore thumbs after too much text messaging, teen magazine lounges to promote reading from something else than a screen, and MTV lounges open to ALL shoppers to promote more understanding between Generation X and the rest of the population. The Experience Economy has only just begun! Remember the Art*o*Mat concept we highlighted? Well, thanks to Mads Bab, we spotted a new art initiative called Art Money. A Danish idea, it’s basically a currency made by artists worldwide. In principle, Art-Money (AM) works much like a national currency that represents a gold reserve, only AM represents an art reserve distributed among the participating producers. AM can be exchanged for art at any time from any artist in the Bank of International Art Money (BIAM). AM measures 12×18 cm. Each note or bill displays a serial number, year of creation, BIAM home page address, optional logo, the artist’s name and the artist’s original signature. When an artist deals in AM, the new keeper is registered by the serial number on the note. This way, the artist compiles a network of art collectors for his or her own use and BIAM is secured against forgery. All artists are listed in the BIAM index, and anyone can ensure the genuineness of the note by searching for the artist’s name on the homepage. The value of AM follows the rate of the euro. AM is a world currency and its value is not affected by the artist’s name or where in the world it is produced or used. The purchasing power of AM equals 20 euro in the year of production, and each year the value increases by 5 euro, until the 7th year, when it settles at 50 euro. The value of AM is therefore determined from the production year. With most participating artists originating from Denmark, the founders are actively looking to sign up as many artists from other nations as possible. An interesting concept, especially with the current enthusiasm for bartering, alternative market places and peer-to-peer transactions. (more…) When you subscribed to the Springwise newsletter, we promised you cross-industry diversity, so here we go, moving on from sweatshop-free T-shirts to Hip Hop dolls! Toy maker Mattel is introducing Flavas, ‘the first reality-based fashion doll brand that celebrates today’s teen culture’. Listening to names like Tika, P. Bo and Happy D and sporting dreadlocks and funky outfits, these dolls are not your average sugar-coated barbies. And forget the doll house with the pink bubble bath: accessories include the Flavas Tuner Car and the Bike Date Motorcycle set. (more…) It’s something that TRENDWATCHING.COM described as part of its PLANNED SPONTANEITY trend, and it’s closely related to Howard Rheingold‘s Smart Mobs: mobile planning and hooking up. Now, as we don’t care much for global positioning satellite system (GPS) induced techno babble, we were pleasantly surprised to spot two new concepts that, while incorporating the latest positioning and messaging technology, offer an easy-to-use, easy to understand service for party-goers and attention-starved individuals. Take Copenhagen-based Hvem er ibyen (Danish for ‘who’s in town’), which has developed a positioning service that should gel with the SMS generation worldwide. What is it? When entering a participating bar, club, coffee shop, lounge or restaurant, Hvem members scan their free ID-card at a terminal, which then automatically notifies a pre-selected group of friends about their whereabouts by sending them a SMS/text message with the card holder’s name, the time and the venue he or she just entered. The same information can also be tracked on a dedicated website, only accessible to the same group of friends. In Hvem’s own words: “They know where you are, and you know where they are – and then it’s easy for you to go party together!”

Opportunities

The Hvem concept is patented by Danish Agito Systems. Had Springwise been a big wireless phone company, we would have probably snapped up Hvem er ibyen by now in order to gain competitive advantage, and to get our hands on yet another texting revenue boosting opportunity. But we’re not, so this is an open arena for Vodafone, O2, Sprint, AT&T, Cingular, DoCoMo, Orange, T-Mobile and what have you. And whoever buys a majority stake will no doubt get the right to change the name to something more globally appealing. 😉 Or if you’re in the payments/credit card business (Visa? MasterCard?), this sounds like an interesting opportunity to start up an integrated party card concept: from payments at selected venues to the notification system. And last but not least, anyone even remotely involved with youth marketing may want to partner with these guys, as large communities of outgoing, card carrying teens and twenty-somethings trekking from club to club should open up pleasant branding opps! Thailand’s marketing-savvy government continues to make waves. A while ago, we reported on plans to open hundreds of Thai restaurants around the world, in an elaborate franchise scheme set up by the Thai Department of Export both to promote Thai food and act as physical tourist brochures around the world. Now, targeting high net-worth individuals around the world, the country’s Tourism Authority has introduced a loyalty scheme, called the Thailand Elite Privilege Club. A world’s first, membership (which comes with the Thailand Elite Card) earns card holders benefits and discounts all over the kingdom, ranging from fast-track immigration at Don Muang Airport, heavy discounts on Thai Airways (buy one, get one free), special rates at five-star hotels, free golf at several courses, free limousine transfers, 24-hour concierge service, free spa treatments and medical check-ups, and five-year multiple entry visas allowing the cardholder to stay continuously in Thailand for 90 days. And it gets even better: next year (2005) will see hotels like the Thailand Elite Boutique Hotel, golf clubs, and entertainment centers that would be exclusive only to card holders. Perhaps most intriguingly, members can also ‘purchase’ second homes in Thailand. As foreigners aren’t allowed to own land in Thailand, purchases would be in the name of Thailand Privilege Co., the entity that runs the Thailand Elite program on behalf of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The state tourist body, which is overseeing the promotion, is hoping to sign up at least 10,000 wealthy visitors to the program by the end of next year. Thailand’s president, Thaksin Shinawatra, has predicted that 200,000 members could eventually join. That’s a lot of newly minted Thai ambassadors!

Opportunities

Maybe you’re in government. Or in tourism. Or in loyalty management. Or in anything that could do with a healthy dose of privilege for customers floating in the ever expanding ‘sea of sameness’. This Thai initiative may inspire you to re-assess your assets and determine which could carry a premium by making them available to members-only. From a country’s point of view, there are a lot of potential candidates who could do with either an inflow of prosperous visitors, or more goodwill. Springwise will continue to closely track the Thai Elite program, as we believe it will offer an ongoing source of inspiration to the world of travel and loyalty. We also realize that the aforementioned Thai restaurant chains idea never really materialized, so this is, before anything else, a source of inspiration: how and with whom you execute, is up to you!