Starbucks – The Way I See It:

In February, I wrote part one of this series in conjunction the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project started by Becky Carroll and Jay Ehret. Over the next year, Becky and Jay are going to write a series of posts which analyze the current Starbucks experience, make suggestions for improvement, and then compare at the end of the year. Readers are invited to contribute with comments and suggestions.

It’s been nearly two months since Starbucks closed all of their stores for a nationwide in-store education and training event and reopened promising to transform the customer experience with newly energized partners.  I can only speak for my local stores, but I have not seen any difference.  My grande sugar-free vanilla breve latte tastes pretty much like it always did, which is to say that it’s generally good, but with occasional inconsistencies, depending on which barista makes it.  Ok, so perhaps the event was in fact a PR event.  Starbucks certainly got lots of free publicity as a result.

Last month at their annual meeting, Starbucks announced a laundry list of new initiatives designed to transform the customer experience including a new brewing and espresso machines, a rewards program and a new unique coffee blend (Pike Place Roast) which will be hand scooped and ground in store.  Starbucks also took a page out of Dell’s playbook by launching

Involving Customers in the Innovation Process

Like Dell’s Ideastorm, is an online community idea market where customers are encouraged to suggest and vote on ideas for improving the Starbucks experience.  A team of 40 “Idea Partners” is responsible for reviewing, commenting on and consolidating the entries and for presenting “most popular and most innovative ideas that are the best fit for Starbucks” to key decision makers.

I’m a big proponent of Open Innovation.  Inviting your customers to help design the experience gives company insiders fantastic perspective on real customer needs and desires.  It also goes a long way in helping to ensure that the ideas and innovations that are selected are ones that will resonate with customers.  The reason most companies haven’t eagerly adopted an Open Innovation program is that it requires giving up control.  If a company asks for feedback and customers speak loud and clear the brand needs to be prepared to act.  If they don’t, they risk damaging the relationship with their most engaged customers.

GoodNews / Bad News

The good news is that Starbucks is asking customers to participate in the process.  The bad news is that the site looks like a collection improvements that are already in the their marketing plan.  The “Ideas in Action” section lists those ideas that are being taken forward.  Almost every idea listed in this section is either something that Starbucks announced when they launched the site (Wi-Fi, Rewards, Pikes Peak Roast) or already had in test markets (Splash Sticks, Bite-sized pastries).  Authenticity is what’s lacking.  I applaud Starbucks taking the bold move of involving customers in conversations about the experience.  They need to resist trying to control the conversation if they want to be seen as genuinely caring about what the customer has to say.

Innovation and Co-Creation at Adidas

A friend send this link to a video about the new mi Adidas Innovation Center in Paris.  Adidas, which was one of the early brands in SecondLife, is demonstrating their innovation abilities in the real world with this new store.  The have blended Entertainment, Education, Co-Creation, and 3D-Virtual technologies into an exciting, interactive retail experience.

From CoolHunting:

With just a few steps walking and running on a catwalk-style scanner, foot and pressure sensors analyze shape, size and pressure points. Customers enter details like color and accents on a large touch screen. An interactive “virtual mirror” (recently on Gizmodo), allows the user to try on their personalized shoe (or any other shoe) without taking off their own. And last but not least, the new scan table picks up RFID technology embedded in the shoes to display specific product information.

The purpose of the store is two-fold.  Adidas has always been about innovation and they want to use this retail platform to showcase that.  They also want to attract a younger demographic and believe the highly interactive nature of the store will be appealing to younger customers who have “been brought up on video games”.

Is all this technology to sell sneakers just a gimmick?  I don’t think so.  Look across the sports world today and you will see that technology has been incorporated everywhere in an attempt to boost performance.  And it’s not just for the pros.  The biggest market for sports technology are the amateurs who want to excel in their particular sports passion.  Everything from real-time vital signs monitoring to the latest in golf club design is eagerly scooped up by the sports enthusiasts.  If you are in the sports shoe business, an interactive, technology-based experience store might be just the ticket to driving brand engagement.

Thoughts on Walt Disney World – Part 2

Disney’s parks and resorts have a well deserved reputation for delivering great experiences. In tonight’s installment, I’ll give you a few more examples from my recent trip and also examine some experiences that don’t measure up to the Disney standard.

Extend the Experience

wdw_magical_express.jpgI have written about Disney’s Magical Express before. This is the service that basically extends your Disney experience all the way back to your home airport. It’s absolutely great when it works, but on the inbound leg of this trip, it did not live up to the Disney standard. I think the problems can be traced back to the fact that Disney does not operate this service. It is outsourced to a local transportation company and therefore is not directly managed by Disney. It’s not unusual for companies to outsource parts of their operation, but they need to be very careful about ensuring that the service provider is consistently delivering an experience that lives up to your brand. My wife and I came in on different flights. English was apparently a second language for my driver and so he was silent for most of the trip. The buses have TV screens and on previous trips, there has been either a movie like Snow White or a video marketing the Disney Vacation Club. On this trip, there was nothing. It was just a bus ride.

My wife and daughter arrived around 3:00pm. While their trip seemed to measure up to the Disney Experience, trouble was just around the corner. Knowing that their luggage was tagged and would be delivered to the room, we went to the Magic Kingdom for the evening. When we returned to the room at 1:00am, we discovered that our daughter’s suitcase was missing. With her in tears, we called the Magical Express people who were able to locate the bag at the airport in about 5 minutes. They brought it to the room around 3:00am.

There are controls built into this system that should have prevented this from happening. The bag had the Magical Express tag on it indicating who it belonged to and what resort we were staying at. It should not have taken a phone call for them to recognize and resolve the problem. Disney needs to do a much better job of ensuring that their service providers are consistently delivering an experience worthy of the Disney brand. On the positive side, my return trip to the airport was wonderful. The driver was one of the better entertainers that I had seen all week. Oh, and about the lack of movies on the inbound trip, the driver explained that it was a brand new bus (styled for the Disney Cruise Line), and the video gear had not been installed yet. Setting expectations is a good thing!

Let Me Co-Create the Experience

monsters-inc-laugh-floor-co.jpgIn recent years, Disney has incorporated more and more interactivity into their attractions. EPCOT’s Mission Space, for example, assigns roles and tasks to each of the riders on “the mission”. The Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride in Disneyland allows you to not only rack up the points when you’re riding it in person, but also to participate through an online component. The Turtle Talk with Crush attraction uses digital puppetry to create a verbally and visually interactive animated character. A new attraction in Orlando’s Tomorrowland is Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Like TurtleTalk but on a much larger scale, the Laugh Floor features interactive animated characters, but in this attraction, Disney has gone one step further by integrating the use of cell phone text messages into the attraction. While you wait in line for the next show, you are asked to send text messages from your cell phone to the monsters, offering your jokes for the monsters to tell. I saw lots of people, mostly kids, texting jokes while waiting for the show. We did it; they used our joke and gave credit to our daughter. What’s really different here is the use of an independent, guest-owned electronic input device to influence the content of an attraction.

I’ll post the rest of my observations tomorrow, but in the meantime, think about how these points might apply to your business. If you are in the business of delivering experiences (hint… you are!), what are you doing to extend the brand experience beyond the boundaries of your physical or digital space. If you are using partners to deliver some of you brand’s experience, are they executing consistently and at a level that your customers expect? Are you engaging your customers by allowing them to help you co-create the experience? You should be.

Part 3 of this series is here.

Ridemakerz: This is also cool!!!


<via IG’s TrendCentral>

With funding from Build-A-Bear, this new store is hoping to do for toy cars what the aforementioned chain did for stuffed animals. Hoping to offer a bonding experience for fathers and sons, the store will enable customers to create custom toy cars by selecting the type of car, body style, paint and sound effects, and locomotion style. Additional accessories ranging from decals to tire treads will also be available. The first Ridemakerz store opens on Friday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a second store opening planned for July in the Mall of America.

I predict this will be hot!  Check out the website and see what I mean.

Democratizing the Future


Those lucky enough to attend last week’s IIT Institute of Design’s Strategy Conference got a chance to see some great presentations from some major innovation thought leaders.  I was not one of them, but I have been going throught the materials from the conference which are publicly available.  As a proponent of Open Innovation, I particularly enjoyed reading the presentation given by Josephine Green of Philips Design which introduced the concept of social innovation

Realizing that innovation driven solely by technology often failed to meet customer needs, many organizations turned to a consumer (marketing) oriented approach where consumer research and observation is handled by “experts”.  Green believes that this approach is starting to reaching end of life.

Her main point is that we need to go beyond designing around individual consumer needs and start innovating around social needs.  Her reasoning:  We have reached a saturation point for technology and consumer goods.  Continuing to consume the way we currently do is not healthy.

“There is too much ‘stuff’ and a growing realization that filling the future with more and more consumer-driven technology and marketable goods does not necessarily guarantee higher growth, a better quality of life or even life itself, given the state of the planet.”

So what exactly is Social Innovation?  According to Green, it goes beyond looking at individual consumer needs to look at the relationship between people and the products/services they use.  It involves engaging experts, customers and creative communities to envision, build and deliver products and services which better reflect the needs and values of the future consumer.  Green believes that this shift from a Consumer/Market-led approach to a People/Social-led approach is being driven by three factors:

  1. Diversity:  our world is becoming increasingly small, with many different cultures, beliefs, opinions and behaviors all living together.  Along with increased clashes, this closeness has led to an understanding of our differences.
  2. Creativity: Social Media tools have put the consumer in a position of power and they are increasingly becoming “the supplier of content, taste, emotions and goods.”  They no longer want choice, they want a participatory role in designing the things they consume.
  3. Wellbeing:  There is a growing awareness that our ever increasing pace of life and consumption is having a correspondingly negative impact on the environment, the poor, and our own quality of life.  Health and wellness, connectedness, personal growth & control are replacing material things as the way to measure wellbeing.

What will be the implications of this shift for today’s companies?  First and foremost, you must begin establishing a dialogue with your customers.  You will need to facilitate conversations between customers and your designers.  Second, you need to develop a Sense & Respond competency and be able to support fast prototyping.  Third, you must get really comfortable with relinquishing control of some of the development process to your customers.  They are already in control of your destiny in case you hadn’t noticed. 

Doritos & Open Innovation

Joanna Pena-Bickley authors a great blog called ON:Digital+Marketing. I met her through MyBlogLog where she asked me to comment on one of her recent posts. The post is about how Doritos is really adopting the customer co-creation model. Following last year’s customer-created commercials, they are now involving customers in product innovation. Moreover, the way they are doing this is creating an entertaining and engaging story that will get retold.

You can read Joanna’s post and my comment here.

Blogs and Dell


Great post on Buzzmachine about Dell’s blog Ideastorm.  It’s a great story about how being open, honest and responsive to a problem has helped to earn back the trust of its user base. If any company needs to do that, Dell is a poster boy.

The customer in question, Jeff Jarvis, was very unhappy, very loud and unfortunately for Dell a very influential blogger. They ignored his complaint, he blogged about it and thousands piled on after him. Dell is under new management, well actually old new management, as Michael Dell is back in charge. Part of the turnaround seems to be a mission to reconnect with their customers.

This post tells the story about how they are using their blog to do it.  It’s also a story about overturning orthodoxies (blogs really do matter; the customer now has a very loud voice and you better listen), the need to be adaptive (Sense & Respond), and most importantly, the benefits of listening to and collaborating directly with your customers.

It’s a long post, but well worth the read.  Here is the moneyquote:

So what fascinates me so much about Dell is that it can rise from worst to first. Precisely because it got hammered by customers now empowered to talk back to the wall, it had to get smarter faster. Whether Dell can fix the rest of its problems, I don’t know. But if it keeps on the road it’s now on, it could well end up being the smartest company in the age of customer control. That would be one helluva turnaround.

<via Three Minds>

On Social Media….

Social Media is one of my blog categories, but there are folks out there who don’t know what it means.  In response to a Robert Scoble post on the subject, Stowe Boyd differentiates between the new, disruptive “Social Media” (capitals) in which the former audience is now fully participating in creating the message, and “social media” – the tools (blogs, wikis, etc) that make up the platform for “Social Media”.

His post is so well written, it just makes sense to quote a big chunk of it to you:

“The fundamental distinctions between Social Media and the things that preceded are these:

  1. Social Media Is Not A Broadcast Medium: unlike traditional publishing — either online or off — social media are not organized around a one-to-many communications model.
  2. Social Media Is Many-To-Many: All social media experiments worthy of the name are conversational, and involve an open-ended discussion between author(s) and other participants, who may range from very active to relatively passive in their involvement. However, the sense of a discussion among a group of interested participants is quite distinct from the broadcast feel of the New York Times, CNN, or a corporate website circa 1995. Likewise, the cross linking that happens in the blogosphere is quite unlike what happens in conventional media.
  3. Social Media Is Open: The barriers to becoming a web publisher are amazingly low, and therefore anyone can become a publisher. And if you have something worth listening to, you can attract a large community of likeminded people who will join in the conversation you are having. [Although it is just as interesting in principle to converse with a small group of likeminded people. Social media doesn’t need to scale up to large communities to be viable or productive. The long tail is at work here.]
  4. Social Media Is Disruptive: The-people-formerly-known-as-the-audience (thank you, Jay Rosen!) are rapidly migrating away from the old-school mainstream media, away from the centrally controlled and managed model of broadcast media. They are crafting new connections between themselves, out at the edge, and are increasingly ignoring the metered and manipulated messages that centroid organizations — large media companies, multi national organizations, national governments — are pushing at them. We, the edglings, are having a conversation amongst ourselves, now; and if CNN, CEOs, or the presidential candidates want to participate they will have to put down the megaphone and sit down at the cracker barrel to have a chat. Now that millions are gathering their principal intelligence about the world and their place in it from the web, everything is going to change. And for the better.”

……..So, a formula: Social Media = what the edglings use to communicate.

I really like being an Edgling, don’t you?


Ideo’s Tim Brown made some insightful comments at the Adaptive Path’s MXSF conference last week.  He talked about a human-centered approach to innovation called ”Design Thinking”. 

“There are three buckets of innovation: technology, business, and people. All innovation is a combination of those things. Lots of people are doing the technology and business. Technology is the main engine of innovation. Most businesses come from a business perspective. But most designers come at it through people.”

He went on to describe the three phases of Innovation: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation.  Just most businesses tend to miss importance of being human-centered, I think many of them also spend too little time on the Inspiration phase.  They are good at coming up with what I call solutions in search of a problem.  Instead of asking their customers what problems they would like addressed, they come up with new business ideas that they believe customers want.  Not surprisingly, most of those ideas don’t resonate with customers when they test them.

Really great innovation happens when businesses partner with their customers; when they take the time to understand the customer’s needs, problems and experiences.  This was a key point in Brown’s message:

“Inspiration. Where do ideas come from? Insights are the fuel of inspiration. You don’t get ideas from sitting at your desk. Use the world as a source of inspiration (not as a source of validation). It starts with empathy and seeing things from other people’s viewpoints, not yours.  Aim to understand people on multiple levels: physically, cognitively, emotionally, socially, and culturally.”
~IDEO’s Tim Brown from MXSF 2007

Tip of the Hat to David Armano who posted the quote yesterday

CrowdSpirit: Crowdsourced Consumer Electronics

CrowdSpirit is a French startup that plans to use crowds to develop and bring to market tangible, inexpensive, electronic devices such as CD players, joysticks for video games, and Web cams. The community will handle all aspects of the product cycle—its design, features, technical specifications, even post-purchase customer support.  Community members will submit and vote on product and design ideas. The winners will be funded by community members and they will go on to prototype and beta-test the products.

A core CrowdSpirit team, along with a subset of community members and distributors, will have a final say on decisions. The hope, however, is that the products will be extraordinarily focused on the customer because the ideas are coming directly from the people who will use the products. In development since last September, the site will formally launch at the end of June, 2007.

This is just one more example of the growing trend of “Crowdsourcing“.  Tapping your customers to collaborate and innovate with you is a great way to build relationships and to differentiate your brand.

You can read more on this at the CrowdSpirit website

<via BusinessWeek>

SecondLife Goes OpenSource


Chief Linden, Philip Rosedale said today that Linden Labs is going to make the core codebase for SecondLife available to developers.  Considering that the contents of SecondLife has been developed entirely by user “residents”  and the number of registered avatars has grown exponentially over the past year, the move to open source is a natural progression.  After all, Linden has a limited number of developers and there is much work to be done to meet the needs of its growing population and to make the software more palatable for less powerful computers (like most of us have).

Given the growth of SecondLife, the vision my many in the software development community that a 3D web is the shape of things to come, and the success that other projects like Firefox and Linux have had using the community to build the code; this move is smart and should help keep things moving.  It can also lead to some interesting new capabilities:

“There are lots of handicapped people using ‘Second Life,’ It’s one of the really inspiring things about it,” Rosedale said. “There are a lot of ways of connecting people to their computers, not just mice and keyboards but gaze detection and neuromuscular stuff” that Linden Lab doesn’t have the manpower to address, but he hopes outside programmers will.

Someone also could “hook up an exercise bike and fly around ‘Second Life’ while exercising,” he said, or write a program for accessing the world from a smart phone.

“All that becomes extremely easy to do,” said Rosedale, who will speak tomorrow at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The details for the more technical readers out there, according to an AP report are as follows:

The code will be available under the GNU Public License, a widely used agreement among open-source developers that allows them to legally modify and share software. Linden Lab will review and test some add-ons, modifications and bug fixes, and incorporate them into the official version of the viewer, which can be downloaded for free.

Monday’s announcement doesn’t cover all the software behind “Second Life.” The program that controls the underlying infrastructure will remain proprietary, though Rosedale said open-source “is absolutely our direction.”

Fortune has an exclusive interview with Rosedale as well as comments from Electric Sheep, one of the largest in-world construction companies, and IBM who worked with my company, Circuit City, to open a virtual store in SecondLife.  It’s worth the read.

Traditional vs. Open Innovation

Patricia Seybold, in her new book Outside Innovation: How Your Customers Will Co-Design Your Company’s Future, explains the difference between traditional “inside-out” innovation and “outside in” or customer-focused innovation:

Traditional innovation: “Traditional ‘inside-out’ approaches to innovation assume that our subject matter experts (within our company) invent and design innovative new products to meet needs customers may not even realized they had. Then our marketing and advertising departments make prospective customers aware of those needs, wrap a brand experience around our innovative products, package and price those offerings… and bring them to market.”

Outside-in/customer-focused innovation: “The ‘outside-in’ approach is to flip the innovation process around and assume that customers have outcomes that they want to achieve, they have deep knowledge about their own circumstances and contexts, and they are not happy about the way they have to do things today. They will innovate – with or without your help – to create better ways to do things or to design products and services that meet their specific needs.”

There’s obviously a big difference in these two approaches, but the impact to organizations who don’t understand that the game has changed is much larger.  Just as the Consumer has begun to take control of media, they will also demand a starring role in co-creating your company’s products & services.

This is an evolution that makes perfect sense.  In traditional innovation, we don’t really know what our customers want – we may think we do, but at best we’re shooting in the dark, and hoping we hit something. From a marketing and sales standpoint, our new products are “pushed” through the sales channel to the customer, who often has to be incentivized with discounts, rebates and other creative “carrots” to persuade them to buy. The result?  These programs cut into gross margins and profits, and usually aren’t very effective.

In contrast, if you really understand not only your customers’ needs, but the critical outcomes they want to achieve, you can then work shoulder-to-shoulder with your key customers to “co-create” products that meet those needs.  There’s no need to “push” your offerings, because customers will gladly pay a premium for products and services that make their lives easier and more profitable.  The result?   Higher margins and profits for the company.

I am just starting to read Patricia’s new book, but I can already tell I’m going to like it. Open innovation is one of the key trends in the world of business right now, and this book looks like a terrific guide to what it is and how to implement it in your company.  This concept goes way beyond creating products that meet customer’s needs.  Embracing the customer as a partner is a way to transform and elevate your brand.  As competition  increases and the ability to differentiate yourself decreases, are you asking your customers to help define your brand’s experience???


It’s All About You!


It’s official.  Time has named “You” as the person of the year.  Good call.  Time recognized what many of us already know:  Millions of people have embraced the technology, personal media and the internet to create, co-create, share and produce content. 

I look at my family as a really small microcosm of the phenomenon.  We used to watch TV, network TV.  Now, my 12 year old daughter creates websites and entertaining spaces on Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom.  I joined with millions of others and began blogging this year.  I also have embraced SecondLife.

It’s your new world.  Have you jumped in?

2006 In Picture – Follow-Up


Click here to view the slides on SlideShare
Download printable version (PDF) 

 Last week, I told you about a project that David Armano was launching on his blog,  Logic + Emotion  called “2006 In Picture”.  Yesterday, David posted 2006 In Your Words.  His original question was:

What was the most significant event/aspect of 2006 in regards to marketing, advertising or user experience?

Over 50 responses came in within a couple of days. Some were from bloggers with high readership and some were from relative unknowns like me.  And that, to me, really is the  story:  That anyone can connect and take part in the conversation.  David segmented the responses as follows:

2006: The year of…

  • PC (Power Consumer)
  • Connection
  • 2.0
  • Business + Design
  • Video
  • Creativity
  • People

But his personal observation was that 2006 was about Re-Discovery.  Discovering things about yourself through the connections that you can make within our hyper-connected world.  I couldn’t agree more.  There are some great insights in the slide deck, so do yourself a favor and give it a read. 

P.S. You can find my comment on slide 5.

Sense & Respond: Yahoo Launches Big Brand Universe

Yahoo! may have a lack of focus with regard to many of their properties, but they seem to be focused like a laser in launching a new strategy to engage media’s biggest brands online, with or without their participation.  Using their “sensing” muscle, Yahoo! has identified more than 100 properties that are the most popular, or fastest-growing, with its users.   Yahoo!’s “response” action is to begin building what it calls a “brand universe” Web site around each one.  Set to launch throughout 2007, they will bring content from throughout Yahoo!’s network into one destination for fans.

This is a really smart move for Yahoo!.  The inclusion of two social media heavyhitters (Flickr & Delicious) make the site much more authentic with users.  It’s co-creation without having to ask the customer to create anything.  Finally, it’s a destination that will satisfy most any search request.

The first “universe” is live and it’s for Nintendo’s new Wii console.  The site is a fantastic mash-up of Yahoo! properties including:

  • Flickr for fan photos
  • Yahoo! Games for articles, reviews, forums, and user videos
  • Yahoo! Shopping for purchase options including an in-stock tracker for web stores
  • Yahoo! Answers for user Q&A
  • & MyWeb for links to outside articles

They hope to partner with the companies behind the properties it selects to obtain extra content and potentially send some traffic their way, but the “brand universe” pages won’t hinge on their cooperation.

Yahoo! isn’t revealing the properties it has selected beyond the Wii, due to the sensitivity of ongoing talks, but names like “American Idol” and “The Lord of the Rings” are almost certain to be among them.

Source: Variety

Go to the Yahoo! Wii site here.