innovative brand engagement

Two of my favorite brands recently introduced innovations that brought me such delight, I was prompted to think about what was so remarkable about them. What was it about them that not only delivered a great experience, but also grew my esteem of their respective brands??

I realized these innovations, despite them being on polar opposites of the technology scale, have 3 things in common.  In fact, these shared characteristics seem to distinguish all brand-building innovations from the many forgettable new products and services we’re inundated with everyday.

What:  Two delightful innovations.

Ben & Jerry’s Flipped Outben & jerrys flipped out – a fun twist on a brownie sundae.  Flipped Outs pack Ben & Jerry’s delectable ice cream, fudge brownie pieces, and chocolate fudge topping into a single serve pack.  You flip it over onto a plate, lift the cup off, and eat and enjoy.  Not only is this a yummy treat but it’s a fun one.  The act of flipping the dessert and removing the packaging is a simple, but powerful one – it’s a moment of anticipation and fun which makes the whole experience a delight.

The new Nike+nikeplus homepage — a new and improved version of the sensor/tracking system for running.  Nike has brought a whole new level of functionality and enjoyment to the Nike+.   The new Nike+ includes a customizable homepage which allows you to personalize your runs to illustrate your mood, the weather, the route, etc.; a search function to be used to find other runners, initiate challenges, and broadcast your results; a new shoe finder; and other features.  Even for a casual runner like me, using it makes me feel better equipped and more inspired to run.

How: Even though Nike’s high tech system seems completely opposite from the low tech Ben & Jerry’s Flipped Out, the two innovations are both great brand-builders because they both:

  • enhance the core value of their respective brands – In the race to introduce the latest and greatest products and services, many companies pursue innovations that may be cool but have little to do with the core value they currently deliver to customers.  But the strength of these two innovations is that they are derived from the very core of their respective brands.  Ben & Jerry’s is all about ice cream that’s fun and creative (not to mention all natural and socially responsible); Flipped Out takes those attributes to a new level.  Nike’s brand brings innovation and inspiration to every athlete and Nike+ does this personal, tangible way.  Neither innovation is simply cool for cool’s sake; said more positively, they stayed true to their brands while enhancing the value they deliver.
  • are different from how competitors are innovating – The trends in ice cream these days are natural, lower fat/calorie, and new flavors.  With Flipped Out, Ben & Jerry’s decided to “zag” while everyone else was “zigging.”  So the new form/new packaging stands out as truly remarkable in the crowded category.  Likewise, most other sporting goods brands are focused on product innovations like greener materials, lighter/faster shoes, and performance fabrics.  Nike+ creates a completely different playing field, introducing a whole new way to experience the sport.   Rejecting the usual innovation levers and looking beyond category trends, Ben & Jerry’s and Nike created breakthroughs.
  • work – Both innovations work, really well – no glitches, no “still working out the kinks”, no disappointments.  To be honest, I feared Flipped Out wouldn’t be as good as it sounded.  I was concerned the flipping/lifting would be difficult or messy and I doubted its taste would be up to my ice cream aficionado standards.  But neither worry was necessary.  Not only did the flipping/lifting work, it was kinda cool, and the product itself was much better than other pre-packaged sundaes.  With Nike+, I knew it would work seamlessly because every other online interface I’ve had with Nike has been great.  The system is easy and intuitive to use, and as I explored all the new functionality, everything worked like a charm.  Can’t say that about many other innovations today, right?!

Perhaps the most salient thing which both innovations have in common is that they take brand “engagement” to a whole new level.  The term “engagement” has taken on a lot of different meanings in today’s social media world, but I found these innovations to be truly engaging in the ways engagement is usually measured – that is, the amount of time I spent with them, the enjoyment I felt while interacting with them, and the way I am telling others about my great experiences.

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