BRAND EXPERIENCES: Best of The Best at Life Is Beautiful Festival, DTLV

BRAND EXPERIENCES: Best of The Best at Life Is Beautiful Festival, DTLV

brand activations

Have attended Life Is Beautiful since its inception in 2013, 4 years ago. This year, under new ownership, it is expected to be profitable for the first time. That means one thing: they’ve sold more sponsorships/the festival will be more commercial. That said, I had a great time and even the brands that I anticipated would  be a bad fit, were terrific.

Here are the 7 brand activations that totally killed it!! What made them so exceptional was a combination of:

  • Concept – creative, fun AND perfectly aligned with the brand
  • Execution – with extraordinary attention to detail
  • Interactive/shareable elements

BEST IN SHOW: Vita Coco Water

Huge footprint, 2 full city blocks. Their location, at the farthest end of the festival, could have been a negative but their enthusiastic staff fanned out throughout the grounds with water slide inflatables, coconut trees and free products which put the brand on everyone’s radar and brought in huge crowds to play at Vita-Coco Beach.

Key elements:

Vita-Coco VW van (with coconuts on the roof)
Gigantic waterslide
Charging stations (coming out of a tree!)
Free wifi
Corn hole (this is clearly THE game of festivals)
Sharing stations to post to fb, insta etc.
Hammocks
Free product
GREAT staff!!

See below for Runners Up and Honorable Mentions (along with photos).

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How Did Unilever Suddenly Develop This Winning Streak?

How Did Unilever Suddenly Develop This Winning Streak?

unilever

A lot of the credit goes to whoever is behind their acquisitions. They’ve been absolutely stellar. Newest to the fold: Vermont-based Seventh Generation, known for natural and eco-conscious cleaning products. The 28-year old company recorded sales of more than $200 million last year.

This acquisition strengthens Unilever’s portfolio of purpose-driven brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Dove. It also reinforces their commitment to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

They’ve also been tweaking their food portfolio, making acquisitions for their fast-growing ice cream business while selling off poorly performing, off-trend brands like Ragu and Slim Fast. Last year they bought one of my faves, Grom (based in Turin, Italy), which has over 60 gelato shops. They have some stores in the US and if you’re a fan of affogato, they make a great one!! They also have that amazing Magnum ice cream pop up on Prince Street in Soho that is still going strong.

Per zacks.com, here’s a list of Unilever’s most recent acquisitions – many in home and beauty care:

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CityMD Walk-In Urgent Care: Excellent UX, 5 stars!!

CityMD Walk-In Urgent Care: Excellent UX, 5 stars!!

citymd

Got bitten by a mosquito last week at a Wisconsin outdoor wedding and by Sunday nite, when I flew back to NYC, my elbow was hugely swollen, bright red with a ginormous blister. On the way home, my taxi passed CityMD on Delancey Street and I made a mental note to check it out if my malady was not better in the morning.

And it was not better – indeed it was worse!  In the pouring rain, I made my way to CityMD.  What a GREAT experience! Easy, friendly, attentive, they take insurance. The staff is fantastic, lots of medical assistants who take your temperature and blood pressure, write up doctor’s diagnosis and forward your prescriptions to the pharmacy. It looked like they might have had only one doctor.

In any case, I got in and out within 30 minutes. The doctor diagnosed it as cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection most likely caused when I scratched the mosquito bite. He put me on antibiotics and after just one day, the swelling and the blistering has gone down. Also, impressed that they provide a comprehensive printout summarizing your visit including your diagnosis and medications and home care. I am a very happy camper knowing this drop-in clinic is a ten minute walk from my house.

Since I had such a good experience, I researched CityMD. They’re definitely shaking up NY’s healthcare industry. They had 48 clinics in the city as of the end of last year and are looking to expand to NJ. Naturally, primary-care doctors aren’t happy about this incursion into their territory. But they better get used to it because for minor ailments, this is what I’m going to be doing from now on.

Also, as a side note for longtime New Yorkers, the CityMD on Delancey is in the old Ratner’s location!!

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Rustic DIY Wedding: Here’s How To Do It Right!!

Rustic DIY Wedding: Here’s How To Do It Right!!

wisconsin wedding

This day last week I was in Fond du Lac Wisconsin getting ready to attend a gorgeous outdoor wedding at the Whispering Springs Golf Club.

What made the day so outstanding were the many DIY elements created by the groom and his dad. Both are master craftsmen who can build and make just about anything. They did an awesome job of creating woodsy, rustic centerpieces, a tree trunk sculpted to collect gift cards, a wedding arbor and backdrop (which the venue immediately offered to buy because they were so good!).

But it didn’t stop there. The groom and his family are big hunting/fishing enthusiasts. Of course, that calls for another DIY project: bullet boutonnieres (not as original as I thought, Etsy is filled with them!). But I must add that in my opinion, the groom, his groomsmen and his father rocked the coolest outfits I’ve seen at a wedding in a long time. It was absolutely perfect for the location and the day.

Also must do a shoutout to the venue’s chef, Bill Bahringer (who is also the head chef at Trepanier’s Backyard Grill & Bar). The beef tips were, without a doubt, some of the tastiest I have ever had!!

Bottom Line: TOTALLY cool wedding, thematically perfect. Congrats Ashley Otto and Dustin Kahlhamer!!!

See below for more pics from the wedding.

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Major Cocktail and Wine Trends: Packaging is the Big Story

Major Cocktail and Wine Trends: Packaging is the Big Story

cocktail trends

As we head into the Fall, there’s lots of boozy – and not so boozy – trends to catch up on. Three in particular have caught my attention.

1. SPIKED SPARKLING SELTZERS

Have not tried any of these – not really my thing – but with half of millennials wishing there were more low alcohol, healthier options, this sounds like a great opportunity:

  • Truly Spiked & Sparkling from Boston Beer, made its debut in May and packs only 100 calories per serving.
  • Easy Tea and Zumbida Mango both from MillerCoors. The former is a brisk, less sweet iced tea. Zumbida is the first of several fruit-flavored fermented drinks.
  • Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer along with a new hard soda brand, will soon be launched by Diageo.
  • SpikedSeltzer, (a small craft brand) with 6% alcohol, is now sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, some Targets, and regional groceries in 13 states.

 

2. WINE IN A CAN

Whole Foods declared 2016 the year of canned wine and this trend seems to finally be taking off. Although still only a tiny part of the market, cans of wine can now be found in mainstream supermarkets, mostly promoted for outdoor concerts and sports.

More misc. wine packaging news:

  • One87 single serve wine is considered the most innovative packaging of the year by wine industry insiders.
  • Boxed wines sales are also growing dramatically. The Bota box is a hit for its organic, handcrafted look.

 

3. COCKTAILS & SPIRITS FOR THE FALL

  • Coffee cocktails are on the rise.
  • Bitter spirits like the old-skool Jägermeister continue to make a comeback.
  • Fernet Branca (as well as other amaros) are experiencing a renaissance. Seattle’s Canon serves a Toronto, while the Hanky Panky appears on the menu at Whislers in Austin. There’s also the Mayhem, a mix of rye, brandy, Fernet, and Peychaud’s, which is available at Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem in San Francisco. San Francisco serves as the unofficial hub of Fernet-Branca with 25% of U.S. consumption. In certain places in the Bay Area, you can even find Fernet on tap.
  • Mezcal and aged tequilas are being used to reinterpret classic cocktails like the Last Word and the Manhattan.
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails are starting to show up on some trend forward, creative drinks menus.

And finally I am so sad to have missed Frose, the wine slushie hit of the summer. Perhaps it will come back next year since sales of rosé wine have gone through the roof in recent months.

Here are a few details on Frose in case you live in a warmer climate and can have it year round:

  • Frosé originated at Bar Primi in New York, where the general manager Justin Sievers wanted to create a new drink that was suitable for long hot afternoons, using rosé wine.
  • Frozen rosé, or frosé, is made by freezing rosé wine with lemon juice and sugar.
  • It is usually prepared in a large container and frozen for around seven hours before being blended into a slush.
  • The Beaufort House bar in Chelsea, West London, says frosé has now become their bestselling drink.
  • Thousands of people across the UK have also posted pictures  of homemade versions of the drink on Twitter and Instagram.
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The 3 Trends I’m Most Excited About for 2017

The 3 Trends I’m Most Excited About for 2017

3 major trends

These 3 trends are the most important because they transcend every category and industry that I’m engaged with personally and professionally. Likewise, when I evaluate the potential of any new brand or service, I want to see at least two of these trends at play.

 

Trend 1: Experiences

Here are 5 examples of how brands are creating fun, memorable and relevant experiences:

  • Pop-Ups: This past Wednesday at 11am, In N Out Burger did a pop up in London that was only scheduled to be open for 4 hours or until supplies ran out. Lines were super long and naturally they ran out of burgers well before 3pm. Big shoutout to Time Out and Snapchat for alerting me to this. More pics below of the event. Another pop up worth checking out is Magnum Ice Cream on Prince Street, in collaboration with Refinery 29. The Raden luggage pop up was also outstanding. And finally, the entertainment industry has been on a roll when it comes to pop-ups e.g. Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Eric Andre’s Ranch Dispensary (Adult Swim).
  • Scent is powerful!! The Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires has the most magnificent scent wafting through the hotel. I am also a sucker for Kerastase professional hair products (although they’ve recently switched the scent on one of my favorites so looking for a new brand). And I am a loyal L’Oreal customer (across multiple brands) because of how they scent their products.
  • Membership Clubs – Soho House/Ludlow House provide very cool membership experiences which then become de facto extensions of your personal brand to be enjoyed by invited guests/clients. Neuehouse, likewise, the membership-only creative co-working space in NYC and LA, also provides this level of hospitality experience.
  • Unique/Rare Access – Just booked my 3rd trip with National Geographic Travel. They have changed my expectations of what encompasses a great travel experience. Not only do they provide high level luxury, what really sets them apart is their unparalled access to experts, places, and events.
  • Make it shareable. Great experiences need to be shared. A key question to ask: have we done enough to make this Instagram or Snapchat-worthy?  Brands that have done a great job include Black Tap Milkshakes, Eataly Downtown, Target Pop Ups.

Read on below for Trends 2 and 3.

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Innovative Consumer Startups Are Crushing Big Brands

Innovative Consumer Startups Are Crushing Big Brands

startups

When I think about startups, the first thing that comes to mind are tech innovators like Airbnb, Uber or Snapchat. But consumer companies like Casper, Warby Parker, Blue Bottle Coffee and Everlane are equally innovative and are attracting VCs to their startups.

Sophie Bakalar in TechCrunch (she’s an early stage CPG and Retail investor) wrote a great piece that’s worth a read!

Here are four of the criteria she uses when evaluating consumer startups for early stage investing. Each is important but pay special heed to #4.

1. Is the company aspirational and on-trend

2. Are they digitally fluent (not just competent)

Companies must leverage the power of the internet to market to, engage with and distribute to customers who are increasingly reliant on their digital devices.

Companies also must be adept at optimizing digital distribution channels and sell directly to the consumer. This is the “digitally native vertical integration” model that Warby Parker, Casper and Everlane all used to upend industries bloated by wholesalers.

3. What’s their plan for repeat customers

As a general rule it costs 5x to 7x more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, so loyal customers are paramount for success.

Subscription models like Dollar Shave Club are the mode du jour for optimizing customer retention. Another good tactic for enticing repeat customers is to focus on “zero-sum markets” like razors or pet food, where a customer typically only uses one brand.

4. Differentiation

The number of new products in the U.S. has more than doubled since 2000. With so many options, startups must differentiate themselves in order to be successful.

And the differentiation must be meaningful. Adding superficial features like rotating gizmos and flashing lights — a default strategy for legacy brands like P&G — just doesn’t cut it anymore.

While taglines like “Uber for Restaurants” or “Tinder for Sneakers” may seem tempting, consumer startups can’t just transfer proven tech models to a new space. To succeed, consumer startups need a brand new idea and some unfair advantage to set themselves apart.

In other words, a company should be uniquely qualified to solve a specific problem with a new solution. It must have some “edge” to maintain a defensive advantage: sourcing advantages, an experienced team and proprietary IP are just a few examples.

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Two More Reasons Why I love Google

Two More Reasons Why I love Google

Screen-Shot-2016-04-20-at-10.49.40-AM-640x250

Big shoutout to Google Maps for getting me around rural Wisconsin this weekend. So impressed by how much mapping and verbal directions have improved over the years. What’s especially useful is that they tell you how many miles (or feet) you will be on a particular route – it’s both reassuring and convenient – particularly when you’re on backroads with strange names like County YY.

But now, I’ve discovered a new Google project that is even more impressive: Project Sand Hill. This is a side project developed by Suman Prasad in his Google “20 Percent Time.” He and his team work with various Silicon Valley VCs to identify and partner with “rocketship” startups. The advantages to Google are many – but most importantly – these partnerships keep the company on the forefront of innovation and technology. Things move so fast in tech that to fall behind is easy – and frequently deadly!

Project Sand Hill is currently working with over 130 startups in the US as well as in India, Israel and China. Eleven of the startups have become “unicorns” – i.e. valued at over $1billion – including Eventbrite, Houzz and Lyft.

Another important takeaway: When you’re a giant, like Google, you have to work extra hard to stay ahead of the curve. Relationships and partnerships with startups and other up-and-coming brands will keep you more tapped in to what’s next.

Link to Wired’s excellent article, here.

 

 

 

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