Thu, 21 December 2017
Mind the Gaps: How Peloton, Warby Parker, Lagunitas, and Converse Asked the Big Questions that Changed their Markets
If you’re a marketer, it’s a good time to look for gaps. We live in an age of asymmetrical advantage, and emerging companies have access to the same computing power, networks, and channels that everyone else does.
Tune into this Unconventionals episode to hear how finding the right gaps can propel a business and change a market. Look at the beer market—5,000 breweries today vs. 90 in in 1985. Market gaps are buyer needs exposed, and gaps often begin as questions. You’ll hear the questions directly from the founders of Lagunitas, Peloton, and Warby Parker: Why do eyeglasses have to be so expensive? Why did American beer have to be so boring for much of the 20th century? PJA’s Mike O’Toole and Robert Davis will talk about how to find the questions that can unleash your own business.
Thu, 16 November 2017
Artificial Intelligence may be all the rage, but that doesn’t make it easy to market. The voices on AI range from Alexa (powered by) to Zuckerberg (defender of), which means it’s hard to get a bead on what AI means. And AI gets a bad rap, branded as a job killer or more ominously, a threat to the human race.
How do you launch an AI brand in this environment? What responsibility does a company have for taking on some of the big questions about artificial intelligence? How do you help navigate a market through change, especially when that change is such high stakes? And what should an AI brand look, sound, and act like? We tackle all of that and more in our conversation with Jon Iwata, who heads up brand marketing at IBM.
Take a listen to our talk with Jon and find out what’s next for IBM be sure to sign up for future updates from The Unconventionals.
Tue, 10 October 2017
We are in the midst of a big cultural moment for finding our roots. The moment is enabled by science for sure. DNA tests are simple and cheap--they'll run you about 100 bucks. But it's also driven by a deeper hunger for connection. It's in the zeitgeist, and conversations about identity are everywhere. We're more global than ever but nationalist strains are running high. In unsettled times, who we are and where we come from are big questions.
Wed, 23 August 2017
According to Whoop founder Will Ahmed, our bodies are keeping secrets. Those secrets hold the key to human performance, and the Whoop Strap unlocks them. It’s a big claim, but one that LeBron James, Michael Phelps and hundreds of professional athletes are validating in their everyday use.
In this Unconventionals interview, we discuss how Whoop’s device and their strategy upends category conventions. By helping athletes perform better vs. counting their steps, they found an opening—call it a Darwinian Gap—in the market. Whoop's focus on big data and even bigger outcomes keeps pro athletes coming, and helps the company rise above the fitness tracker fray.
If you’re interested in performance, new ways to use data or how to stand out in a crowded market, take a listen.
Mon, 26 June 2017
B2B is always about change—reframing how people buy, introducing an innovation, or getting people to think about your company in new ways. You can increase your chances of success by getting change agents on board—the subset of your market who are the most likely to share and drive your agenda. Finding your crazies makes your market smaller—and means you can stop wasting money reaching audiences who don’t care. We’re not talking about traditional influencer marketing, which too often means renting other people’s audience and cachet. Crazies are the people whose professional success or personal passion aligns closely with yours—whether they know it or not. For most companies, these key audiences are sitting on the sideline, but with the right approach they can help you succeed. In this episode, we revisit how brands such as GE, Waze, Organovo, Big Ass Fans, and Evernote were able to capture this crucial portion of their audience in order to grow.
Direct download: The_Unconventionals_Ep033-Crazies_Highlight_20170710.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:40pm EST
Wed, 10 May 2017
Peloton is becoming one of the hottest brands in fitness, and it all starts with an extraordinary experience. Stripped down, the company sells you a cycle in your home and spinning classes delivered through the internet. But it adds up to something new and different: an addictive fitness regimen that almost no one who starts wants to stop. In this episode of The Unconventionals, we talk to founder Tom Cortese to find out how Peloton got there. The company stitched together several business models—talent management, logistics, software, hardware, internet content—to deliver an experience that makes you “want to want to work out.” Peloton has also figured out how to engage their “crazies”—their most loyal customers—to spread the word and grow the business. There is a tribal, family element that gathers around each Peloton instructor, to the point where many fans have opened Facebook groups for their favorite coaches and many coaches have their own clothing lines. You’ll hear the customer perspective directly from PJA’s own Jeff Porzio. He’ll help us understand how the company has earned a Net Promoter Score of 91—we can’t find another company that comes close.
Wed, 11 January 2017
Digital dominates our everyday lives, and we increasingly organize our world around the software, platforms, and devices of the world's largest technology brands. At the same time, there is a renewed craving for brands that are small, hand-crafted, and proudly analog. In partnership with the Columbia Business School, The Unconventionals brought together leaders from Shinola, Third Man Records, and the Alchemist (brewer of Heady Topper) at the annual BRITE Conference. We’re bringing the best of that discussion for listeners, along with new thinking and analysis that explores the role that scale, product quality, location, and story play in reviving categories and driving fierce loyalty.
Wed, 16 November 2016
Today on The Unconventionals, a special edition. Call it “Unconventionals Young Guns.” We're taking a peek into the future, and the future looks pretty great, at least embodied by Eric Katz and Kulisha, a company he founded with a handful of other students who hail from Brown to UCLA to Kenya. Kulisha, which comes from the Swahili verb "to feed," produces an animal protein from insects as an alternative to conventional animal feeds. This is great for small farmers in Kenya, but has implications for all of us. Most animal feed out there is made from fish, which is expensive, destructive, and unsustainable. We're going to hear a little bit more about Kulisha and where it's headed, but we're also going to talk about innovation and entrepreneurship on college campuses.
Wed, 12 October 2016
Google isn’t a health care company—they don’t treat patients, fund care, or make drugs or devices. But If you want to understand where healthcare advances will come from, you could do worse than watching where Google is placing its bets. On this episode of The Unconventionals, we’re talking to Google about solving big problems in health care. Our guest is Mark Rosenthal, who is head of health services at the company.
Google's mission is to organize the world’s information, and that includes health care. We will discuss how the company is applying intelligence—from its data engines and from partners like the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School—to make health-related searches more useful. We’ll also talk about Google’s mobility and access initiatives to enable better health, such as:
Tue, 13 September 2016
Organovo’s printers create human tissue that mimic the form and function of native tissue in the body — but live outside the body. This is a big deal. A feat of science and engineering that’s truly disruptive, sci-fi kind of stuff. But the innovation alone doesn’t guarantee success. Once you’ve created something truly novel, how do you bring it to market?
As any technology or life sciences CMO will appreciate, marketing an innovation that outstrips what people know how to applyin their lives is hard work. In this episode of The Uncoventionals, we talk with Organovo CEO Keith Murphy about bioprinting and its big implications for human health. We’ll also discuss how they tell their story, find early application markets, and convince pharma customers to try the platform. Turns out that WHO you talk to first is critical. The key is connecting with buyers that are, as Keith says, “alive to new possibilities.” Find out how Organovo is enlisting the change agents — or as we like to call them "the crazies” — to bring a breakthrough platform to life.
Wed, 20 July 2016
If you want to understand the future of luxury brands, you should take a close look at Shinola. This five year-old company chose Detroit — the original maker city — as the setting for a mission that is ambitious and unconventional: making watches and other highly-crafted products, creating jobs, and building a valuable design brand in the process. Shinola understands that buying — particularly when we're considering a high-end product — has changed. We want great products, but we also want a deeper connection, which means a story we believe in, a mission we can support, and transparency in how a company does its work.
In this episode, The Unconventionals travels to Detroit's historic Argonaut building to talk with Bridget Russo, Shinola's Chief Marketing Officer. They talk about revival: of a city, of manufacturing, and of categories like watches and vinyl that were written off as dead. They discuss how Shinola balances attention to craft with a need to scale, and how it stays focused on great products while remaining faithful to a broader mission.
Wed, 22 June 2016
GE is Thomas Edison’s company, with a heritage of industrial innovation that goes back more than 100 years. But you’d be excused for missing this during the heyday of GE Capital, when financial services delivered 50% of corporate profit.
GE is shedding its financial services division. And it’s no longer in the refrigerator and microwave oven business. But the GE story is more about reinvention than retreat. It is looking to its mission and history as guides for how to reimagine itself. GE is deliberately applying its DNA around invention not just to its products but in how it tells its story to the world.
In the first episode of our fifth season, host Mike O’Toole sits down with Linda Boff, GE’s Chief Marketing Officer, about the recent changes GE has undergone. They discuss GE’s move to the forefront of the digital industrial market—the internet of “really big things.” And they talk marketing and brand—there is perhaps not a more innovative B2B marketer on the planet, and we can learn a lot about where GE is placing its bets in social platforms, content marketing, not to mention its brand strategy.
Tue, 26 January 2016
Even though they’ve become a necessary part of society’s progress and have made life much easier, robots are a lot of work. They require teams of programmers in order to perform the most basic tasks, and every worker on the line needs to learn the safe way to interact with them. Yet, they were all we had.
Rethink Robotics set out to find a better way to integrate these disruptive machines into manufacturing. The solution was Baxter — a friendly robot that works alongside people rather than replacing them. It doesn’t require a bunch of programmers to get started. You simply grab the arm, walk it through the desired action, and let it get to work. Once you show it how to do something, it can do it over and over again. And, by design, Baxter is completely safe to be around.
In this episode, we chat with Jim Lawton, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Rethink Robotics. Hear how these collaborative robots are so comfortable to work with that co-workers dress them up and take photos with them, and how the company is working towards a future where robots are accessible to everyone — from factories to classrooms and even your living room.
Sun, 20 December 2015
Think about your favorite piece of clothing. You probably know what you paid for it, but do you know how much it cost to produce it? The tag may tell you what country it was made in, but do you know exactly where? If you shopped with online clothing retailer Everlane, you’d know these details.
Typically, the fashion industry keeps the difference between production costs and retail price under wraps. But Everlane is driven by the mission of “radical transparency,” and will openly tell you anything about pricing, and supply chains, factories, and employee policies, too. In fact, the only thing they keep secret is revenue, but that’s just for competitive purposes.
In this episode, we visit Founder Michael Preysman at Everlane’s San Francisco headquarters. He talks about how higher price doesn’t always mean higher quality — and how the domino effect of being transparent is helping Everlane do the right thing and build a coveted clothing brand.
Mon, 19 October 2015
The morning commute on public transportation is rarely easy. You hope for a reliable, fast and comfortable ride but probably end up with a not-so-pleasant start to your day instead. That would all change if you used Bridj — a startup determined to give people a better way to get around.
Bridj uses billions of data points and algorithms to understand how cities move and create pop-up mass transit. Users pinpoint their current location and their end destination in the Bridj app. Bridj gives them a common pick up location, where they’ll commute to a common drop off point with a small group in a 14-person van. The pick up and drop off points are both a short walking distance for everyone. It’s not door-to-door service, but riders are guaranteed a seat and free WiFi — and it’s cheaper than taxis and faster than buses and subways.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole is joined by Bridj Founder and CEO, Matt George. They chat about how Bridj is disrupting the city by making more jobs, health care, and communities accessible — and how the company hopes to further this disruption in the future.
Wed, 16 September 2015
Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app, and its 50 million users are dedicated to outsmarting traffic together. The maps are crowdsourced from roads users have driven on — so they’re always up-to-date. And to take it a step further, drivers can share real-time information about construction, congestion, and speed traps, which alerts other drivers and helps them find a faster route.
In this episode, we talk with Julie Mossler, Head of Global Communications and Policy at Waze. She discusses how Waze depends on large, active communities to help drivers avoid traffic headaches — and how the company got started before those communities were existed. We also check in with David Rogers from the Columbia Business School for a deeper look into why Waze has succeeded with crowdsourcing while so many others have failed.
Thu, 6 August 2015
Music is generally an accompaniment to life — unless you’re listening on vinyl. Records make the music an event. You engage with the music and appreciate it for the art that is it because it isn’t portable, sharable, or ephemeral. In today’s world, that’s as unconventional as it gets.
Fri, 5 June 2015
Imagine how frustrated you’d be if you had to take a driving test every time you rented a car. Well that’s what private pilots deal with when they rent a plane outside of their home base or flight school. It takes months of training and thousands of dollars to get a pilot’s license, but simply having one doesn’t mean anyone will honor it. So pilots pony up more money to demonstrate their skills just to get the right to rent, or simply don’t fly.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole chats with Rod Rakic, Co-founder of Open Airplane – a company getting more planes in the air by raising standards for pilots and lowering the barriers for everyone else. The two discuss how Open Airplane managed to woo the insurance industry, even after Lloyd’s of London called them crazy — and how society as a whole, not just aviation, is benefiting from their service.
Thu, 7 May 2015
When thinking of great places for a startup, Afghanistan probably wouldn’t jump to the top of your list. But a few Army vets sensed an opportunity while serving there, and Rumi Spice — a company looking to grow the American saffron market— was born. More valuable by weight than gold, a saffron crop meant Afghan farmers could septuple their annual income with a single sale. But first they’d have to stop growing poppies. Which is difficult for a variety of reasons. Including the Taliban.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole is joined by Kimberly Jung, Co-founder of Rumi Spice. They chat about the many hurdles the company has to get over, both in the U.S. and Afghanistan, and what Rumi Spice is doing to build its wasta — the Afghani version of clout.
Thu, 8 January 2015
If you produced what many view as the best beer in the world, with a 100% rating by Beer Advocate, you’d probably expect to be living a life of fame. But that’s not the case for John and Jen Kimmich —founders of The Alchemist Brewery and the folks behind the world renowned Heady Topper. With the crazy demand for the highly rated double IPA, it’d be easy for the Kimmich’s to find a few investors and triple the size of their 9,000-barrel, Waterbury, VT facility. But instead, they chose the unconventional route — staying small. They’d rather be in control of every decision and not have to answer to a board of directors, even if that means not living large.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole visits the Kimmich’s at The Alchemist. They discuss why they “don’t want to be gigantic for the sake of being gigantic” and why getting big is not the only way to make an impact. For the Alchemist, success is about making great beer, contributing to a growing craft beer movement, and building a company to last in their Vermont community.
Mon, 8 December 2014
Fri, 21 November 2014
Walk into a fast food restaurant and count the number of smiling employees. With the way fast food workers are paid, chances are your count won’t be too high. That’s the MO John Pepper, founder and former CEO of Boloco, tried to erase when he started the burrito chain. Pepper wanted to create a culture where employees received better wages — which would lead to them caring more about their job and treating customers better. And hopefully the customers would be more satisfied with being treated well and it’d lead to future visits.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole sits down with John Pepper. They discuss how John wanted to make a difference in the fast food industry by improving the wages of the people who work in it — and why that idea didn’t necessarily fly with key stakeholders.
Thu, 6 November 2014
When Evernote came along, it re-shaped note taking by giving us a way to use technology to remember things. Many thought the application would fail with the business model it had — there was no specific target audience and people could use it for free, forever. But what those naysayers didn’t see was that Evernote’s value to the user grows over time — and ultimately, that value is significant enough for people to pay for the premium version.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole chats with Evernote’s Chief Technology Officer, Dave Engberg. They discuss how Evernote users become more dependent on the app each time they use it — why that eventually leads to them paying for it.
Thu, 25 September 2014
It seems odd that a large corporation would launch a campaign that’s neither proprietary nor tightly controlled. So when American Express — a not-so-small business — created Small Business Saturday, they must have envisioned a great opportunity. And with the President and U.S. Senate’s support, in addition to countless Mom & Pops, it’s clear they were on to something.
Join host Mike O’Toole as he chats with several guests including one of the leaders behind Small Business Saturday, Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly. They discuss how the initiative was started and how it has helped small, local shops gain a fair share of the holiday shopping season.
Direct download: the-unconventionals-s3-e4-smallbusinesssaturday.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:29pm EST
Wed, 3 September 2014
Having a sense of naïveté is never a bad thing. Because there are no risks, when there are no rules.
In the Beginner’s Mind, the most outlandish and bizarre ideas could be the best. And who knows? Maybe they’re right.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole is joined by David Rogers of the Columbia Business School to discuss the "Zen mentality" importance of naïveté for new, unconventional brands. Using previous guests – such as Higher Ground Farm and Unreal Brands – they explain how sometimes not having an expertise gives brands more options to succeed.
Wed, 30 July 2014
Is it a store, an agency, or a community center? According to founder Rachel Schechtman, Story is a little bit of all three. Based in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, Story is an unconventional boutique that reinvents itself every few weeks around a new theme, complete with new merchandise, brand partners, and in-store experiences. And while doing so, it’s reinventing the perceptions of what a brick-and-mortar shopping experience can be.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole visits Story to chat with Rachel Schechtman. The two discuss the shortcomings of traditional retail, innovation within the category, and how brands are collaborating in new ways.
Tue, 15 July 2014
Many unconventional brands are proving that you can succeed while managing around ideas that aren’t typically measurable. With the right leadership and culture, you can certainly get by defying conventional business practices.
In this episode, host Mike O’Toole discusses how unconventional brands are measuring success with David Rogers of the Columbia Business School. Using former Unconventionals guests as examples, they examine how disruptive brands are carrying out these practices.
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Fri, 1 November 2013
Believe it or not, there can be such a thing as a “Good problem to have” in business. The highly popular fresh burger franchise b.good are finding themselves in these types situations lately as they continue to grow. Founded a decade ago in Boston with the mission to never be a "typical fast food joint," b.good always set out to make the best food possible made by people, not factories.
Now as they begin to expand to almost 50 locations across the east coast, PJA President Mike O'Toole sits with b.good Co-Founder and President Jon Olinto as they discuss the challenges of growing their business without losing focus on why they started the freshest fast food chain around.
Tue, 8 October 2013
When you think of a busy city a few images may come to mind. Bustling streets, busy shops, bumper to bumper traffic.But one thing you probably don’t picture is a green space and 55,000 sq ft farm sitting eight stories high. That's the scene at Higher Ground Farm here in Boston. We spoke with founders Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard about their uniquely challenging journey to expand the "Green Scene" around the city and establish themselves within the restaurant community. In this fun and appetizing episode, we'll get our hands dirty with Courtney and John as they share -The structural and practical challenges of building a rooftop garden in the city -An inside look into the elite Boston restaurant scene and how they’re adapting to the ever-changing and demanding "food to table" market -Why it pays to be "Scrappy" Discover your inner green thumb and stream the latest episode of The Unconventionals in its entirety...And be sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
Wed, 18 September 2013
Sometimes all it takes is a simple unconventional question to change everything… Our friends at Warby Parker asked, “Why do eyeglasses have to cost $700?” The Dollar Shave Club wondered “Why do we pay top dollar for unnecessary shaving technology?” Which brings us to Unreal Candy, which was founded on a question we’ve all thought at one time or another: “Why does all the food we love the most have to be so bad for us?” Join us for an in-depth interview with Unreal Candy founders Michael and Nicky Bronner as we discuss - Their quest around the globe to find chefs to “Unjunk the world” - The intiative to question the standards of candy shelf life - How celebrities such as Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tom Brady all got involved in the cause Stream the latest episode of The Unconventionals with the folks who set out to change the way we think of “junk food” in its entirety.
Thu, 8 August 2013
Pettis, CEO of the 3D printing company MakerBot. Imagine having the power to make creations in your mind's eye a reality - a reality you can hold in your own hands. I's not a plot from a new sci-fi film, it's the premise behind 3D printing powerhouse, Makerbot. Their desktop 3D printers have already completely changed the way creative professionals bridge the gap from vision to reality, and have been hailed on the cover of Wired Magazine as "The machine that will change the world." Founded in Brooklyn in 2009, CEO Bre Pettis and team have since harnessed the power of this futuristic technology in order to make it more widely available to those who simply love to just "make things." They've been featured in everything from The New York Times to The Colbert Report for being worldwide ambassadors of creativity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLCp6fgHLQw
Wed, 10 July 2013
On this episode of The Unconventionals, host Mike O'Toole chats with Neil Blumenthal, cofounder of online eyewear retailer Warby Parker. Once labeled by GQ as "Netflix for glasses," Warby Parker has set out to change the perception that buying a pair of fashionable eyeglasses doesn't have to be a long-term and costly investment. In addition to a hearty entrepreneurial spirit and a start-up process with stories you'll have to hear to believe, Neil shares the true backbone of Warby Parker: Their dedication to giving back. Not only does Warby Parker aim to make fashionable eyewear affordable for the widest audience possible, they strive to give the gift of sight to those in need. This unconventional yet admirable tactic took the company to new heights of credibility and notoriety, and they're not done yet. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-D7VPMgjv4
Wed, 5 June 2013
On this episode of The Unconventionals, host Mike O'Toole sits down with Intel's Creative Director, David Haroldsen to discuss The Creators Project: Intel's unique way connecting the future of chip technology with today's modern artist. This revolutionary partnership between Intel and VICE media allows visionary artists using technology in innovative ways to push the boundaries of creative expression. By doing so, Intel is able to gather insights from those who place unusually heavy demands on technology and, ultimately, generate new ideas for future capabilities for their chips. Enjoying the music in this episode? It's a special composition brought to you by The Creators Project and Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh9oyffQYd8
Thu, 10 January 2013
On this episode of The Unconventionals, host Mike O'Toole interviews Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Cottrill from Converse, about its innovative Brooklyn based recording studio - Rubber Tracks. For Converse, the sales of athletic shoes used to be very straightforward.Â Everyone wore Chuck Taylors. Over time the landscape for those shoes has become incredibly crowded, and looking at alternative ways to keep your brand top of mind is challenging. That's where Converse Rubber Tracks Studio comes into play. Rubber Tracks serves as a bridge between the Converse brand and young emerging bands, allowing them the opportunity to record their music in a high performance studio location - no cost and no strings attached.
Thu, 6 December 2012
In this fourth episode of the season, host Mike O'Toole talks to Shelby Clark, Founder and Chief Community Officer of RelayRides.Â Based in San Francisco, CA and founded in 2010, RelayRides is a peer-to-peer carsharing service. It allows private car-owners to rent out their vehicles on a short-term basis. RelayRides gets attention for an innovative idea that addresses a multi-billion dollar economic opportunity and greens cities with an alternative to car ownership. But it is also a small, rapidly growing business, and is balancing a big vision around collaborative commerce with the scrappy realities of building an unconventional business: making the rental transaction simple and safe, inventing new insurance products, and partnering with GM to scale nationally.
Tue, 13 November 2012
In our third show of the season, host Mike O'Toole talks to Michael Dubin, CEO, Dollar Shave Club. From a baby shaving a man's head to a machete-wielding CEO dancing with a leaf blower, Michael Dubin's Dollar Shave Club video has reached over 7.3 million views on YouTube.Â HisÂ no-nonsense, tell it like it is, "Our Blades Are F**king Great" approach helped this company go from an unknown startup to an overnight brand success story people can't get enough of.
Tue, 30 October 2012
In our second show of the season, host Mike O'Toole talks with Morgen Newman, VP, International Sales and Jeff Avallon, VP, Business Development of IdeaPaint. Based in Ashland, MA and founded in 2002, IdeaPaint gives people the opportunity to unleash their creative potential through innovative tools that re-imagine the spaces where they work, learn and play. A dry erase paint, IdeaPaint turns virtually any surface into an erasable canvas, giving its customers the space they need to collaborate, interact and fully explore their creativity. Join us as we learn how IdeaPaint markets and brands this cutting-edge paint technology both to businesses and consumers.
Tue, 16 October 2012
We're kicking off our first show with Carey Smith, CEO of Big Ass Fans, a company in Lexington, KY that makes, well, big ass industrial and residential fans. It's a company where unconventional goes much deeper than the name - how they manufacture, how they market, how they treat employees and how they see their future are all far from typical.