It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond

Charities partner with retailers and help us deal with spending guilt by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo cred: nixter

I was walking down Tryon the other day and I noticed that a Wachovia branch was promoting their holiday gift cards and its program with Toys for Tots.  So, for every card you buy, Wachovia donates $1 to the charity. (Full disclosure: I used to work for the bank, but I didn’t know anything about this program, so I’m speaking purely as a consumer here.)

I’ve seen (and participated in) lots of local events tied with toy donations within the last week (here, here, and here.)  It made me stop to think about why these toy donation tie-ins are so appealing to everyone (aside from the assumption that the Marines do a bang-up job of getting their mission out.)  Here’s a few reasons:

  • The concept is dead-simple.  Bring a toy, get in for free or at a discount.  Make a purchase, a portion goes to charity.
  • Joy is involved.  Taking 30 minutes to run out and pick up a toy for a child sure beats doing laundry.  Not to mention the joy in store for the recipient.
  • Your dollars get more valueThis NPR Marketplace story captures this concept well.  In tight economic times, it’s hard to justify making a purchase that seems unnecessary or making a straight donation at a register.  By doing it this way, then the money does double duty.

A lil’ something for the tots, and a lil’ something for me.  And good karma for the sponsoring brand.  Everyone wins.

(Given that this is a seasonal post, no promises that the event links will work forever.)

Black Friday Delighter by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo credit: highstrungloner

My love affair with Apple is no secret, and this probably doesn’t qualify as a delighter so much as an enabling process innovation, but while I was at home last week in NYC, I made a pit stop at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue.

Unfortunately, it was also Black Friday, and given that the product I needed was for myself and not a gift, I gasped when I saw the hundreds of shoppers as I walked down the grand spiral staircase.  The thought of waiting in an enormous line to pay for a little FM transmitter made me want to do without it for one more road trip.

But then I discovered that every store associate was a walking point of sale.  Each one was armed with what seemed like an iPhone on steroids, complete with bar code scanner and credit card slot.  They emailed a receipt to an address already tied to the credit card from a previous purchase and I was in and out in less than 5 minutes.

What a game-changer!  Apple banks a lot more sales per hour, they save their customers gobs of time, and they have a system that can be licensed to other retailers on a platform of products they already sell.  Genius.

Bolt Group and the Designers Accord by Nheeda Enriquez

boltAbout a month ago, Charlotte-based Bolt Group played host to the latest gathering of the Designers Accord, which Time magazine recently described as a “Kyoto Protocol of design” and is a coalition of design firms and companies who are looking to advance sustainability in their work by sharing best practices and successful case studies.

I met up with Monty Montague, Bolt’s principal, and he highlighted his firm’s efforts in helping their eco-friendly client Airdye build up their branding presence (and ultimately, customer base) using viral marketing techniques.  He talked about the unique challenges of addressing multiple audiences: contractors and designers in both the fashion and interior design industries.

Find a wrapup of the local event here and find Bolt’s own blog here.

2-minute mindmap – My love/hate relationship with Starbucks by Nheeda Enriquez
October 13, 2009, 1:03 am
Filed under: 2 min mindmap, branding, retail and restaurants | Tags: , ,

It’s been a while since I posted a mindmap, and although this doesn’t really count as one, I did take a little coffee break today and documented it.  Starbucks is one of those places we all love to hate, yet hate to admit we love.


click for larger version

Consumer-centric innovation never stops at Carolina Pad by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo credit karen_d

I recently met up with marketing gurus April Whitlock and Kathryn Thompson of Carolina Pad to see how this local producer of uber-cool school supplies stays on top of its game.

Carolina Pad’s impressive turnaround a few years ago is well documented, when they managed to reinvent a commodity business. Today, they continue to delight and engage their customers in new and interesting ways.

They’ve been soliciting new product ideas via Edison Nation and offering royalties on the winning entries.  (Hurry! The deadline’s been extended through Wednesday the 16th.) They’ve also done some clever things on twitter, facebook, and mom blogs, including  inviting users to send photos of their desks so they can see how their products hold up in the real world.

Most notably, they recently launched an eco-friendly line of notebooks called Sasquatch which allows them to extend their social stewardship, understanding that their most loyal fans have more personal connection with the things that they own.  They’ve even  established a non-profit for their popular kendall kollection, whose proceeds go towards leukemia research.

(I found the photo above in a flickr pool called “what’s in your bag?” where users document their belongings and why they’re in there.  This particular user had one of Carolina Pad’s Hot Chocolate notebooks.  I’ve used it as free market research.)

Tapping into an emotional need: a revenue-generating example in Charlotte Transit by Nheeda Enriquez
flickr photo credit: james willamor

flickr photo credit: james willamor

I attended a live taping of Charlotte Talks/WFAE Public Conversation and the topic, “Charlotte: On the way to Becoming…” stirred up wonderful dialogue about Charlotte’s future and quality of life through real estate, the environment, industry, and diversity.

The panelists shared rich, colorful examples to illustrate how a few short-sighted decisions can negatively affect the shape of the feel of a city.  But Mayor Pat McCrory also told a positive story about the brave effort to ensure the transit system (CATS and LYNX,) was always clean and free of advertising.  In doing so, they sacrificed a big revenue stream, but knew that people would feel safer if buses and light rail cars were clean and clearly branded.

The need “to feel safe” is emotional, and it’s not always obvious how that that manifests itself in a brand or solution.  And it was probably difficult to calculate the ROI for developing (or in this case, not developing) that feature.  In hindsight, however, it’s easy to see how the choice positively affects ridership in the long run.

Listen to the whole taping here.

¡Oye! Food Lion Latina is coming to Charlotte! by Nheeda Enriquez
logo via food lion

logo via food lion

Charlotte-based Food Lion recently revamped 19 of their stores as “Sabor Latino” (translation: Latin Flavor) as part of an innovative response to their changing demographics.

Consumer research in the field was an integral part of the scoping process, as Food Lion’s marketing manager Daniel Herrera said in a retail panel discussion last week.  The re-branded pilot is doing well and picked up on the many subtleties of the Hispanic shopper.  According to this article and the Food Marketing Institute, Hispanic households spend more time and money at the grocery store than the rest of us, and they shop more frequently to pick up fresh ingredients.

I haven’t seen any reviews or pictures of the new format since the converted stores are only in the Triangle area, but Charlotteans will get to enjoy their new grocery options in September.  I easily envision plenty of curious non-Hispanic customers finding wandering Sabor Latino aisles, since it might be intimidating for them to shop in non-English speaking ethnic stores.