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

A quick visit to a recent past: Part 3 by Nheeda Enriquez

I’m off traveling for a week, so I wanted to take this opportunity to revisit three “timeless” posts on broader innovation topics.  The third is about how we might tackle an unusual constraint and make it work for us.



Innovating restaurant menus
May 13, 2009

courtesy of cleveland.comphoto via

Contrary to popular belief, innovation actually loves extreme constraint.  This economic downturn is an example of one, and many new companies were borne out of a recession.  New business owners find compelling needs to fill, and they recognize that they must survive or die in challenging times.  Starutps learn to fail and adjust quickly, adapting in ways that may not have been considered before.

New regulations are another type of constraint that force companies to innovate (whether or not they agree with it.)  I’m in NYC this week, and I am reminded of a law instituted last year mandating restaurants to post the number of calories of each of their menu items.   I’ve heard anecdotes of some restaurants changing recipes in order to keep the interest of customers with their newfound awareness of caloric content.

It also reminds me of a story I heard about Charlotte’s own Ratcliffe on the Green delivering more value to attract customers that now carry lighter wallets.  Instead of sacrificing on the quality of their local ingredients, they’ve switched to a Brasserie-style menu, an interesting paradigm-shift that I hope to taste soon.

2-minute mindmap: Consumption Smoothing by Nheeda Enriquez

I’m just now catching up on some back podcasts on Business Week, and I caught a curious phrase from an cover story from a few weeks ago that I hadn’t heard in a while: Consumption Smoothing.  It’s a strategy rooted in retirement planning, where you try to balance saving and spending behaviors over a lifetime so that when retirement comes, you can enjoy a lifestyle that’s on par with what you’ve averaged over the majority of your working years.

In the spirit of the 2 minute mindmap, I played with the notion of how this concept could apply in lots of different places that we consume.


click for full mindmap

Taking your own medicine: Creativity in Advertising by Nheeda Enriquez

I was flipping through the Charlotte Business Journal a few weeks ago this ad struck me.

[ click for larger ] photos credits: Lee Stewart, Charlotte BizJournal

click for larger

I stopped partly because it contrasted the busier, text-heavy ads, but also for its tagline.  No one questions the spending power of the boomer generation and its impact on our economy.  But so many advertising dollars are spent on the young, so I contacted Lee Stewart to learn more about his company’s unique positioning.

“It’s easier for a boomer to understand a 25-year old than it is for a 25-year old to understand a boomer” he said.  He reflected on the advertising heydey of the Madmen-era, and the cleverness of Volkwagen’s 60’s campaigns.  Stewart suggested that today’s ads are geared towards shock value and may insult the intelligence and value set of the Boomer market.

Career accomplishments aside, I was equally impressed that Lee Stewart practices what he preaches.  Contrary to instinct, a down market is when advertising sees greater penetration.  Follow up ads in this series will run in July and September.

Another example of marketing innovation in a recession by Nheeda Enriquez
screenshot courtesy of

screenshot courtesy of

I’m a litte surprised at the number of examples I find that relate to either food or recession-marketing.  Perhaps it’s simply a sign of what’s on my mind nowadays.  In any case, here’s another one:  Just launched Friday, this collective of independent, local restaurants are pooling their shrinking advertising budgets in an effort to drive patrons into their doors.