CF Desk: Fast Co. Innovation Festival
December 9, 2015
I’ve always said, if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. It is a top priority for me to seek out new experiences to bring back inspiration for my wonderful team at FAULHABER. My recent venture to New York City for the 5 day Fast Company Innovation Festival 2015 did not disappoint.
The festival is designed to bring extraordinary personalities together for surprising talks, hands-on workshops, unexpected performances and behind-the-scenes tours designed to inspire creativity and innovation. Among the vast list of highly revered speakers were Gwyneth Paltrow, Serena Williams, Angela Ahrendts and Ava DuVernay.
The festival’s first talk was by Editor in Chief of Yahoo, Joe Zee.
Joe introduced the concept of the “slash generation.” Something I notice more and more via the latest crop of Faulhaber interns. Millennials no longer want a one-dimensional role; they want to take on multiple jobs, responsibilities and titles. For example, they want to be an account person, slash photographer, slash social media manager. They see being siloed as extremely limiting in their future career growth. Joe noted, and I strongly agree, that today’s goal should be to hire good people that fit your vision and culture, and figure out their title later.
Core values are critical. You always want to be thinking, ‘are we true to our brand, do I care about this? Is this interesting? Why is this good?’ At FAULHABER, we always want to link back to our brand value. If everything you did was driven around those brand mantras and goals, you’re going to slide into the finish line much faster. Leaders need to take an introspective approach to their leadership methods while still adhering strongly to their core values.
Katia Beauchamp, Co-Founder/CEO of Birchbox, took an innovative approach to her business. Birchbox, a New York City-based online monthly subscription service that sends boxes containing selected and curated make-up and beauty products to its subscribers, targets the masses rather than the top tier by prioritizing the bottom 80 per cent of consumers. Rather than aiming for a demographic that only wants the most high-end and pricy products, they cater to consumers who are willing to sacrifice perceived quality for cost savings.
Their goal is to move beyond the traditional retailer-vendor relationship and allow their customers to ‘make friends’ with the company. To do so, they put emphasis on connecting with their staff and making them feel valued. This sense of value then directly translates to the consumer through their interaction with the company. At FAULHABER, we work to build ambassadors for both our agency brand and our clients’ brand with our employees who enable organic credibility and trust between all parties; I truly enjoyed hearing Katia speak on a subject that is so important to me and my own business.
On the flip side of that coin, companies such as L’Oreal strive to inspire consumers to buy the best possible products that exist for their needs. They are refining and evolving technology to include initiatives that a decade ago seemed impossible to imagine. Guive Balooch, L’Oreal’s Global Vice President of Technology Incubator, believes it is important to only bring things to the market that bring value to people’s lives.
Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores at Apple, was EPIC. She discussed how she shares her vision with her staff on a weekly basis. She uses a three minute video to add a personal touch to her communications and to provide relatable insights on how to evolve the business. I have made it now a point to connect with my key people several times a week, even if it is just for a quick phone call to touch base.
In her talk, Leadership and Culture, Angela shared insight into the future of consumerism. She believes we need to start looking at what the future will look like from a perspective of human capital and physical property. She recently grappled with the question of how to draw young people, who generally want nothing to do with human interaction, into a physical space.
Her solution was a concept that focused on creating retail spaces centered on consumers’ passion points. With the use of photography, games, travel and many other avenues, the idea is to take peoples’ hobbies, passions and interests and use them to build a relationship between consumers and Apple products.
Also while in NYC, I was given the privilege of visiting Refinery 29, a dynamic media platform that caters to millennials. One of the most prominent ideas discussed at Refinery 29 was that broadcast and digital are merging. The idea was that content should be created to merge with consumer social media usage. Using an eight touch-point system that streamlines at least eight different times across multiple social platforms, Refinery 29 is shaping the use of broadcast in the digital world.
Ava DuVernay, Director of OWN TV, shared some very inspiring thoughts. She stressed the importance of having the mindset that we must learn to accept all of our faults and move past them. Sometimes we must ‘take the walk around it and see what's behind, and find a new way.’
She inspired the crowd by recalling a moment of failure in her career and how she recovered from it. When working on the Oprah show, a problem had her at her wit’s end and she turned to Oprah for support. Oprah offered the insight that ‘problems happen for you not to you.’ She suggested that the way to deal with problems is to become inspired by them, viewing them as an opportunity to grow, rather than troubled by them.
One of the most awe-inspiring talks was given by Gwyneth Paltow, Founder of GOOP and Lisa Gersh, CEO of GOOP. They stressed the importance of managing your workload to maintain a healthy balance. GOOP staff are constantly reviewing their KPIs, and priorities are managed to focus on the importance of every task. The best quote I took away: ‘take ten priorities, and remove seven.’
If there was one speaker who was no stranger to pressure, it was professional tennis player, Serena Williams. For her talk, she teamed up Mark Parker, CEO of Nike to discuss the idea of striving for success and maintaining a brand.
‘Pressure is a privilege,’ Williams said. People are inspired by their own potential. When people are at the top, they don't want to go back down.
Facebook’s, Carolyn Everson, VP of Global Marketing Solutions offered amazing insight into the social media market. She coined the phrase ‘thumb stopping content.’
Consumers want marketing to be relevant and add value to their lives. They want empathy, personification and personalization. The digital world is now able to deliver the message and pinpoint the user. Content has to attract the attention of the user and captivate them within the first three seconds in order to interest them in reading the content or play the video with sound. She noted that subtitles and images are important since most people have the sound off when scrolling through digital content.
Based on 47 variables including hobbies and preferences, Facebook can decide which of 1,000 versions of an advertisement a user will be exposed to. This helps to maintain a connection with the product and build a genuine interest. For example, if a user who likes kayaking sees an automobile add on Facebook, they will see a version where there’s a kayak on the car’s roof.
Carolyn predicts that consumers will experience an explosion of visual communication in the coming years. She predicts that this holiday season will be the first ‘mobile holiday’ in history in the sense that consumers will do more of their holiday shopping wirelessly than they do in stores.
The Fast Company Innovation Festival provided wonderful insights into the outcomes of the rising demand of consumerism and a new digital age.
If there’s one thing I learned at Innovation Festival, it’s that there is no more ‘social media.’ It’s just media. - CF