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30 minutes | Dec 21, 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.
39 minutes | Nov 16, 2017
IBM’s Watson: the Making of an AI Brand
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.
36 minutes | Oct 10, 2017
Who in the world are we? Ancestry and the DNA moment
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. Some of our favorite Unconventionals conversations are with companies that tap into culture and influence it in positive ways. In this episode, we talk with Ancestry, the brand who is right in the middle of this big cultural moment. Take a listen to this conversation with CMO Vineet Mehra and be sure to sign up for future updates from The Unconventionals.
35 minutes | Aug 23, 2017
Data, Secrets, and Human Performance: Why Professional Athletes Love the Whoop Strap
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.
17 minutes | Jun 26, 2017
The Crazies: How GE, Waze, and Big Ass Fans Enlist an Army of Advocates
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.
39 minutes | May 10, 2017
Peloton and the Fitness Experience That Won’t Quit
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.
36 minutes | Jan 11, 2017
Beer, Records, and Watches: What Can We Learn From the Revival of Craft?
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.
15 minutes | Nov 16, 2016
From Ann Arbor to Africa: Undergrads Team Up to Find a Sustainable Animal Protein
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.
28 minutes | Oct 12, 2016
Google and the Future of Health Care
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: How the Google Fit platform is giving us a more complete view of personal health by integrating data from our devices and apps How Google and Novartis are partnering to deliver a glucose-sensing contact lens to diabetics How Google Cardboard and modified Android phones are aiding the diagnosis and treatment of disease in the developing world
34 minutes | Sep 13, 2016
Breakthroughs Are Just the Beginning: How a 3D Bioprinting Pioneer Creates a Market
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.
37 minutes | Jul 20, 2016
The Shinola Story: Making a Modern Brand in Detroit
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.
36 minutes | Jun 22, 2016
GE and the Art of Brand Reinvention
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.
32 minutes | Jan 26, 2016
Rethink Robotics: The New Face of Industrial Robots
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.
37 minutes | Dec 20, 2015
Everlane: The Online Clothing Retailer With Nothing To Hide
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. You can also subscribe to The Unconventionals on iTunes and Stitcher. And be sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter as well.
38 minutes | Oct 19, 2015
Bridj: Driving a Better Commute with Pop-up Mass Transit
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.
44 minutes | Sep 16, 2015
From Faster Commutes To Better Communities, We’re All Working For Waze
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.
46 minutes | Aug 6, 2015
What’s Old is New: What We Can Learn From Vinyl’s Resurgence
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.
30 minutes | Jun 5, 2015
Open Airplane: Putting Private Aviation Back in the Air
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.
26 minutes | May 7, 2015
Rumi Spice: Soldiers Turned Entrepreneurs Fight Opium With Saffron
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. You can also subscribe to The Unconventionals on iTunes and Stitcher. And be sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter as well.
36 minutes | Jan 8, 2015
Small Is Beautiful: Why Heady Topper Probably Won’t Be Coming To A Store Near You
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. You can also subscribe to The Unconventionals on iTunes and Stitcher. And be sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter as well.
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