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mleeInnovation is the order of the day at Chobani Greek Yogurt. It virtually created a huge CPG business and now has top market share. In late June it mixed innovation in product and design with the launch of 14 new flavors based on a combination of fan requests and an exploration of new ingredients Chobani will encourage fans to tune into social channels for a Month of Flavor. Consumers can check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every day in July to guess #WTFlavor will be featured next. The first consumers to correctly guess the flavor of the day on Instagram and Twitter will be rewarded with a free case of the new assortment.

An essential part of the team is Mike Lee, Innovation and New Ventures Manager at Chobani, where he works to design the future of the company’s products and businesses. His work digging deep into consumer behavior, and taking inspirations from innovations both in and outside of the food world. He was named as part of the Class of 2013 for Brand Innovator’s 40 Under 40. His predictions on the future trends of 2013 reflect his dual focus of product and marketing.

Product Focus: The social web has made it virtually impossible for brands to hide sub-par quality. People can’t be fooled in the long term with clever marketing tactics and buzz; the product will always win. The customer is worldly, informed, and has so many vehicles to expose something that isn’t great. The most sustainable way to deal with this is to revisit how your brand creates its products and services and make sure you’re spending every dollar possible to put the best thing out there.

Working Culture: Your brand’s products and services are only as good as the people who made them. Everyone knows ideas are cheap and execution is everything. But the trick to execution is having the right culture—one that is designed for rapid, yet quality, work and one that is self-sustaining, not ruled from a stifling matrix or management edict.

Design Thinking: It’s one thing for brands to tout that they do this, but it’s another to actually do it every day. To me, the core of design thinking is going to great lengths to understand the problem, customer, and context of the situation. That’s 80% of the battle, then the rest is knowing how to cross pollinate and distill ideas into a solution. Both are extremely difficult to sustain in most brands, but it can yield amazing results.

Open Innovation: Brands focus so much on internal collaboration—which is great—but a bigger focus will need to be paid to how brands partner with other innovative entities (not just their agencies) to get awesome things done. Long gone is the time when we’d sit in our labs and work in isolation to release something into the world. Now, we need to admit to ourselves that the best ideas for our brands may not come from inside our organization or even from inside our industry.


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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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