Thursday, March 10, 2005

You know why hotel shams are multi-colored?

To disguise the stains. Nice, huh?

Luckily, we have people like Barry Sternlicht of Starwood to bring us the wondrous Heavenly Bed. This week, while at the Innovations in Marketing Strategy in SF, Scott Williams, Starwood's Chief Creative Officer, enlighted me with a talk on the Bed Wars and Innovation and Design in a commodity market.

Hotels...all the same, right? We typically choose hotels because of cost (cheap!!!), preferred status (points!!!) or location (the conference is there!!!). Then Barry came along and said, "Hey, I sleep in a nice bed, why can't all of our guests?" And voila, the Heavenly Bed was created: white comforters; high threadcount sheets and big, fluffy pillows. Now when you walk into a Westin, you think: clean, comfortable, HOME!!! Marriott and others quickly said "me too" and the bed wars were launched. Not to be complacent, Starwood asked themselves where else can they look to innovate (with a strong leaning towards design). Answer: Heavenly shower...with a curved shower curtain, protecting raised elbows from touching icky curtains; Heavenly your child doesn't have to sleep through a Romanian orphanage experience; and Heavenly Dog 27 million travelers with pets can pamper Fido. it's checkout time and as you close the door you give a fleeting look to your newfound flame. You mention it offhandedly at checkout, "boy, I would sure love to have one of those beds in my home." Well guess CAN! The Heavenly Store sold over 5,000 beds last year. You can buy the whole damn Heavenly line if you desire!

Scott's message: innovation and design are hand-in-hand partners now. We can't escape it. His favorite design and innovation trendsetters: Starbucks, Apple (each new product release = AWESOME!) and Masterlock (a nice segue where we learn that new products positioned Masterlock as a security company, not a lock company, radically altering the size of their potential market from $300MM to Billions). We can have cool, nice things for low prices too...think Target. Design doesn't have to mean expensive.

So, if you are locked into a commodity business with a product that hasn't changed in better start innovating/designing now, cause your competitor is gonna sooner or later.

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