BA 850
Sustainability Driven Innovation

Brand Innovation


Brand Innovation


Think of a brand not as a static "thing" (and please, especially not a logo), but as a living, breathing persona which builds character, associations, and friends over time.

Compelling brands, like people, have a way of building this positive karma over time, and also, like people, attract those who share their interests or admire some quality in them. There are those people who you have a transactional relationship with, and those with which you proudly choose to associate. For a wide variety of reasons, from hiring top talent to corporate culture to long-term profitability, you want to be in that latter group.

Within innovating brands, the tactics can be virtually anything, and we may find an increase in brand equity (a la "karma") as a byproduct of virtually any positive innovation, and especially those which also happen in the sustainability space. In fact, it can be extremely difficult to separate what a brand stands for and its sustainability efforts, and I would argue that you shouldn't be able to.

From The Ten Types of Innovation:

"Brand innovations help to ensure that customers and users recognize, remember, and prefer your offerings to those of competitors or substitutes. Great ones distil a “promise” that attracts buyers and conveys a distinct identity. They are typically the result of carefully crafted strategies that are implemented across many touchpoints between your company and your customers, including communications, advertising, service interactions, channel environments, and employee and business partner conduct. Brand innovations can transform commodities into prized products, and confer meaning, intent, and value to your offerings and your enterprise.

Brand innovations include extensions that offer a new product or service under the umbrella of an existing brand. Alternatively, they might make a company stand for a big idea or a set of values, expressing those beliefs transparently and consistently. In business-to-business contexts, Brand innovations aren't limited to the final manufacturer or the consumer-facing producer of a product; branding your components and making customers aware of their value can build both preference and bargaining power."

Brand Innovation in the Sustainability Space

Shinola Watches

In the midst of Detroit's long bankruptcy, Shinola helped to reinvigorate a trade which has been long dormant in the United States: watchmaking.

The sustainability slant in this profile comes from the fact that Shinola did not just create a homebase in Detroit, it built full operations including marketing and operations, and, more importantly, had its watchmakers Swiss-trained in how to assemble watches. To say this is an investment in worker training would be an understatement, and you could consider that after receiving that training, you have a group of employees who are trained in a very valuable skilled trade, not just for Shinola, but for themselves.

Shinola is partially owned by Bedrock Manufacturing Company, LLC (co-founded by the founder of Fossil Watches) which also purchased storied outdoor outfitter Filson a few years ago, so we can certainly see that there is long-term strategy underlying the Shinola brand.

Please watch the following 3:06 video.

Video: A Visit To Shinola Detroit (3:06)

Credit: Hodinkee. "A Visit To Shinola Detroit." YouTube. May 7, 2013.
Click here for a transcript of the A Visit To Shinola Detroit video.

WILLIE HOLLEY: I've never heard of a watch manufacturer here in Detroit, let alone the United States. It's an honor to be a part that and to bring something like that to the city after all the little trials and tribulations that’s happened here. It's just amazing to bring jobs here to the city - especially, the city that I live in.

HEATH CARR: Well, we were talking about how we would create an American-made accessories brand with accessories that we were passionate about - one of those being watches and leather goods and bikes and journals. Detroit was a natural for us because of the manufacturing heritage here.

So we built a factory that we’re sitting in today that can manufacture 500,000 units a year. We had a partner in creating Shinola, which is Rhonda. They designed the factory and actually built all of the equipment. And it was all shipped from Switzerland.

JACQUES PANIS: The parts are brought in from Switzerland and are assembled right here in the facility in Detroit. Doing that in this country hasn’t been done in decades, so doing that, I think, is what really makes them very, very special.

DANIEL CAUDILL: The Shinola design is really about being simple. It's not about the bells and whistles. It's about great quality, beautiful materials, and simple design. A lot of detail underneath and on the inside, so the product that you buy today is something that you'll still want to wear ten years from now.

Obviously, there’s a huge movement right now in regards to American manufacturing. People want to know where their food is from, who's making their shoes, who’s making their bag. Shinola fits in that world.

HEATH CARR: Shinola for me and, I think, for the team here, is about a community of people who are focused on quality over quantity, and making an investment in a purchase of something that you'll have for a lifetime - whether that's a bike or a watch or a leather good. And we hope to convince folks that you can do this. You can make just about anything that you would dream up in the United States.

DANIEL CAUDILL: It really is about these people that we work with - from the people in the factory to the people in our bike factory to the designers - everyone coming together. This is a really big family.

JACQUES PANIS: People here are proud to be doing what they are doing. We all love this brand. This brand is something that has created blood, sweat, and tears among all of us.

WILLIE HOLLEY: Bringing a fresh new breed of manufacturing here to my city is a  - that’s a big deal. I am honored that Shinola, itself, is willing to take a chance here in the city.


In the case of the Seaqualizer, it is starting its brand's life in a fairly fortuitous place at the intersection of government, NGOs, and sportsmen, and was actually hatched as part of a WWF crowdsourcing competition.

From Millie Kerr's article, "The Seaqualizer Gives Doomed Fish a Fighting Chance":

Hoping to find innovative solutions to the problem, the World Wildlife Fund launched the International Smart Gear Competition in partnership with industry leaders, scientists, and fishermen. As sophisticated as the competition sounds, its solutions aren't being made in a James Bond-esque lab: According to WWF, most are being pioneered by the people closest to the problem—fishermen themselves.

One of the most innovative tools to come out the competition is the SeaQualizer. Created by two fishing buddies from South Florida, this hydrostatic descending device returns victims of bycatch to their native depths. Unlike fish caught in shallow lakes, many deep-water dwellers won't survive if you simply toss them back, because as they ascend toward the surface, changes in pressure wreak havoc on their internal organs. By the time you reel them in, they're experiencing barotrauma and will only pull through with assistance.

Fishermen historically helped bycatch recompress by venting, a process that involves puncturing the fish's swim bladder to release the gas that built up during ascension. It's as barbaric as it sounds and often leads to injury or death, but until around four years ago fishermen had no alternative—in some places, venting was even required by law.

Jeffrey Liedermen and Patrick Brown, the duo behind the SeaQualizer, had heard about an interesting alternative: descending devices that lower fish to appropriate depths—no stabbing required. But early descenders lacked precision. Some were crates fishermen manually lowered to the seafloor; others required the user to constantly tug on the line. Liedermen and Brown saw an opportunity and took to Brown's parents' garage to build a solution.

The Seaqualizer is so effective that its use has drawn endorsements from both the World Wildlife Fund and NOAA, which "reopened portions of the Pacific after testing the efficacy of descending devices in partnership with the Sportfishing Association of California and WWF."

While the product may have opened the door, the brand has a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the opportunity to become a responsible brand and a staple on boats worldwide. Perhaps, we will see a day not far in the future when day charter deep sea fishing tours will not only use this product, but proudly tout "We use SeaQualizer" on its materials.

Please note the first couple minutes of this NOAA video on the joint effort show fish with barotrauma, and so have bulging eyes and the occasional stomach swell. Just to be aware. Please watch the following 3:57 video.

Video: Recompression Devices: Helping Anglers Fish Smarter (3:57)

Credit: NOAA Fisheries. "Recompression Devices: Helping Anglers Fish Smarter." YouTube. June 13, 2014.
Click here for a transcript of the Recompression Devices: Helping Anglers Fish Smarter video.

On Screen Text: Too many fish released by recreational fishermen are dying. NOAA Fisheries, state agencies, recreational fishermen, and the Pacific Fishery Management Council have come together to address this problem.

[music, images of rockfish fishing]

On Screen Text: Recompression Devices  - Helping Anglers Fish Smarter

Pete Gray, Sport Fisherman and "Let's Talk HookUp" Radio Host: It's so important for us to care about the future of our resources. Nobody else is going to do it but the guys out there fishing.

Nick Wagner, NOAA Fisheries: The big problem with barotrauma is that these fish are at the surface and if you don't release them using one of these descending devices, they're going to die - they're going to get eaten by a bird or succumb to their injuries. Nobody wants to see that.

Jeffrey Liederman, Developer of the SeaQualizer: Barotrauma is the effects that are caused from bringing a fish up from deep water too fast. Most bottom fish have an air bladder to keep them buoyant and when you bring those fish up from the bottom, that air bladder expands, and it'll push his stomach out, his eyes will start bulging and once you release that fish at the surface he has so much gasses built up inside of his abdomen the fish can't swim back down.

Ken Franke, Sport Fishing Association of California: About a year ago, we were really impacted by a lot of closures out in California for rockfishing. When you catch a certain number of them statewide, the reaction is by the agency is to close the areas to fishing. So a number of private vendors developed devices called descending devices and said, "Hey, this is a cool device. That fish that you guys are so worried about, if you clip it onto this device and send it back down to the bottom, the device will release it free, and the fish will be alive and well."

Nick Wagner: There's several different types of recompression devices. They've all been invented mostly by the recreational fishing community who's concerned about this issue. And it's not necessarily that one device is better than the other, but they can be used in different circumstances and there's a lot of options for fishermen to choose from.

So, we're doing a tagging study offshore that looks at the survival of rockfish released using these recompression devices and our results so far show that 80 to 85 percent of the fish are living and that's a really big deal. So, even if you take a conservative estimate and say that 50 or 75 percent of the fish that you're releasing are not mortalities, are alive, that really changes the fish counts, the number of fish that are considered to die and that really affects how we manage our fisheries.

One of the things that we're doing and the purpose of today's trip is to test out the different devices, get the fishermen familiar with these devices and have them tell us how they think they're working and then share that with their friends.

Steve Lauriano, Recreation Fisherman: I didn't know anything about barotrauma before I came out here. I didn't know what was being done to get these fish back into the water safely so they can be released safely. I was very excited about that. It was nice to see the fishing guys - the boats, working with the scientists to come up with a solution for this problem so that we can all come out here for years to come and fish.

Ken Franke: The environmental groups brought these devices to us. The NOAA scientists volunteered as well as the Department of Fish and Wildlife in California to come and monitor the studies. The commercial passenger boats are bringing in the recreational fishermen, and we're working with the media to get the message out. It's kind of like one of those amazing stories that you just never hear. So we're pretty excited about it.

Nick Wagner: Everybody's a winner in this project, especially the fish. But the fishermen are happy because they're not wasting fish, they're releasing the fish that they don't want to keep. The fisheries managers are happy because it gives us more options potentially to manage the fishery, and environmentalists are happy because fish are not dying.