BA 850
Sustainability Driven Innovation

Customer Engagement


Customer Engagement


Customer Engagement is another type of innovation which can be quite far-reaching strategically and overlap with many other innovations. From driving relationships between customers by creating sharing communities to creating engaging store atmospherics that make shopping a more active experience, Customer Engagement innovation takes many forms.

Themes which you may tend to see within Customer Engagement are authenticity and knowledge. Authenticity is a highly desired, but somewhat scarce, resource for any organization, and having authentic interactions with customers can be valuable to the brand and the business. Knowledge can also be a core ingredient in these interactions, as those most valuable customer engagements tend to involve the exchange of information or ideas... and don't be surprised if the organization is on the receiving end of knowledge from customers, in many cases.

From The Ten Types of Innovation:

Customer Engagement innovations are all about understanding the deep-seated aspirations of customers and users, and using those insights to develop meaningful connections between them and your company. Great Customer Engagement innovations provide broad avenues for exploration, and help people find ways to make parts of their lives more memorable, fulfilling, delightful–even magical.

Increasingly, we see these innovations taking place in the social media space, as many companies move away from “broadcast” communications toward delivering more organic, authentic, and mutual interactions. We also see companies using technology to deliver graceful simplicity in incredibly complex areas, making life easier for customers and becoming trusted partners in the process. However, as ever, technology is only a tool. Even simple gestures like elegant and intuitive packaging can extend and elevate the experience customers have with a company— long after the point of purchase.

Customer Engagement in the Sustainability Space

MIT Trash | Track

Created from a joint initiative between MIT, Waste Management, Qualcomm, Sprint, and The Architectural League NY, Trash | Track sought to understand and visualize the paths 3000 items took from Seattle to their final destinations. The results have been used in classrooms and as conversation starters on hundreds, if not thousands of sites over the years, engaging people in discussions which may have never had a topic statement or stimulus in the past. The Trash | Track project certainly delivered in that aspect.

Where the Trash | Track project may have stopped short was in understanding the paths and the implications of those travels or pushing the discussion further... in essence, taking the next step to understand what can be improved in what they call the "removal chain" and undergoing, quite literally, the accounting of those items. For example, are there closer accumulation points for e-waste than Florida? When accounting for its travels cross country, is e-cycling that item still an intelligent decision? Please watch the following 2:18 video. Note that there is no narration in the following video.

Video: Trash | Track (2:18)

Credit: MIT Senseable City Lab. "Trash | Track." YouTube. January 22, 2011.
Click here for a transcript of the Trash | Track video.

[Garbage rustling]

Nobody wonders where, each day, they carry their load of refuse.

Outside the city, surely; but each year the city expands, and the street cleaners have to fall farther back.

[machines droning]

"The bulk of the outflow increases and the piles rise higher, become stratified, extend over a wider perimeter." ~ Italo Calvino, invisible cities.

[lively orchestra music begins]

Imagine we could use smart tags to follow where our garbage goes...

We could reveal the final destinations of our everyday objects and increase awareness of sustainable practices.

Trash Tag Ver 2.0

Trash tag Ver 3.0 – Qualcomm InGeo

We invited 500 people in Seattle to tag their trash and followed a total of 3000 trash objects.

The day of deployment

After 2 days

* map showing trash travelling across the united states.

After 3 days, 4 days, 5 days, 6 days, 7 days,

After a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, a month

After 2 months

[upbeat orchestral music continues]


[music ends]

Cheng Concrete Exchange

Fu-Tung Cheng has been a renowned architect in Berkeley, California for decades, and had been using concrete countertops in his designs for years. In 2004, he built on his architectural and design experiences with concrete to create Cheng Concrete in 2004, a combined training/product company for concrete countertops. In doing so, his core model was one that would serve contractors, designers, and DIY equally by making the necessary components and most importantly, knowledge, well-packaged and available to the masses.

Instead of relying on private-labeled, pallet-sized shipments of specialized concrete mix (which would have been a nightmare on multiple fronts), Cheng Concrete packages and ships only the colorants and added components necessary to add to your locally-sourced concrete. Combined with the knowledge support of others, you will have a countertop or surface which will outlive your kitchen, if not your home, but is readily recyclable locally.

Where Cheng Concrete engaged customers was not only in opening this emerging interior material to the masses of homeowners, but also in highlighting designs and how they are created, both online and in print. If you search "concrete counter" on YouTube, you have more than 43,000 results, and much of this popularity is due to Fu-Tung Cheng's engagement of homeowners more than a decade ago. Please watch the following 4:10 video.

Video: Make a Concrete Barbecue Surround with CHENG Outdoor Concrete Mix (4:10)

Credit: Concrete Exchange. "Make a Concrete Barbecue Surround with CHENG Outdoor Concrete Mix." YouTube. March 28, 2013.
Click here for a transcript of the Make a Concrete Barbecue Surround with CHENG Outdoor Concrete Mix video.

In this video we're going to show you how to make the silo BBQ surround. It's easy to make because you're just taking one small curved section and repeating it four times. You stack them and, voila, you have something that’s permanent and really compliments the iconic American barbecue.

Hey! I'm Eric! Welcome to the Cheng fabrication shop. Here’s what you're gonna need for the silo barbecue surround: the form; decorative aggregate; Cheng outdoor pro formula; Sakrete five thousand-plus; clean water; rubber gloves; particle mask; safety glasses.

Step 1: mix the concrete. Step 2: pour the concrete.

We have a finished silo mold here. We're ready to pour. We can't get the concrete in between the form wall and the liner. Now we got it about halfway filled up. We’re getting the air bubbles out. Now that we're close to the top we're going to rod again. We're going to let that set up for a little bit and we're going to trowel in some decorative aggregates for the finished top.

Step 3: add decorative aggregate.

It’s been 15 to 20 minutes, and we’re all ready to add some decorative aggregates into the top. Just kind of sprinkle them. You want them to fall in sort of a natural pattern, and you probably won't see them all by the time we're done with it, so we’re going to add a little bit more than you think you're gonna want to see. Then we're going to take our trowel and kind of smooth them out. Then if the concrete covers them up a little bit it’s not a not a big deal because the idea here is we're going to come back and polish this, which will expose the aggregates just under that surface.

So now we're done pouring the silo mold, we're going to actually cover this with plastic and let it sit for three days.

Step 4: De-mold the concrete.

Basically just this front board is all we need to take off. After we do that we're going to actually turn it on its side so we can take the bottom off first. And then we're going to separate the two halves. And that’s it!

I've been working around concrete for about 25 years as a professional. I’ve worked in design and I’ve worked in fabrication but I started my career as a DIYer. Since then I've had many opportunities to expand the creative potential of concrete. My new product, Chang outdoor concrete formula, does just that. This unique formula transforms ordinary concrete into high quality designer concrete. It provides color for your project. It provides crack resistance. It holds up in extreme weather. And the creative possibilities are endless. Enjoy!