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Move Over P&G and J&J: Now There’s Something a Little More “Quirky” in the Mix

Consumer Goods Growth & Innovation Forum Review — Part 1 of 3

The 2010 Consumer Goods Growth and Innovation Forum just concluded in South Beach on Friday with a big bang… including a spontaneous and refreshing F-bomb from an amazing new innovator. But, more on him in a moment.

This year’s conference, produced by CGT, had a theme of New Product Resurgence: Bringing Back the Consumer and Driving Growth. The conference presenters represented a who’s who list of consumer product giants, including Kraft, Mars, Colgate-Palmolive, and Kimberly-Clark. They covered a variety of topics on everything from Brand Management to Developing Leadership and Talent. The sessions and personal exchanges amongst the 50+ executive attendees were rich, engaging, and motivated towards sincere, helpful solutions based on real-life experiences.

One of the biggest highlights of the event was the presentation of the Innovation Awards. Some of the winners included the new Liquid Pencil made by Newell Rubbermaid, the new Jeans Diaper made by Kimberly-Clark, and the big, grand prize winner: MooBella Ice Creamery Machines. While all of the attendees were given a Liquid Pencil (I used mine to draft this blog post — thank goodness it erases!), we were disappointed that there were no MooBella samples to enjoy. (Hint, Hint for next year, Bruce!)

For me, the two presentations that stood out the most were Ben Kaufman, Founder and CEO of Quirky, on Group Think Tank, and Michael Becker of the Mobile Marketing Association on Reaching the Consumer Through Mobile Marketing because they demonstrated the true spirit of innovation, how quickly consumers are maturing, and how rapidly the products game is changing overall.

While Michael Becker’s presentation on Mobile Marketing left many furiously adding items to their marketing To Do List (more on him in Part 2 of this Forum Review), I must first share my enthusiasm for the presenter who left my jaw hanging open. Please allow me to introduce to Ben Kaufman:

  • Ben started his first company, Mophie, the day he graduated from high school.
  • Six months later, Mophie took home the Best of Show award in the innovation category at MacWorld with his invention: the Song Sling for the iPod Shuffle.
  • The next year at MacWorld, Kaufman felt like he had to top the previous year’s win, so he handed out pencils and notepads to attendees on the trade floor, asking them to come up with new product ideas for the iPod accessories. The crowd delivered with 120 unique ideas. The Mophie gang scanned them in, allowing over 30,000 people from around the world to collaborate to develop a brand new product in 72 hours: the Bevy.
  • Ben Kaufman was named the #1 Entrepreneur under 30 by Inc. Magazine in 2007.
  • Mophie got acquired around the same time and Ben immediately started his next company, Kluster, to develop the technology platform to gather direct consumer feedback from around the world.
  • Based on Kluster’s technology, he then founded his current passion: Quirky. Ben wanted to share the thrill of taking a product to market with the world. So every week, ideas are submitted online, the community votes, submits product names, comes up with a logo, and by Friday afternoon a new product is born. Everyone who participates in the process shares in the profit. Killer, huh?
  • Oh, and did I mention he’s is only 23. He’ll turn 24 next month. Happy Birthday, Ben!

Kaufman’s keynote presentation covered much of his personal history, which, in itself, is completely inspiring and fascinating. But he had some terrific lessons learned to share with the legendary experts in the room, especially as it relates to innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit. Quirky and Kaufman have tapped into the inventor in all of us. Consumer goods companies can certainly learn a lot about the products consumers want to buy from focus groups and customer satisfaction surveys. But the times… they are a changin’. And I believe that innovators like Kaufman are leading the way on how to do this in a new “quirky” way. (Oh, and yes, Ben was the one who dropped the F-bomb during his presentation. It was classic!)

Part 2: When Is a Phone No Longer a Phone? When It’s a Way to Connect with Your Target Market!

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Carrie Nauyalis
Written By

Carrie Nauyalis brings her passion, experience, and thought leadership in the product portfolio management industry to her current role as Executive in Residence at Planview. As an EIR, Carrie is collaborating on market research and sharing best practices with Planview prospects and customers. She is an active speaker, MBA guest lecturer, blogger, and vlogger on all things PPM, with warm places in her heart for innovation, calculating ROI, and agile. Carrie spent 19 years with Planview in various positions, including global consulting, product management, and as the solution evangelist for innovation and new product development. Prior to Planview, Carrie held multiple systems engineering positions with Emerson Process. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Truman State.