Sportsneakers: Performance Shoes Trip Up

Quartz: “As sneakers have grown into the everyday footwear of choice—even in the office—for millions of Americans, performance shoes have been pushed aside by styles that co-opt their looks and comfort but shed their athletic intent … In 2017, sales of performance shoes dropped 10% to $7.4 billion, while sales of sport leisure sneakers grew 17%, reaching $9.6 billion.”

“Some brands have capitalized better than others. While Nike is by far still the king of the US sneaker market, Adidas has made significant gains in the US by delivering the fashionable, athletic-inspired shoes shoppers want. Nike has a deep roster of these styles, but its newer shoes, such as the Epic React Flyknit, still emphasize performance.”

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Purchase Brands vs. Usage Brands

Harvard Business Review: “Where traditional brands focus on positioning their brands in the minds of their customers, digital brands focus on positioning their brands in the lives of their customers. Furthermore, they engage customers more as users than as buyers, shifting their investments from pre-purchase promotion and sales to post-purchase renewal and advocacy.”

“Purchase brands focus on creating demand to buy the product, while usage brands focus on creating demand for the use of the product … Purchase brands emphasize promotion; usage brands emphasize advocacy … Purchase brands worry about what they say to customers; usage brands worry about what customers say to each other … Purchase brands try to shape what people think about the brand along the path to purchase; usage brands influence how people experience the brand at every touchpoint.”

“The simple view would be that traditional brands are purchase brands and digital brands are usage brands. But there are exceptions, including brands like Visa, FedEx, Lego, and Costco, which exhibit many of the characteristics of usage brands … They think of customers less as one-time buyers and more as users or members with an ongoing relationship … Purchase brands focus on the ‘moments of truth’ that happen before the transaction, such as researching, shopping, and buying the product. By contrast, usage brands focus on the moments of truth that happen after the transaction, whether in delivery, service, education, or sharing.”

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My Esel: Bespoke Design in Wood

Bike Rumor: “We’ve seen plenty of bike frames made out of wood over the past few years, but few have taken advantage of the material’s workability to add more customization into the frame building process. My Esel takes that issue head on … For each bike that they produce, My Esel uses a configuration tool that lets buyers enter their exact body measurements and desired riding position, to scale the frame fit specifically to them, before it is produced through a CNC manufacturing process tailored to each buyer.”

“The key to that customization has been developing a parametric design software that lets My Esel plug in all of the key measurements of a rider’s body and translate that into a scalable frame layout part of which is then produced on a CNC mill … The software also adjust to three primary riding styles Sport/Racing, Urban/Trekking, or Comfort/Holland … so you not only get a bike the right size for you put with a position adjusted to your intended style of riding.”

“The bikes get customizable finish too. The frames are built from ash veneer hardwood plywood and can get four layers of clearcoat to show the grain, with black or white painted finishes optional as well. A walnut veneer is apparently available as an upgrade, as is a dark black stain of the standard ash.”

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Instant-Pot Anxiety: A Culinary Conundrum

The Wall Street Journal: “The Instant Pot—billed as an all-in-one device that sautés, steams, slow-cooks, pressure-cooks and makes yogurt, rice, cakes and preserves—was one of the biggest sellers of the holiday season, buoyed by enthusiasts known among themselves as PotHeads … Missing from the enclosed manual and recipe book is how to fix Instant Pot anxiety.”

“Debbie Rochester, an elementary-school teacher in Atlanta, bought an Instant Pot months ago but returned it unopened. It was too scary, too complicated,’ she says. ‘The front of the thing has so many buttons’ … Double Insight Inc., the company that makes Instant Pot, says common mishaps include overfilling the machine or releasing the pressure too quickly when cooking foods that expand. Instant Pot has 10 safety mechanisms to protect users, the company says.”

“On a chilly January day, Sharon Gebauer of San Diego set out to make beef and barley soup. ‘I filled it up, started it pressure cooking, and then I started to think, what happens when the barley expands?’ she says. ‘I just said a prayer and stayed the hell away.’ When Ms. Gebauer turned the quick-release valve, soup shot across her kitchen, hitting the cupboards, curtains and window. The mishap persuaded Ms. Gebauer to return her Instant Pot. ‘I’m retired,’ she says. ‘A pressure cooker cooks it fast, but what’s my hurry?'”

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Retail Theater: The Shellfish Spa

Supermarket News: “Retailers say making the shopping trip an experience is one way they can drive traffic into their stores. And a little theater in the seafood department is actually helping to drive sales, according to one Northeast retailer, Shoprite, which has added the Shellfish Spa. The device preserves live product such as clams, oysters, mussels, steamers and cockles while presenting them in an eye-catching display. The container bathes shellfish in a continuous stream of saltwater and maintains an ocean-like environment for peak freshness.”

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Jen Yee: The Architecture of Dessert

The New York Times: Jen Yee “who oversees pastry for all the restaurants in the Resurgens Hospitality Group, used to be an architect, and she designs desserts the way she once did building interiors: meticulously sketching every element, testing many prototypes. And these days she has plenty of company: Many of the country’s top pastry chefs have practiced or studied architecture.”

“Tired of having to abide by mundane building codes and regulations, and wanting something more creative, she began studying pastry in 2002 at Le Cordon Bleu in London, while working as a pastry assistant at the Connaught hotel for the chefs Gordon Ramsay and Angela Hartnett. She found that her architectural training applied in the pastry kitchen as well.”

She comments: “Being an architect is not all about the structure. It’s about the intent. How will this improve someone’s life? Desserts are also about thoughtfulness. What are the ways I can manipulate this apple? What will highlight what’s grown here? It’s about looking at your environment and seeing what will be functional and beautiful in that space.”

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Schmidt’s Toothpaste: For Fresh, Charcoal-y Breath

Fast Company: “Unilever recently acquired Schmidt’s Naturals for its millennial-friendly natural deodorants, and now the Portland-based startup is taking on another bathroom shelf staple: Toothpaste … Much like the company’s popular deodorant line, which comes in unconventional scents like rose vanilla and lavender sage, the toothpaste collection reimagines the flavors we swish and spit. Think activated charcoal with mint, vanilla chai, and coconut with lime in bright, modern tubes that starkly differ from more hippie-esque natural brands.”

“Schmidt’s Naturals cofounder and CEO Michael Cammarata tells Fast Company he saw a ripe opportunity to translate modern consumer scent preferences for personal care products. While customers adamantly want oral care that leaves them feeling fresh, the company’s research found that could also extend into citrus and floral flavors.”

“It remains to be seen whether consumers will be drawn to the product for its main selling point: Health. Schmidt’s Naturals is free of potentially harmful ingredients, and its packaging proudly touts vitamin and superfood extracts … Cammarata is confident that the health-conscious tide is growing, and with that, so will society’s view of what they put on and in their body. Indeed, a recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that consumer complaints of adverse health events related to personal care products more than doubled last year.”

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Should iPhone ‘Addiction’ Be ‘Cured’?

Farhad Manjoo: “Tech ‘addiction’ is a topic of rising national concern. I put the A-word in quotes because the precise pull that our phones exert over us isn’t the same as that of drugs or alcohol. The issue isn’t really new, either; researchers who study how we use digital technology have for years been warning of its potential negative effects on our cognition, psyche and well-being.”

“With a single update to its operating system and its app store, Apple could curb some of the worst excesses in how apps monitor and notify you to keep you hooked (as it has done, for instance, by allowing ad blockers in its mobile devices). And because other smartphone makers tend to copy Apple’s best inventions, whatever it did to curb our dependence on our phones would be widely emulated … For starters, Apple could give people a lot more feedback about how they’re using their devices. Imagine if, once a week, your phone gave you a report on how you spent your time, similar to how your activity tracker tells you how sedentary you were last week.”

“Another idea is to let you impose more fine-grained controls over notifications. Today, when you let an app send you mobile alerts, it’s usually an all-or-nothing proposition — you say yes to letting it buzz you, and suddenly it’s buzzing you all the time … Done right, a full-fledged campaign pushing the benefits of a more deliberative approach to tech wouldn’t come off as self-interest, but in keeping with Apple’s best vision of itself — as a company that looks out for the interests of humanity in an otherwise cold and sometimes inhumane industry.”

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When is a Car a Tiger Crossed With an Iguana?

The New York Times: “When Volkswagen developed a smallish S.U.V. to meet the segment’s growing demand, it faced a challenge: The truck had no name … VW sought the public’s input — a tricky proposition. Its unorthodox approach included a poll, which produced a stunning response. About 350,000 readers of the German magazine Auto Bild cast votes. Among the names on the ballot: Namib, Rockton, Samun and Nanuk. The winner was Tiguan, a mélange of ‘tiger’ and ‘iguana.’ Sexy? Perhaps not. But it stuck, and the Tiguan has stuck around.”

“In 2003, the Canadian division of General Motors was about to introduce a Buick model it had christened the LaCrosse. It became apparent shortly before launch that in Québécois youth culture, LaCrosse is slang for masturbation. The name was changed.”

“When it comes to signing the deal on the showroom floor, however, the car name isn’t necessarily what pushes the buyer’s buttons.” Branding consultant Robert Pyrah comments: “The product has to be king. At the end of the day, I tell clients that as long as the name isn’t bad, you can get away with most things.”

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