SpotMini Learns to Dance and Atlas Does Parkour

In an article posted on this blog earlier a few weeks ago, the focus was on the simplicity of innovation. Sure, innovation can often be smooth and simple, such as extending a brand line, or simplifying packaging and pricing. But, what really grabs consumers’ attention is the more imagination-capturing innovation involving high-tech products such as drones, self-driving cars, and of course – robots!

Welcome back our friends SpotMini and Atlas from Boston Dynamics. They’ve both learned new tricks and are excited to show us their accomplishments: dancing and parkour!

While the videos are not typical robot behavior, they do show how robots can be programmed and even autonomously learn new behavior such as jumping over obstacles. While to date, all of its robots have been built individually, Boston Dynamics plans to manufacture hundreds of SpotMinis next year. But, unfortunately for consumers, the robots won’t be sold in the consumer market. The likely industrial markets include construction, commercial security, municipal security, and entertainment.

In the meantime, watch the videos and enjoy the show. (But be warned. Seeing a robot dog twerk can cause lasting damage…)

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the principles of innovation.
  2. First, show Spot mini dancing to Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk”: https://youtu.be/kHBcVlqpvZ8
  3. Next, show Atlas doing parkour: https://youtu.be/hSjKoEva5bg
  4. Finally, this video is an interview with Boston Dynamics about how its videos became YouTube viral sensations: https://video.wired.com/watch/the-story-behind-the-internet-s-favorite-robots
  5. Discuss business-to-business marketing.
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team define an industry that SpotMini or Atlas could be sold to.

Source:  Wired, Boston Dynamics

 

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Target Launches New Brand – “Smartly”

Not all innovation requires high-tech. Sure, shiny robots, drones, talking home pods, and self-driving cars get a lot of coverage in the innovation spot light. But there is plenty of innovation around in even the simplest of household items. The key is to make sure the innovation meets the needs of the customers.

A very simple new product line innovated and launched by Target this fall is called ‘Smartly’. Smartly is a new, low-price brand with more than 70 items priced below $2.00. That’s right. Two dollars. The products include household cleaners, razors, hand soap, paper plates, and toilet paper.

And it’s not just a low price point. Most of the products are sold as single-items, or in small multi-packs. This is ideal for space- and budget-conscious consumers, such as students and young apartment dwellers starting their first jobs.

Going along with the reduced packaging, prices are roughly 70% lower than traditional brands such as Tide, Gillette, and Charmin. And, the Smartly line even undercuts Target’s own Up & Up brand by about 50%.

Simple innovation can equal smart innovation.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the importance of clearly defining a target market.
  2. Explain the use of a product-market grid to determine market segments.
  3. Show Target’s new Smartly product line: https://www.target.com/c/smartly/-/N-r4rpp#?lnk=snav_rd_smartly
  4. Read Target’s announcement of the new line: https://corporate.target.com/article/2018/10/smartly
  5. Divide students into teams. Have each team build a market-product grid by identifying five market segments that shop at Target, and five categories of product groupings sold at Target.
  6. Where does Smartly fit in the product groupings? What market segment is the best one for Target to pursue with this new product line?
  7. Finally, how should the company promote the product line?

Source:  New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Target, other news sources

 

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Baby Food Innovation

“Baby food.” Even the phrase itself brings to mind mushy, tasteless, pureed, prepared food. While that may have been true of the old-fashioned prepared baby foods, it certainly doesn’t apply to today’s offerings of fresh, organic, foods for babies. Today, new parents are turning to delivery-based meal services to help them save time on meal preparation, but still provide healthy, nutritious, and delicious foods for their families.

Meal preparation is a topic for all stages of family life. According to Pew Research, both parents work in nearly two-thirds of all U.S. households. And, with so much time spent at work, time in the kitchen is at a premium. This has given rise to a number of meal delivery services such as Home Chef, Blue Apron, Plated, and more. But all of these are focused on adults. What about meals for the babies? Meals for babies present a somewhat unique problem– babies can eat only a small amount at a time, meaning that the potential waste of food is quite high.

A number of start-up companies have entered the baby food arena. These companies offer a variety of prepared products including flash-frozen food pouches which contain portioned, chopped, ingredients to meet a baby’s nutritional needs. Other companies deliver cold-pressed fruit and vegetable food pouches in temperature-controlled packaging. And yet another provides tubs of cold-pressed baby purees, including a spoon and packaged in a reseal-able container.

Food matters.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the use prepared, delivered meals. Have students had an experience with these?
  2. Review key aspects of developing a product positioning map, including determining the axis labels for positioning.
  3. Divide students into teams and have each team review a baby food product company with respect to product, price, place, and promotion.
  4. Examples include:
    1. Raised Real: https://www.raisedreal.com/
    2. Once Upon a Farm: https://onceuponafarmorganics.com/
    3. Little Spoon: https://www.littlespoon.com/
    4. Gerber: https://www.gerber.com/products/baby-food
  5. Have each team develop a positioning map.
  6. Have each team draw their map on the board.
  7. Debrief exercise.

Source:  Painter, K. (29 September, 2018). When the jar isn’t enough: Baby food innovators are on a roll these days. Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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