Posted in branding, creativity, design-thinking, Focus, mace16, Marketing, product development, Prototyping, sales

Christina’s Reflective Essay

 

 Creativity & Confidence

When I think back on my childhood, I remember being an adventurous child, and more than anything in the world I enjoyed creating something out of nothing; I would build a castle in the garden from tiny rocks, that I had found, or build an imaginative fireplace out of a few sticks and leaves, and spend hours playing with it. Of course, at the time I didn’t consider the fact, that I had designed something using only my imagination.
When you step into adulthood, and the everyday responsibilities that comes with it, you tend to forget how ‘easy’ it was to create by just using the simplest items to illustrate what you had imagined.

I did my BA in Copenhagen Business School, and what I’ve learned is to solve a crisis. Essentially, we learned how to rebuild a damaged situation, and we always looked for one, and only one solution – the right solution – and we began immediately building from there. A couple of years back, Peter Skillman, introduced a team challenge called “The Marshmallow Challenge”. The purpose of this challenge is for people in groups to work creatively together in building the tallest tower of spaghetti and still be able to place a marshmallow on top without the whole thing falling apart. Tom Wujec (2010), used this in different group exercises, and found that business school student had the hardest time completing the task, and he says: “And the reason is that business students are trained to find the single right plan, right? And then they execute on it” (Wujec, 2010).

Although I don’t think I completely disregarded my own ability to be creative, but being in Copenhagen Business School definitely altered the way that I thought about myself and me as a creative, and I had forgotten how easy it used to feel.


“What kindergarteners do differently is that they start with the marshmallow, and they build prototypes, successive prototypes, always keeping the marshmallow on top, so they have multiple times to fix when they build prototypes along the way” (Wujec, 2010).


My very first post was about how creativity is contagious. It was on how I briefly touched upon creativity and innovation as a part of my BA, when I enrolled in some summer modules. There I dipped my toe in the water, and learned, that creativity is not just for the ‘artistic’ or those working with paintings, music, graphics or dance, but that creativity is something that lies within us all – We just have to utilise it and be aware of it.

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Presentation on In-Touch. Photo by Fernando Trueba.

What I didn’t learn from the short summer module, was something that I learned within the first week of my time at Kingston University and through Design-Thinking for Startups, namely HOW to utilize it and HOW the right environment can be crucial for individual creativity.

And the skill of being able to utilize our creativity can lead to new ideas, which in turn can lead to innovation – a skill that many organizations, for that specific reason, now look for in future employees. As we get older, we forget how to be creative, and think creatively, and for those who, like me, enrolled in a classic business school BA, we get used to thinking about ourselves as non-creatives. Author of “The Art of Innovation” Tom Kelley and his brother, founder of global design company, IDEO, David Kelley, have learned through their work in different professional environments, that creativity lies within – it just has to be unlocked. 


“For the people we’ve worked with, opening up the flow of creativity is like discovering that you’ve been driving a car with the emergency brake on – and suddenly experiencing what it feels like when you release the break and can drive freely” (Kelley & Kelley, 2014).


Their description perfectly explains how I felt in the first week of Kingston University, and with my first real experience of Design-Thinking. Looking back on the first week, I now realise that we were all presented to each other as creatives. I do believe that it helped us to be more open-minded, and to not think of ourselves as non-creatives – it helped me to perceive myself as equally creative, when we were to come up with a new idea within the concept of ‘HOME’. “Design-Doing is a non-starter without open-minded collaboration” (Martin & Christensen, 2013).

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Brainstorm. Photo by Janja Song.

Christy, Helene, Stephi, Mick, Kieran, Ogechi and myself created a bracelet with build-in technology, that could be controlled via an app on a mobile phone. The idea was that whenever you and your loved ones were separated, you could ‘touch’ them through the app, and their bracelet would then heat up, giving the recipient a sense of physical contact. I remember we won the pitch that day (we won a book by Dave Trott called “Predatory Thinking”, which I can highly recommend), and I remember feeling a little more confident about my own creativity than I had done in a while.

I still – now more than ever – believe that creativity really is contagious, and that the environment in which you work matters for the creative output. It’s a lesson that I will definitely bring into my future work in the music industry, as well as in future projects, and try to set the right frame for creativity.

Let’s Get Down to Business – Our Business.

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ComfyEar in use. Photo by me.

The idea that lead to ComfyEar. 

When we in the first week were told to come up with In-Touch, we were given a framework of ‘home’ that limited our scope, and let us decide how to climb a mountain”, but not which mountain to climb (Amabile, 1998). That wasn’t the case when we were to design our businesses. We spent a long time trying to come up with an idea that we as a team felt would be inspiring, valid, problem-solving, relevant etc., but we didn’t know where to begin.

At first we did a brainstorm, or ‘storming’ (Bracket, 2015), where all ideas were welcome, but without the definition of “which mountain to climb” (Amabile, 1998), it became messy.
We then decided to try and narrow it down to one specific group of people and went into London to get inspired. Children, pregnant women, students – we went through them all, and came up with a few ideas, but not really anything that seemed right.

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Andrius (left) & Helene (right) out looking for problems to solve in London. Photo by Me.

 “So they want to tell the story of the “eureka!” moment. They want to say, “There I was, I was standing there and I had it all suddenly clear in my head.” But in fact, if you go back and look at the historical record, it turns out that a lot of important ideas have very long incubation periods” (Johnson, 2010). 


The idea for ComfyEar came when Andrius told us that he had been going to some sleep workshops arranged by NHS. So we decided to design a product for those who suffered from sleep issues, and who used sounds to fall asleep. Now we knew the VALUE, but we didn’t know the WHAT, the actual product, and we didn’t know the HOW (Dorst, 2011).

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Abduction-2 (Dorst, 2011)

The following day I remembered how I used to fall asleep while listening to meditation apps, but how I always found that wearing earphones was really uncomfortable. We all met and pitched our ideas, and in the end chose to go with ComfyEar. Actually, we started out by wanting to incorporate a speaker technology into the product – Boy, am I glad we didn’t.

At this stage, we had already spent too much time focusing on the idea, and had been stuck in ideation mode for too long. The module had moved on to The Value Proposition Canvas, where “the features, benefits and experience of the product are carefully matched with the wants, needs and fears of their target audience” (Thompson, No Date), and since we didn’t have any features or benefits, we had some catching up to do.


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Prototype-session 1. Photo by Helene Gundersen

Prototyping.

We had, through our research, found that the most important thing was comfort, so we tested different materials and different designs, until we eventually decided on Prototype 1 (See photo below).

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We brought the first prototype to the Kingston Hill Trade Fair, where we met some of our early adopters, and we were not wrong to say that the product could be used by people with sleep issues – many people with sleep issues were interested, but we found that we had been too narrow in terms of the problem that ComfyEar could solve. We got some feedback from potential customers, who just enjoyed watching films in bed at night, but didn’t want to disturb their partners, and we found ourselves knowing the WHAT, but clearly not the VALUE of our product.

We used the feedback from them to go back and iterate our product, to match it with the usage and value. We really learned that had we included our early adopters already after our first prototype session, and gotten “out of the building”, we might have understood our potential target market better from the beginning, and created more value for them and for us (Blank, 2013).


Changing Target Group Creates a Ripple Effect

When we presented the prototype at the trade fair, we had already created a story around the product; It was designed to help you fall asleep. Now what? The thing is that when working with principles of design thinking, your process revolves around people and the problem you want to solve.

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D.School’s 5 Stage Model of Design Thinking (The Interaction Design Foundation, 2017)

As you can see above, the stages are not linear, and we found ourselves going from testing and back to defining a new problem. When you work from the premise of a user-centred approach, and you change who your user is, it creates a ripple effect through everything else. We had to change our branding and communication strategy completely, because we now solved a new problem. Understanding the consequences of not knowing your target group is going to benefit me in so many ways in the future, when working with artist campaigns and product management.

We Survived.

ComfyEar was a very ambitious project – even without the speaker technology, that we originally wanted, and it has been tough to make the ends meet. Considering the time that we had to finish the project, we could have benefitted from less ideation and product development, which took up a lot of time, that we could have spent perfecting our marketing and branding strategy. But, overall, I am very proud of our team and the product, and we all survived and learned.

The 5 most important things to take away for future use:

  1. Use your brain a little – then use your hands a lot.
  2. When your team is right, it doesn’t hurt as much when you’re wrong.
  3. Creativity is within us all – it just needs to be unlocked. 
  4. Creating to solve a problem, creates more value for everyone.
  5. Always know your target group and use them.

So what now?

I enrolled in this MA in Music & The Creative Economy, because I wanted to create a balance between my creative side and business side. This year has been challenging, and I have learned new things, and brushed up on ‘forgotten’ things. I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have been working in such a dynamic, hard-working, creative, fun, (slightly over-ambitious) and wonderful team throughout the year.

Design Thinking as an applied tool has made me re-discover my own creativity, and I would like to think, that it has also helped me to better recognise creativity in others. As I wrote in a recent post, I enjoy changing professional environments from time to time, or being a part of several different environments at a time. So I can’t be too specific about the future, but I definitely feel, that Design Thinking for Startups have expanded my knowledge so that I can combine my creative and corporate skills to be of more value to potential collaborators and employers in the future – and to myself, of course.

I’m excited and ready to enter the next stage.

References:

Wujec, T. (2010). “Build a tower, build a team”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_build_a_tower/transcript?language=en#t-149899 [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

 Kelley, T. and Kelley, D. (2014). Creative confidence. Unleashing the creative potential within us all. 1st ed. London: William Collins, pp.1-10.

Blank, S. (2013). Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2013/05/why-the-lean-start-up-changes-everything [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Johnson, S. (2010). Where good ideas come from. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_come_from?language=en [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Thompson, P. (n.d.). Value Proposition Canvas Template – Peter J Thomson. [online] Peter J Thomson. Available at: https://www.peterjthomson.com/2013/11/value-proposition-canvas/ [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].

Martin, R. and Christensen, K. (2013). Rotman on design. 1st ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 

Amabile, T. (1998). How to Kill Creativity. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/1998/09/how-to-kill-creativity [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Bracket, A. (2015). Great Teams. 1st ed. [ebook] London: Bracket Ltd, pp.14-46. Available at: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4deb94c023117a94d16140a1a/files/Great_teams_a_guide_to_better_creative_collaboration_01.pdf [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Burstein, J. (2012). 4 lessons in creativity. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/julie_burstein_4_lessons_in_creativity [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017]. 

The Interaction Design Foundation (2017). 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process. [image] Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Dorst, K. (2011). The Core of ‘Design Thinking’ and its Application. Design Studies, [online] 32(6), pp.521-532. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.kingston.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S0142694X11000603 [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].

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Posted in creativity, Focus, Jobs, Multi-skill, Professional

DO WE NEED TO CHOOSE ONE SPECIFIC PATH?

 

We’re told that we need to be specific about our future. We are told from an early age, that we need to consider the path that we wish to follow in life, and the job that we wish to possess.

My entire teenage- and adult life, I have jumped from one industry to another, one job to another, one city to another and one apartment to another – the only thing that stayed the same was friendships and family (THANK GOD!). I always thought that I just hadn’t found my path yet, but being at the end of my Master’s Degree, I now begin to realise that maybe it’s not about choosing only ONE path. I’ve enjoyed and learned from every single one of my jobs, and not only have they added to my experience and knowledge, but they’ve helped me look at the world from different perspectives, and most importantly; The skills I learned by working in corporate environments, I could apply to creative industries and vice versa.

Corporate strategist, author and record producer, Kabir Sehgal recently wrote an article in Harvard Business Review, arguing that having two (or more, in his case) jobs could actually be beneficial, which I found quite interesting; “When you work different jobs, you can identify where ideas interact — and more significantly, where they should interact. “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing,” said Steve Jobs, who was the embodiment of interdisciplinary thinking.” (Sehgal, 2017).

The complexity in this situation is that we are ‘required’ by the educational system to choose a path quite early – in Denmark already when entering high school – but as innovation and creativity becomes necessary assets for companies to evolve and survive, we are also encouraged as future employees to engage in interdisciplinary activities, and to reach out to people who are not in our immediate professional network. “By being in different circles, you can selectively introduce people who would typically never meet and unlock value for everyone.” (Sehgal, 2017). But why are multiple paths then not encouraged the same way that choosing one path is?

My course does focus on being specific having to choose an industry, but at the same time it opens up to interdisciplinary interactions with people from a variety of backgrounds – both culturally and professionally, and I have learned so much from just being around them, and observing how they solve a problem, ask questions, present themselves, think and communicate, and I am very grateful for that. My MA experience had been completely different had I been with people who only had experience with either Design-Thinking or Graphic Design. Music or Sales. Marketing or Advertising. In this case, I get to interact and understand people with all of these different skills and interests.

Vacuum 03

The demand for what we as future employees should be able to do is constantly changing, and are gravitating towards a more multi-disciplinary skillset. (For elaboration on that, I suggest you read my fellow student’s blogpost on the “10 skills you need to thrive in the forth industrial revolution”).

I’m not arguing that everyone should have multiple jobs, or even multiple interest – that is an individual choice, but are we putting too much emphasis on being specific?  I know that many companies would argue that doing several jobs might take some of the focus away from them, but what if it added important value as well?

Essentially, for me it’s a quite simple equation; Doing different unrelated things makes me happier than only focusing on one thing, so hopefully I’ll still be able to do that in the future.

 

References:
Sehgal, K. (2017). Why You Should Have (at Least) Two Careers. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/04/why-you-should-have-at-least-two-careers [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

 

Posted in Pitching

Passionate people seek other passionate people – and so do investors!

Final Dragon’s Den

As I said in one of my previous posts; Everything we have done since the first day at Kingston University, has been leading up to the final Dragon’s Den on the 17th of March. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of Dragon’s Den, I’ll try to explain;

Dragon’s Den is essentially the name of a popular TV-show on BBC. The show is tailored so that business entrepreneurs can get the chance to pitch their ideas to five venture capitalists or VC’s. If one or more of the venture capitalist see the potential, they can offer to invest in the business in return for equity. Although our Dragon’s Den did not involve the question of investment or equity, it did involve everything else. We had the pleasure of pitching our ComfyEar product and business plan to a panel of judges, who, with their experience, would judge our product, business and presentation skills; Naturally, I felt pretty nervous.

Throughout the year we have been working with our business almost 24/7. If not psychically working with the product, the branding strategy, the finance, the marketing, then at least it has been on our minds 24/7, only interrupted by other modules and their coursework. When you work with a product that closely, you can have a hard time being objective – finding the flaws in your own work, and actually also pinpointing the really good things about your work. I found that I either felt overly confident about the company or the exact opposite – most of the time it was probably the latter. So when preparing for the pitch we went through different stages; we needed to choose which information to convey, we had to write the script for the pitch, we had to decide on clothes that we felt represented us as a unit and as a company. When your mind is on so many minor practical things, you tend to forget the most important one. As David S. Rose said in his talk about pitching to VC’s: Overall, of all the things that you have to do, what is the single most important thing the VC is going to be investing in? Somebody? What? People!” (Rose, 2007).

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Kingston Hill Trade Fair. Photo by Helene Gundersen

We had heard it before in our Mock Dragon’s Den and in the Bright Ideas Competition, but when your mind is preoccupied with details, and getting the information right (mind you, that we had 7 monts of knowledge, that we had to boil down to 6 minutes), you tend to forget that this is the most important thing in pitching your idea to someone. Investors invest in businesses, but first and foremost they invest in people, and people’s integrity and passion.

Of course, the content of the pitch matters as well. It’s not like you can walk up to a VC and only convey passion, commitment and integrity, but if you can’t convey those things, then the life of the business may seem doomed already.

We went in – more ready than ever – to pitch ComfyEar to the judges. We wanted to tell them a story about the product, so we started simply by saying who we were, and what we were going to present to them. We then, by using stills from our advertisement, illustrated the problem, that ComfyEar was going to solve, followed by a 30 second clip of HOW ComfyEar solved the problem. Isn’t it dangerous to show a video clip in the middle of a pitch? Maybe, but it all comes down to HOW you use the clip. In our case, we wanted to make the judges feel entertained, and we also believed, that the visual representation of the solution explained the benefits more clearly and vividly. We had already received some good feedback on the video, and we were met by people at the Kingston Trade Fair, who said that they had seen the video and wanted to visit our stall – then why not use it? (If you wanna have a look, the advert can be streamed here).

We went through most of the points, that David S. Rose explains in his talk (See below for link), but one thing, that we didn’t consider was the value of potential partnerships. We went in there in the Mock Dragon’s Den without preparing who we might partner up with or if there was an obvious B2B potential. David S Rose says: “ I want to know who you’re selling to in terms of customers and if you have any special relationships that will help you, whether it’s a distribution relationship or a producing partner. Again, validation. This helps to say you’re bigger than just one little thing over here.” (Rose, 2007). 

We got a good advice the week before at the Mock Dragon’s Den, when one of the judges suggested that we look into airlines and their business class, and we did include it in our final Dragon’s Den as an option, but we didn’t manage to actually get in contact with them, since we only had a week, which would have been very beneficial as a validation of the product.

Overall, I feel really proud of our team, and our efforts and it is definitely a valuable lesson, that I can take with me to any future job. And we all had a very good experience with he final Dragon’s Den. Thanks to the judges for making the experience so pleasant!

For more pointers on what to prepare for, if you’re pitching:

Or this Harvard Business Review article on pitching here

References:

Rose, D. (2017). Transcript of “How to pitch to a VC”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_s_rose_on_pitching_to_vcs/transcript?language=en#t-46721 [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].

Posted in design-thinking

How Design-Thinking Made Me Feel Strong Again

Lets get reaL

This post is not about any particular theme or subject, that we’ve had in class or an event that we’ve been to, but before I go in to the final Dragon’s Den, I want to address a slightly more personal subject.

I’ve written most of my posts about our product, and the processes involved in creating the product and getting it to market. While the journey is the purpose of this blog, I also find it important to share with you how the Design-Thinking module, and the way the module is structured, has changed something on a more personal level, that in return will have a positive effect on my professional and personal life going forward.

As with many other music-interested people, I’ve always loved being on stage. By stage, I don’t necessarily mean a performing stage in the traditional sense, but in general – talking in public, presenting, performing, giving speeches – maybe just being at the centre of attention, really :). One of my first real jobs was as a customer consultant (let’s be real – I was a salesperson) in a large company, and I genuinely enjoyed it. Why? Because it is a culture driven by constant performance; you make a sale, you ring the bell and you walk on to the “stage”, and write the sale next to your name on the whiteboard. It didn’t make it any less interesting, that I also loved talking to people and that was basically the core of my job.

As I progressed, I ended up in a job as a sales manager, where giving a good daily prep-speech and strategy brief was crucial to motivate and engage the employees, and to make sure that they also felt like they had a stage to step on to. We all have one or more qualities that we know we can rely on, something that we define ourselves by, even when facing challenging tasks; some are good at writing, some are good at coming up with ideas, some are good at listening, some are fast learners, some are good at taking action, some are good at problem-solving – and I always felt confident, that no matter what challenges I may be facing, I could talk and perform.

After I finished my BA at Copenhagen Business School, the jobs that I encountered, were mainly dominated by administrative work, such as budgeting, filing, publishing contracts, time management etc., and while that can be good as a variation, the level of engagement and creative exchange with other people is quite minimal. The project coordination I did on creative projects, I really appreciated, but after a longer period with a lot of administrative work and long term stress, it eventually made me anxious in situations where I had to perform and present, to the point where I could get a panic attack – even in the most common situations. It’s usually not a popular thing to admit about yourself, as it, understandably, comes across as a weakness, but anxiety is one of the most common conditions in the world – approximately 1 in 10 people have at some point experienced a panic attack, and anxiety is the second most predominant mental condition in the UK (Mental Health Foundation, 2016).

The funny thing – the only funny thing – about anxiety is, that it’s extremely irrational, and therefore extremely difficult to get rid of. The paradox is, that anxiety gives you the urge to escape the situation you’re in, but in order to overwrite the danger-pattern in your brain, you have to stay and wait it out – you have to go through it. Boston-based musician, Joe Kowan, talk about how he got over his stage fright here, but essentially what he says is, that once he accepted it, and dealt with it in a constructive way, he got rid of it.

Imagine, that your skill and passion is drawing, and all of a sudden you are afraid to pick up a pen, because you know it’ll make your heart beat faster, and your breathing more difficult. You would lose a really important part of how you define yourself – how you present yourself and feel about yourself. That’s how I felt, when I discovered that presenting and performing were now some of the more challenging things for me to do.

So, as the headline says: How Design-Thinking Made Me Feel Strong Again. But how, exactly?

Design-Thinking is structured so that we are on a stage and being judged all the time; doing weekly presentations on our progress, the multiple Dragon’s Den events, the trade fairs, and the Bright Ideas Competition. Even though, the first many times were extremely challenging, eventually, I got over it – I got rid of the patterns my brain had created, because of the continuous presentations and events we had to go through.

And, equally as important was my team in this process. Going through this process with two people you trust, made it much easier – I always knew, that should I feel the slightest bit anxious, they would have my back, and they would support me. Just knowing that going in, meant that it never really happened. Because of this module, the way it’s structured and my fantastic team members, I’ve gotten rid of my presentation anxiety, but I’ve also improved on a couple of other skills as a result. I know the course is designed to strengthen our professional skillset in problem-solving, creativity, innovation, taking action and creating the most efficient and innovative team, but I think it’s important to add the element of personal development as well.

When I had my initial Skype-interview with my course director, Janja, she said that some of her previous students had explained how they experienced a personal change as a result of the course. I wasn’t expecting it, but it definitely helped me rebuild myself, and made me feel strong again, and I’m now, more than ever, ready to give my all.

 

References:

Kowan, J. (2013). Transcript of “How I beat stage fright”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/joe_kowan_how_i_beat_stage_fright/transcript?language=en [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017]. 

Mental Health Foundation. (2016). Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016. Mental Health Foundation: London.

Posted in branding, sales

ComfyEar & The Mock Dragons

Everything we have been through since the first day at Kingston University has led up to the final Dragon’s Den on March 17th. I will come back to the events that passed that day, but first I think it is important to explain how the busiest week of this Master’s was a game changer for how we presented ourselves, our product and our business, as we entered a mock Dragon’s Den on the 10th.

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Business Report 2016-17

 

Tuesday before the mock we had to hand in our business report, and we had made most of it in the weeks before, so we only needed to make a few changes. We ended up spending 12 hours perfecting the design of the business report (half way through the computer crashed). What the business report did, was that it made it perfectly clear for us how we should present the product, the company economy, the design process and the marketing. Not that we didn’t know before, but with the business report it just became more specific.

The mock was on Friday, and I had to hand-in an assignment for my music class on Thursday consisting of two self-composed and self-recorded songs, so naturally my mind was sliding in and out of business and creativity. The presentation was only 6 minutes, and realising now, with the business report in hand, how much we needed to say, we tried to put the information into the framework we had already used once in our first Dragon’s Den – the one before Christmas. The presentation went ok, but what I realised a couple of days later was that trying to fit our entire business report into a framework designed for a “first stage”-presentation, was not the way to go. Luckily, the judges had provided us with their feedback sheets, so we knew what to work on.

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The Team

We needed to make our business pitch stronger, we needed to make the marketing strategy stronger and we needed a thorough explanation of the product in use and the design process.

We perfected the pitch as much we could with the feedback we had gotten from the judges, and now we had to prepare for the final test – The Final Dragon’s Den.

Posted in sales

Kingston Market – ComfyEar for sale!

I left you with suspense in my last blogpost with the promise of an update on our product’s first meeting with the world; After a couple of challenging days in production, we were finally ready for our first trade fair with product in hand.

I make it sound so easy, but trust me – it wasn’t. We went back several times to alter our product and the combination of materials to ensure the best and most comfortable combination. One of our main challenges in the previous model was the difficulties of attaching the product to the ear. In the new version, we installed head shaped plastic material at the core of the product to make sure that it went behind the head. We then covered this in two layers of memory foam, so that the product would be comfortable to wear in bed. The rest of the materials include faux leather and cotton.

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Finished product in use by Josephine Mohr

We spent three whole days finishing our products and preparing for the Kingston Market trade fair, where ComfyEar for the first time would be presented to the world.

Kingston Market consist of several stalls – most of them food stalls, but every Saturday you would be able to find anything from vintage candlesticks to homemade marmalade.

Arranged by the course, we went there on a Saturday – the busiest time of the week. Just after christmas we had a trade fair at Kingston University to test out the product and to gain some knowledge on how to present the product in the most useful way to attract more customers and avoid any confusion. We learned that our initial setup was way to messy, and that the things we brought to make it look “cozy”, actually made the whole thing more confusing.

So, at Kingston Market we only brought the necessities; A white duvet, to illustrate the bed, our pillow shaped packaging, a head for the product and some pictures of the product in use. We placed a set of earphones into the product, so people at the fair could try ComfyEar to get a better idea of the benefits and usage.

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Kingston Market – ComfyEar Trade Stand

ComfyEar is sold at 15 pounds – a very competitive price considering the market for sleep accessories. We brought five units to the fair, as we hoped to recoup what we had spend on product development and trade stand materials.

We had a lot of interested visitors – some were curious, some had seen our add and knew that we would be at the fair, and some came to buy a pair.

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A test of the product. Photo by Arturo Olivares.

 

Luckily, we had a session on sales with senior lecturer, Adam Raman on the 10th of February. Having worked in sales for 7 years, I was familiar with the conditions for a “good sale”, but it was very helpful to learn it in a different setting. One of the first things on Adam Raman’s “Selling Process” is “Focusing on Need Satisfaction Selling” (Raman, 2017) . Somehow it seemed more obvious now that we were selling our own product, since we created the product in the first place to solve a problem.

Another thing I became quite aware of (maybe also because it was quite cold that day), was my body language. I’m mostly used to dealing with sales over the phone, so being aware of what you’re singling to potential customers just by using your body language became really important. Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy (2012), has researched the importance of posture and body language in different situations, and she says: “So social scientists have spent a lot of time looking at the effects of our body language, or other people’s body language, on judgments.And we make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language. And those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote, who we ask out on a date.” (Cuddy, 2012). NOTE: For the full talk, see below. 


Our customers in Kingston Market proved to be quite diverse; we sold two to our immediate target group, but also to parents and grandparents, who recognised that the children in the family often tend to wear their earphones in bed.

As the day came to and end, we realised that we didn’t have anymore units left, and we could conclude the day with success.

Now that we know that the market is there, we are in the process of figuring out how to outsource the manufacturing in the best possible way, since the “handmade”-strategy proved to be way to time consuming.

To be continued…

Amy Cuddy (2012)

 

References:

Cuddy, A. (2012). Your body language shapes who you are. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].

Raman, A. (2017). Professional Selling – The Selling Process

 

Posted in Marketing

Branding – Are you sure you know your target group?

Since we chose to work on ComfyEar as an idea, our little company has had to go through several changes. Initially, we wanted to build an accessory to those who suffer from sleep issues due to stress, anxiety etc., and who use earphones to listen to music or apps before going to sleep at night. As we had our Dragon’s Den presentations just before Christmas, we realised that ComfyEar might have more than one purpose. We decided that we wanted to use our first trade fair at Kingston Hill to gather information from potential users in terms of usage-situations and product design.

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Trade Fair at Kingston Hill Campus

 

Besides from some very important information and feedback on the product design, we also realised that we might be looking at a completely different target group. 

In every single step we’ve gone through; product development, marketing, logo-design etc., we have tried to match our target group – the people who suffer from sleep issues, and who wear earphones in bed at night.
So to realise that the target group might be completely different than what we had believed, forced us to go back and change our communication about the product and the usage of the product.

We conducted a market research, as we wanted to know why people are using earphones in bed, and we found that the main reason (besides relaxing and unwinding) is to “reduce noise for the people around them”. They still want comfort, they still want to unwind, but the more we researched, the more we found that earphones are mainly being used not to disturb others in their environment.

Going from “People who suffer from sleep issues” to “People who enjoy watching movies or listening to sounds in bed, but who don’t want to disturb others” is significantly opening up our market. 
We still have the option of expanding the market later to include commuters, teenagers who watches video late at night etc., but being aware of WHO might benefit from the product and its value, is really helping us communicate the story properly.

As we were planning our marketing and branding strategy, we agreed to focus on the couple; the classic “she wants to read a book, and he wants to watch a movie/listen to music”-scenario. We planned the advert by drawing up a storyboard with the different frames that we wanted.

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Frame from ComfyEar Ad 2017: “All You Need Is Comfort” by Luke Ducker & Fernando Trueba

We were lucky enough to have Luke Ducker and Fernando Trueba to help us shoot the video and do our editing. Even though we had planned out the frames beforehand, we ended up changing the direction a bit, when it seemed more natural. Having Luke and Fernando doing the filming and editing, it was definitely easier to see what worked and what had to be changed. (Thank you, guys!).

After months of pivoting, the product is finally at a stage, where we are ready to sell, and with a clear idea on who our target market is, we are now finalising our branding and marketing strategy, creating a new logo and preparing a more refined story to match our product.

On Saturday we will be selling at Kingston Market, and I’m really exited to see if the changes in our communication will have an impact on the people approaching our trade stand.

More on that soon…

 

“Customers today are not just consumers; they are also creators, developing content and ideas — and encountering challenges — right along with you. Creativity in marketing requires working with customers right from the start to weave their experiences with your efforts to expand your company’s reach.” (Bonchek and France, 2017)

 

References:

Bonchek, M. and France, C. (2017). What Creativity in Marketing Looks Like Today. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/03/what-creativity-in-marketing-looks-like-today [Accessed 27 Feb. 2017].