Not long ago, these words were synonymous with snowboarding.
But then snowboarding exploded into a multi-billion-dollar industry. With a few big-name brands dominating a large percentage of the market, the grass roots got buried under an avalanche of money.
Now, one hardy shoot has broken through.
Signal Snowboards is blazing its own trail. The small, independent brand recently introduced the world’s first-ever snowboard subscription. Through technology, Signal plans to bring the benefits of the direct economy to the snowboard community, carving through retail giants along the way.
Founded in 2004 by pro snowboarder Dave Lee, the California-based company was struggling to compete in a retail market dominated by brands like Burton and Volcom.
So Lee took his business off the shelves and put it onto the Internet. With a monthly subscription ranging from $35 to $55, you can have any of Signal’s snowboards delivered right to your doorstep. Since announcing the platform just a few short months ago, the company has already sold out its inventory, a first in the brand’s 12-year history.
But for Lee, going digital was just as much about brand building as it was about boosting sales.
The subscription model provides Signal the advantage of having monthly contact with its consumers, with new and exciting opportunities each time to connect and build the brand. Through these interactions, Signal can begin to create a community among its consumer base and develop lifetime value.
In a recent Fast Company article, Lee sheds light on the business advantages going direct has had on the brand:
“Think about a seasonal business, where you’re betting your business on three to four months of sales, but now with more predictable monthly revenues, we’re super flexible. We’re not even playing in the seasonal world anymore. We have no retailers or distributors – we do it all direct.”
Since the very beginning, Signal’s brand mission was to “build something more than just a product.” And thanks to Lee’s entrepreneurial vision, it’s done just that. Signal delivers more than a snowboard. It delivers an experience. By going direct, Signal makes snowboarding and snowboarding culture more accessible than ever before. Building the brand through direct relationships with subscribers means Signal can inspire its boarders to shred more and better, and live their shredding dreams.
That’s why Signal Snowboards is our Inspiring Action Brand of the Week!
This men’s apparel company was founded to fill the need for button-downed shirts designed to be worn untucked.
It’s an idea so simple and brilliant that they could express it in one word: UNTUCKit!
Why a brilliant idea? Because the world’s gone casual.
Beards are back. Man-buns are popping up from coast to coast. And businesses in nearly every industry are shifting toward more “laid-back” work environments.
But when co-founder Chris Riccombono tried to join the trend and let his button-downs hang loose, he noticed that they were all too long. They would hang like a tail, creating a sloppy, unkempt look that appeared more “clumsy” than “casual.” He hated that he looked as if he were wearing his shirt incorrectly.
(Are you sensing the beginning of a great founding legend?)
Riccombono couldn’t find a solution his problem, so he did what entrepreneurs do best. He recruited a Columbia University classmate, Aaron Sanandres, and together they founded UNTUCKit in 2011.
After consulting with several focus groups, the two began their design, eventually landing on a shirt that was short enough to leave a small portion of the pant pocket exposed but long enough to cover the belt. It was casual but also sharp and sophisticated.
With just a small marketing budget, Riccombono and Sanandres knew they had to advertise wisely. They started with radio advertising, reaching their target audience by appearing on popular podcasts and shows like The Howard Stern Show. They advertised in airline inflight magazines, which helped the company drive online sales.
Turns out Riccombono wasn’t the only one with his shirt problem. The company began to grow and grow fast. People had fallen in love with the concept. It was both totally odd yet completely practical at the same time. It took off.
Since then, the company has transformed from an online-only operation run from a Hoboken apartment to a fancy SoHo office and six brick-and-mortar stores nationwide. (From direct model to direct-led, as we say.) It offers everything from sport coats to socks and recently began selling women’s clothing as well.
But Riccombono’s business is only where it is today because he discovered a customer pain point.
The speech itself is just 10 minutes long. This is no accident. Headspace is built around the idea that “10 minutes could change your whole day.”
It’s simple, but if you’ve been reading our blog, you know that only the very best value propositions can be plain and direct. When the product is this good, there’s no need to dress it up.
And make no mistake, Headspace is good. The digital meditation app provides over 8 million users in 200 different countries with guided meditation sessions every day, and that number is only expected to rise in the next year. Google, LinkedIn, Virgin, and Goldman Sachs are just a few of the many companies worldwide that offer the subscription package to all of their employees.
And we’re not surprised. We’ve witnessed time and time again the power of a truly inspiring idea – and that’s exactly what Headspace has. Posted in big and beautiful letters, its homepage reads “our simple idea is to teach the world to meditate, so that everyone can live a happier, healthier, more enjoyable life.”
It’s a purpose. It’s a social mission. It’s an inspiring idea above commercial intent.
Like most inspiring ideas, it came from an inspiring individual. Puddicombe’s brand and his personal brand are very much intertwined. He’s just as much a part of Headspace as Headspace is a part of him, and that plays an integral role in what makes the Headspace experience feel so authentic.
A Buddhist monk, Puddicombe has trained in Nepal, India, Burma, Thailand, Australia and Russia. By the time he started the company in 2010, he had spent nearly two decades of his life devoted to the practice.
This goes a long way with users. As the voice behind the app’s meditation sessions, Puddicombe delivers his undeniable passion for meditation in a very direct manner.
Think of Headspace as a gym membership for the mind. Instead of having a personal trainer whom you don’t know or trust, you have one of the very best on the planet. This creates a level of comfort and confidence among the users. There’s nothing artificial or dishonest about Puddicombe, and brand advocates feel they belong to something real.
And Puddicombe, along with everyone else who works at Headspace, has discovered what the people they serve aspire to be and do. They’re anxious to slow things down. They live fast-paced, frantic lives and carry an immense amount of stress. They want to relax but just don’t know how.
Headspace does just that. It’s been proven to help people stress less, exercise more and sleep better. It can help with relationships and can increase work performance. While meditation is an ancient practice that dates back centuries, science is just now catching up to all of its benefits.
There’s really no limit to the extent of positive impact that meditation can have on an individual.
It didn’t start with an app. It started with an idea: to make meditation and mindfulness as accessible, relevant, and beneficial to as many as possible.
In the beginning, Headspace was strictly an event company. Then they expanded to books. Eventually it evolved into a comprehensive online resource, and now a mobile-service app.
Headspace is channeling technology to bring the benefits of meditation to the masses. The app allows Puddicombe to connect with his user base regardless of where they are in the world.
Many people have argued that technology is counterintuitive to meditation. Perhaps that makes even more of a case for Headspace. Talking about his iPhone, Puddicombe tells FastCompany:
“This can be used for good or bad. What excited me was the opportunity to use it for good, to interrupt some of the negative habits that seem to be developing quite quickly around technology.”
Through doing just that, Headspace has defined the alternative future it exists to prevent. As technology continues to advance, society will only become more and more inundated with distractions. Headspace is using the very same technology, but to encourage people to step back, live in the moment, and relax.
That’s why Headspace is our Inspiring Action Brand of the Week!
Those are the words of Josh Udashkin, the CEO and founder of luggage company Raden, and although it may feel weird to group luggage and Apple in the same sentence, that’s exactly what he wants you to do.
So, when it came to designing his own product, Udashkin picked Kenneth Sweets, the principal designer behind the Apple-owned Beats Electronics (formerly Beats by Dre) as the man for the job. The result of that collaboration was a beautifully designed suitcase that’s boldly minimalistic. Unlike most of the antiquated luggage industry, it doesn’t feature any unnecessary zippers or awkward and clunky compartments. Instead, it’s fearlessly simple. It’s iconic.
But Apple is not Udashkin’s only inspiration, and if you take a closer look at the other brands that he has modeled Raden off of—Dollar Shave Club, Casper, FitBit, Everlane, and Dyson—a common theme begins to emerge.
After living out of a suitcase himself, Udashkin noticed that the luggage industry was one of the few remaining categories where industrial design and technology had not yet been married, and thus the inspiring idea of Raden was born. A “smart” bag that could pair technology with design to offer a delightful consumer experience for the plugged-in passenger.
Like Warby Parker and TOM’s, Raden subscribes to the direct-to-consumer business model, using technology to cut out the middleman. This has allowed them to sell premium suitcases at an affordable price. Everything from the wheels to the case screams luxury—yet the Raden suitcases range from $295 to $395.
And like many of the aforementioned brands, Raden thinks “Big Brand.” They know that every single brand touchpoint is an opportunity to create a positive interaction with the consumer and therefore design each of those touchpoints in ways that enhance the overall user experience.
For example, Raden suitcases arrive at your doorstep in a bag that also acts as a laundry bag, offering their passionate consumer base with the option of separating their dirty and clean clothes while traveling. Inside the suitcase, you’ll find a sleeping mask and headphones.
It’s these type of small iconic actions that really help to dramatize their brand. It’s what takes normal consumers and turns them into brand devotees. It’s what propels companies like Dollar Shave Club to billion-dollar evaluations. And it’s what makes Raden our Inspiring Action Brand of the Week.
But the package design is just the beginning. Both products—the A22 Carry and the A28 Check—feature built-in chargers, solving the pain of having to survey a packed gate for an outlet to become available or, worse, having a dead phone and/or tablet on a long flight. With the Raden, you can charge your devices anywhere.
The handle at the top of the suitcase doubles as a weight sensor so that customers can travel worry-free of last-minute overage fees, which, if you’ve never been forced to incur, tend to be ridiculous.
To activate the integrated scale, you’ll have to download their app.
App? Yes. Raden’s mobile aspect is where it truly solidifies itself as the leader in travel tech.
The app, which is free, contains a plethora of features that are designed to rid the consumer of any traveling woes. There’s a location awareness feature so that you know exactly where your bag is at all times. Now, instead of waiting around at the baggage claim for 15 minutes, you can go and grab a coffee and relax until you’re notified that your Raden is arriving.
The app also lets you know the weather and status of your flight, the closest route to the airport, and the length of the security line. And, like everything else Raden, it’s designed with the consumer in mind. Easy to navigate and crafted for a delightful user experience.
In its first four months, Raden sold $2 million worth of suitcases—and it hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down.
Have you ever wondered where your clothes come from?
Sure you have. Maybe you’ve noticed, even examined the tags. Possibly uttered a small sigh of relief when you saw that your shirt had been made in America; dismissed any gut-wrenching thoughts when you saw it had been manufactured overseas.
But what do you know about your clothes beyond that?
Know your factories. Know your costs. Always ask why.
This is the mantra of the newly established clothing manufacturer Everlane, whose mission is to sell high-quality clothing, honestly. They believe every product has a story, and they want to tell it in the most radically transparent way possible.
The idea of radical transparency is demonstrated in their “true cost” for each item – a sum of pricing for materials, hardware, labor, duties and transport. The cost is then doubled (versus marked up 8x, as in traditional retail) for the Everlane price. Not to mention, they give you extra information on the fit, how the style originated and even facts about the factory it was created in. It won’t be the cheapest item you have ever bought, but not the most expensive either.
Now you might be thinking: wait a minute – what secrets are all the other retailers hiding?
Just by offering all of this information to their consumers, Everlane makes people realize what they don’t know about their clothing and its production process. The current world of retail is tainted with skepticism and distrust because of what is hidden. Exposing the truth in retail production has not only challenged the existing status quo, but it has upped the ante for every other retailer out there.
Before searching ravenously for the nearest location, you might be interested to know that no brick-and-mortar Everlane stores exist. They are online only, to reduce costs even more for their customers. Don’t worry, their website is better than a store – and if you live in New York or San Francisco, they will deliver your clothes to your location, free of cost.
Recently predicted to be “the next J-Crew,” Everlane will be even less of a secret in 2016.
And hey, next time you’re shopping for clothes, do yourself a favor: know your factories. Know your costs. Always ask why.
This is Brian Kelly, but you can call him ThePointsGuy.
Who is he?
Well, as he states in his twitter bio, he’s “living proof that frequent flyer miles and credit card points are not worthless”.
I was first introduced to ThePointsGuy, by our Chief Mark DiMassimo a few short weeks ago. I had just taken a red-eye flight from San Francisco to Newark. Situated uncomfortably in my middle seat, in between a snoring businessman and a mother holding her crying baby, I accumulated a total of one hour’s rest on the five-hour coast-to-coast adventure.
I try not to let snobbish and pompous thoughts infiltrate my conscious, but with a long day of work on the horizon, I couldn’t help but peak my eyes over the seat in front of me and glare into the first class cabin.
Like a child jealous of his best friend’s toy, I thought to myself “I want that. No, no, I NEED that.”
The idea of kicking my feet up in luxury quickly escaped my mind. As a recent postgraduate, the hypothetical of taking first class excursions is likely more than a decade away, if not more. In my current situation, it’s just outside the realm of possibility.
ThePointsGuy would say otherwise.
ThePointsGuy would probably tell me about the different champagnes that they offer. He might even tell me about the time a personal Italian Chef named Enrico brought him a Thanksgiving meal while he was 35,000 feet above the Atlantic. But he would almost certainly tell me that he did it all by using earned miles and credit card points, before explaining that if I took his advice, I could too.
And perhaps I could. He makes it all sound so easy with his 10-step process for beginners like myself.
Brian Kelly has been taking advantage of flier miles and credit card points since he was a 13-year old booking his father’s business trips.
This hobby of maximizing points and earning great deals only grew to an obsession when he was flying 180 days out of the year as a Wall Street road warrior. It wasn’t until people started taking notice and asking for tips and advice that he realized he could turn it into a profession, and so he did. In 2011, he kicked the Wall Street gig to the curb and started growing his site, www.ThePointsGuy.com, where he shares his unique skill to 1.5 million visitors a month.
He knew there was an entire world of luxury travels that people were missing out on, not because they didn’t have the money, but because they didn’t know to properly take advantage of the deals offered to them. And so he sought out to change their behavior. Through his website and social media channels, he began building a following. Now, with over a million devotees, ThePointsGuy is educating the masses on how they too can trade in the hostel bed for a 5-star suite.
Bon Voyage indeed.
To see the full case study on ThePointsGuy, click HERE.
You trek to your local Sleepy’s. You bounce around from bed to bed, testing each out, all under the very ambitious belief that the 3-5 minutes you spend lying down will provide an accurate depiction of what a year’s worth of sleep will be like. Based off of that assumption, you proceed to spend roughly $1,000 on a mattress that you will inevitably have to haul up three flights of stairs, and somehow, some way, manage to fit through your tiny apartment door.
“Maneuver to the left!”
That doesn’t work.
“Tilt it to the right!”
Nope, that doesn’t work either. Eventually, with sore arms and an aching back, you get your overpriced mattress settled in its new home in your bedroom. But your precious Saturday afternoon? That has come and gone.
Enter Casper. An online, direct-economy mattress company that’s waking up a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Adopting the online retail model made famous by eyewear company Warby Parker, Casper is bypassing the middleman and delivering mattresses straight to your bedroom. The mattress, designed with cutting-edge technology, can be folded to fit inside of a box, providing Casper with a delivery capability unrivaled by competitors. Why is that significant? Well, by eliminating the 3rd-party supply cost, Casper can sell their mattress for a much cheaper price, increasing its value and putting smiles on customers’ faces.
For Casper, it was simple. Find out what your consumers are struggling with and provide a solution. By tackling the customer experience issue that has forever been associated with mattress shopping, Casper isolated itself from industry competitors who are still using outdated tactics. Casper put the customer first, and the customers have responded.
With a $55M investment this past June, Casper solidified itself as a pioneer of the direct-model revolution.
Retail giants like Sleepy’s cannot afford to sleep on Casper any longer.
For more on Casper, read our Inspiring Action Case Study HERE.
from: Shontell, Alyson. “There’s A ‘Warby Parker Of Mattresses’ That’s Shipping Fluffy, King-Size Beds In Boxes As Small As Golf Bags.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.