More Brands to Watch

By now we all know brand is not a logo (we do, right?), it’s the sum of all experiences. Here, in our second installation of our semi-regular series of brands we’re watching, we identify five more cases where that sum amounts to greater than its parts.

/ Nest – seeding the idea of smart homes through thermostats and smoke detectors

Smart thermostats existed before Nest. But they were awful, so nobody noticed. All that changed when iPhone engineer and designer Matt Rogers and Tony Fadell applied the Apple design approach to this previously uninspired space. From the visibly distinct hardware and elegant bamboo packaging to the complementary web and mobile interfaces, Nest’s product and brand tell a cohesive story that would do Rogers’ former employer proud. Described as a smartphone for your wall, Rogers sees the device as a consumer entry point for smart homes; a way for people to dip their toes into sensored living. Early 2013 reports have Nest shipping 40,000 – 50,000 units a month. With the recent addition of The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm it’s not hard to imagine Nest as the trusted brand nudging Americans towards a future when intelligent homes anticipate their every move.

/ Everlane – threading transparency through business and brand  

Driven by consumer demand for responsibility, transparency in the retail space is increasingly becoming table stakes. But Everlane has leaped ahead by embedding radical retail transparency into its business model and brand story. Everlane’s proposition is rooted in cutting out the middleman – delivering quality, beautifully designed clothing direct to its discerning customer base. With clever communications that break out true costs by line item, Everlane has built a loyal following around its straightforward approach. Successful marketing initiatives like its #whereitravel series and the Not-a-Shop pop-ups round out an experience that is drawing waves of new customers. For further evidence, one need look no further than Everlane’s recent Crowdfund Canada Kickstarter campaign during which it raised $100,000 from keen Canadian consumers committed to bringing the brand north of the border. 

/ CrossFit – converting a fitness counter-culture into burgeoning sport

The CrossFit brand could be a victim of its own success. The brainchild of the irreverent Greg Glassman, the brand’s rapid growth puts the trademark at risk of becoming genericized. Founded in 2000, the business has grown from cottage industry to nationally recognized name. Simply put, the program turns exercise into sport. With a fervent following subscribing daily to its back-to-basics, ever-evolving WODs (Workout of the Day), CrossFit is the next big thing in athletics. The business itself relies on licensing the brand to its more than 7,000 affiliated CrossFit boxes (gyms), running seminars and certifying trainers to spread the sport. Its flagship event, the Reebok CrossFit Games, continues to see massive growth. From only 70 entrants in its inaugural 2007 event, this year’s games saw 138,000 athletes from 118 countries competing to earn the title of the “world’s fittest” man and woman. If Glassman can manage to defend the brand amidst its wild growth and de-centralized Avon-like approach, CrossFit has the potential to emerge as the sporting world’s next UFC.

/ Ace Hotel – redefining accommodation for the creative class

Stepping into an Ace Hotel is a bit like stepping inside Tumblr. With its quirky vintage appointments and hipster hospitality, the Ace has managed to carve out a new space in the cluttered, hyper-competitive hotel category. Recognizing an opportunity to design an affordable hotel experience for the creative class, Ace founders Alex Calderwood, Wade Weigel, and Doug Herrick have grown the original Seattle location (a converted halfway house) into a brand synonymous with too-cool accommodation. Described by The New York Times as America’s “most original hotel”, the Ace Group’s intimate understanding of its customers’ interests lies at the root of its success. The guest experience bucks traditional notions of boutique hospitality and redefines value – blending Michelin starred food with bunk beds, for example – in a way that is at once inimitable and accessible. Today the Ace has unique spaces in Seattle, New York, Palm Springs, Panama, Portland, Los Angeles, with a London location opening this month and likely many more to follow.

/ Amy’s Kitchen – finding organic growth in organics 

Long before organic was a catchphrase and natural was on trend Amy’s Kitchen was producing organic, vegetarian, frozen meals for families across California. With a founding commitment to healthy and convenient food solutions, Amy’s prioritises perfecting product over scale – a strategy that has paid off with sustainable success. Named after the founders’ daughter Amy Berliner back in 1987, Amy’s Kitchen is fond of saying ‘other companies manufacture food, we cook it’. The brand – no doubt written off as a niche player by big food companies for years – has now emerged as a prime acquisition target. Today Amy’s sits alongside much loved brands like Cliff Bar & Lundberg Family Farms as one of the largest private companies in the fast growing natural food arena.

*Big thanks to Kirstin Hammerberg, Rob Bolton & Martha Twidale for their help pulling this together

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the author

Sean Hazell

Sean Hazell is head of brand innovation at Idea Couture. He is based in Toronto, Canada.