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90 million Americans are classified as obese. Many people can be described as professional couch potatoes. A study led by kinesiology researchers at the University of Tennessee, found that the average adult takes just 5,117 steps per day–barely half the daily steps recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General.


Gym memberships increase right after the holidays but by mid-March attendance is down. Many people start fitness programs but lack the willpower to make it a regular habit. Can technology help? Wearable devices that monitor every footstep and exercise milestone allow people to keep track of their own fitness activities like never before. The devices track steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. Companies like Fitbit, Nike and Jawbone are enhancing users’ workouts through analytics, encouragement and the ability to share your accomplishment with friends through social media. These devices try to make fitness fun and interactive. It is the intersection of health and technology.

The Consumer Electronics Association says the sports and fitness category is a $70 billion annual business in the United States. Fitbit has emerged as the leader in the fast growing digital Health and Fitness category. The NPD Research Group says that Fitbit has 77% of the market for full activity body trackers and 50% of the market for digital fitness devices. Most experts predict rapid growth in this category over the next three to five years.

Fitbit was founded in 2007 by Eric Friedman and James Park. Friedman and Park realized that sensors and wireless technology had advanced to a point where they could bring amazing experiences to fitness and health. The company’s initial product, the Fitbit, was released in September 2009. It was the first wireless wearable fitness device for the mass consumer market. Fitbit’s offering has expanded to include several products including the Flex, Zip, One, Force and Aria. Their products are stylish and available in a variety of colors. Fitbit is sold at Best Buy, Dicks Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, Target and REI to name a few.

Fitbit’s mission is to empower and inspire people to live a healthier more active lifestyle. Their goal is to design products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life so that you can achieve your fitness goals whatever they maybe.

Can Fitbit sustain its amazing growth? Wearables have become part of many people’s daily lives. Are these products a passing fad or a product category that will grow for years? Will smartphones through apps add this functionality and kill the category?

Have you tried Fitbit or another wearable fitness product?


Best Buy is in the middle of a dramatic turn-around. A year ago it appeared that Best Buy was destined to become another Circuit City and slowly go out of business. They simply couldn’t compete with Amazon, Wal-Mart or Target.

In December 2012, Best Buy’s stock price fell to $11.20, a nine-year low. December same store sales fell 1.2% as holiday discounts failed to attract shoppers. The company suffered from poor leadership, high internal costs and was not competitive on price.


What a difference a year makes. The press couldn’t have been more negative about what was going to happen to Best Buy this time last year. Recently Best Buy’s stock closed at $42.92, an impressive 383% increase from its low in 2012. The company has pulled off a dramatic turn-around which started with a leadership change. Late last year Hubert Joly replaced Brian Dunn as the CEO.

Joly launched the “RENEW BLUE” strategy which is designed to make Best Buy the preferred authority and destination for technology products and services.  This strategy focused on more competitive pricing, improving in-store experience and internal cost reductions. Over 400 job were eliminated in the corporate office. Joly has implemented a store within a store model, striking exclusive partnerships with Samsung and Microsoft to establish in-store shops within Best Buy stores.

Best Buy has also made it its mission to match Amazon and other e-commerce sites on price. They are committed to being price competitive. In the past they have struggled with being a showroom for Amazon. “Showrooming” is when consumers use physical locations to see and try the very latest technology, but then go online to find a better deal.

Retailers, as you can imagine, aren’t fans of the practice. The near-term future for Best Buy depends on convincing consumer’s that their stores can be the best showroom. Best Buy is attempting to turn that weakness into a strength, embracing the fact that having stores work as showrooms attracts curious shoppers.

Best Buy recently launched their holiday advertising campaign which promotes their stores as “Your Ultimate Holiday Showroom”. New television spots highlight the experience consumers get at Best Buy — online and in-store — while touting things like its “low price guarantee” and the ability to order online and pick up in store.

Best Buy has made great strides in turning their business around in a short period of time in a very competitive environment. It will interesting to see if their new strategy succeeds long-term.

Have you shopped in a Best Buy store recently?

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, brand design is a key differentiator. Design plays a critical role in brand building. Design can be a new product, a service experience, packaging, logo, advertising or a retail environment. Great design is a solution to a consumer need or problem. Design is a strategic skill. Design is not just a decorative act. Great design produces value. An excellent designer takes the values of a company and transforms them in a way that connects with people on an emotional level.

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Design has added billions of dollars worth of revenue for brands that understand its power and purpose. In today’s economy, design is the soul of strategy. You don’t have to look very far for examples of brands where this principle is applied with phenomenal results: Apple, Nike, Starbucks, BMW, Harley Davidson, Herman Miller, Target, Gillette, Virgin – every one of these enterprises are absolute fanatics about design and its fundamental importance to their business strategy. In a world of growing complexity and abundant choice, design can set a brand apart. A simple well thought out authentic design is often the best.

Branding and design are to a large extent, inseparable. A brand is more than your logo or identity, it is the feeling that people have about you. Smart design creates the experiences that people have with a brand. Design needs to be strategic from the outset. It provides an opportunity to drive innovation and create solutions. Good designers approach design as an opportunity to ask questions and challenge assumptions. Many successful companies have created the position of Chief Design Officer. This helps to ensure that design is part of the process from the beginning.

For brands to stay relevant, they need to develop emotional consumer connections through experiences. Creating these “experiences”, and the value they offer people, is the result of the strategic and creative process called Brand Design. Great brands have great design teams.

What is your favorite example of great brand design?

Kmart was founded in 1962 by the SS Kresge Corporation in Michigan. Kmart became known for its “Blue Light Specials.” They occurred at surprise moments when a store worker would light up a mobile police light and offer a discount in a specific department of the store. At the height of Kmart’s popularity, the phrase “attention Kmart shoppers” also entered into the American pop psyche, appearing in films and other media such as Troop Beverly Hills, Six Days Seven Nights, Rain Man and Beetle Juice.


In a world where rivals can match or exceed its price promise, Kmart’s Brand meaning has lost its relevance. Today, it seems impossible to believe that Sam Walton, once had Kmart envy. Walton used to tour Kmart stores and hold them up as an example of how to do everything right. For a time Kmart was the “King of the Hill” in retail.

The mighty have fallen. Today the creator of the Blue Light Special is closing stores and fighting for its life in the chain-discount category that it helped to create. K-mart has struggled because they have failed to upgrade their stores and a lack of a clear brand positioning in consumer’s minds. They face difficult competition in a market dominated by Target and Wal-Mart. 

Until recently, nobody was talking about Kmart. In April, Kmart launched a new ad “Ship My Pants” online. The funny, edgy commercial promotes their  online “Ship to Home Service”, which Kmart launched a year ago, offering customers free delivery on any item they can’t find in stores. The ad quickly went viral has generated over 16 million views on You Tube.  The ad has brought much-needed attention to Kmart, but it also seems to point out that customers have been frustrated by the in-store experience. Kmart has under-invested in their stores for years. 

In my opinion, it is going to take Kmart more than a clever ad to become competitive. They need to identify a clear target segment, build a relevant positioning and improve the in-store experience. I question whether Kmart has a viable sustainable brand position.  

What do you think of Kmart’s long-term prospects?