Sifting through my newsfeed this week, an article about yoga apparel brand Luluemon Athletica caught my attention. Luluemon was born in 1998 after entrepreneur Chip Wilson became dissatisfied how athletic apparel fit when practicing Yoga. Thirteen years later, it's the leader of the category it invented, coming off a 2010 with $712 million in sales and expectations of growing that by 33 percent in 2011. Naturally, the giant brands of athletic and women's apparel like Nike and the Gap missed this opportunity to outfit yoga practitioners and are now scrabbling to catch up. The Gap recently launched a new line of athletic clothes for women called Athleta. While the name sounds strikingly similar to the originator's surname, the Gap denies any copying of Luluemon Athletica.
One of the topics I'm most fascinated by is the reasons that established brands with a larger world of resources at their disposal constantly fail to innovate to the degree of resourceful entrepreneurs like Mr. Wilson did. Is it that brands reach a point in their life when they lose their edge and become averse to taking risks? Perhaps. For companies flush with cash it's makes better sense to buy these brands once they've proven themselves worthy - think Coca-Cola or Procter & Gamble. However, these cases are the exception.
In most cases, I believe a company's desire to innovate is only derived from looking at the income statement. Therefore, the easiest thing to do is copying the competition and be an also-ran brand. On the other hand, an entrepreneur is often better equip to recognize their own dissatisfaction within an area of the marketplace. Consider Mr. Wilson's yoga clothes, James Dyson's dissatisfaction with his Hoover vacuum cleaner or Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry's dissatisfaction with the toxic chemical ingredients in their cleaning supplies as examples of ignored desires that were the launching pad for great brands.
What products or experiences in the marketplace are leaving you wanting more? Most importantly, what will you do about it?
This post also appeared on Talent Zoo Media's Beneath the Brand. As always, thanks for reading.