Marketing Insights

A week at Fast Co. Innovation Festival

8 minute read
New York City
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Last month Origin headed to New York City for Fast Company’s annual Innovation Festival. We traded our mountains for the concrete jungle to spend a full week soaking up inspiration and innovation. The festival brings together thousands of forward-thinking creators, makers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and emerging leaders from across the country and around the globe who are embracing change, blazing new trails, and moving our world forward. Dubbed as a “live-storytelling event”, we couldn’t have been more excited.

The first step, aside from thinking about all of the food we wanted to eat, was to select all of our sessions. Fast Co. supplied over 150 of them, so it was just as hard as picking a restaurant in Manhattan. We covered all of the most important themes to Origin - leadership, creativity, design, content, entrepreneurship and social good. Here are some key takeaways which emerged for us over five incredibly busy and inspiring days.

Taking a Stand: Values and mission based initiatives


This was one of the larger themes at the festival, and a point made at almost all of our sessions in some shape or form. John Goodwin, Brand Creative Director of Patagonia summarized it best for brands; “why are you here?”. Brands need to ensure they provide meaning for their audience. We’ve seen this trend emerge with our resort and DMO clients over the last few years and we’ve strived to tell stories that help them spread that message.

It is a must as an outdoor brand to pay attention to climate change and the impact operations have on the environment. Now that even CPG brands are putting out values based messaging, cutting through the clutter and doing it authentically is more important than ever.

Today’s audiences want more than your brand’s product. They want an experience, and that experience must be rooted in the same shared values and executed with the same passion and commitment they lives their lives by.

  • In a recent study, 66% of respondents said they are wiling to pay more for brands they associate with causes (Nielsen, the sustainability imperative report)
  • If those customers are millennials, 83% of them want companies to be actively invested in improving society (Edelman, Earned Brand Report)
  • A separate study found that 70% believe businesses should take actions to improve issues outside their everyday operations (Cone Communications, CSR Study)
  • Nearly two thirds of respondents say they would not buy from a brand that remained silent.

Brand values and social initiatives shouldn’t just live on a page buried within their website. They should lead the conversation. After all, the greatest risk to a brand is no longer taking a stand - it’s not taking one.

Brand Survival When Everything is #Political AF
Goof to Go

Diversity in creative decision makers


We’ll start with creative design makers, but obviously this theme is more wide spread. A number of sessions and panels discussed the need to ensure diversity in the work place is represented at all level of an organization. Respectfully reaching broader audiences when only white men are leading creative becomes challenging, and can not only weaken a creative idea, but more importantly, perpetuate a stereotype or demean a person. When taking into consideration the need as a brand or organization to be values based and provide meaning for its people, authenticity is paramount.

If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by diversity at your company, consider the space you take up in a room or in conversations. Are you giving everyone equal voice and time to share ideas and contribute to decision making? If not, take pause and listen. Be okay with asking questions of things you don’t know about. Conversely, if you work in an industry similar to outdoor sport, where equal representation is an issue, consider cultural consultants. They will be able to help you create messaging that is sensitive to cultural nuance and avoid veering into appropriation issues.

We’re at a point now where new skier visits are declining across the globe and reaching new audiences and demographics is becoming more important than ever.


LIve Recording

An increasing willingness to speak with a speaker


You can’t have an innovation festival and not hear about the latest technology. Consumer behaviour is always changing, and if you can provide a trustworthy experience they’ll want more. According to Amazon VP Daniel Rausch, his customers want more opportunities to converse with Alexa, their AI assistant who currently occupies a plethora of devices, but is most commonly found in smart home speakers.

  • Over 81 million wireless speakers, such as Amazon Echo, were sold in 2017, with that category expected to expand 84% from 2017 to 2021.
  • Over 40% of millennials have used voice search before making a purchase online, according to studies.

Rausch and his team are finding that as consumers become more and more confident and comfortable trusting companies with their personal information online, they’re looking for more ways to let Alexa into their lives. We’re excited to see where Amazon allows Alexa to go beyond the home. Maybe as she finds her way into our clothing and outdoor gear, phones will stay in pockets and we will find less and less distracted people enjoying the outdoors.