We’ve just finished day 2 here at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival, if you missed our recap from day 1 you can read it here. It’s been another jam packed day filled with some truly great examples of innovation currently happening in the world of retail, but who were our favourites?

 

Bark

First off, we had the chance to meet with the product development team from Bark. Now I’ll be the first too admit that up until today I’d never heard of them. However after today’s session I’d argue that they’re perhaps one of the most consumer centric organisations we’ve seen thus far at the conference. Which is somewhat funny given that all their consumers can’t actually speak or don’t purchase the product themselves. They’re actually dogs.

Bark create Bark Box, which is essentially a monthly subscription box program supplying dog toys and treats. They’ve got an extremely loyal and active community of dog lovers involved with the brand (over 1.4m on instagram alone) and after speaking with the Bark design team (who are also passionate dog lovers), it’s easy to see why!

Despite our general love for dogs, dog toy design isn’t something you’d generally think of. There hasn’t been much innovation in the industry since the dog bone, which is where Bark hope to shake things up. To-date they’ve created 432 dog toys (an insane amount when you consider traditional children’s toy companies don’t do anywhere close to this), with many of the design team coming from backgrounds in toy or industrial design.

Now i’m not pointing any fingers at any particular Australian retailers (with actual human customers)… but Bark’s level of consumer centricity would put many retailers here to shame.

A lot of work and science goes into creating the dog toys and there are a number of key principles Bark use when going through the design process. Firstly, they put the dog first in everything they do, everything is designed around the perspective of the dog and how Bark can enhance the relationship with the “dog parent” (creating moments over products). Secondly, they recognise that every dog is an individual, unlike other pet companies they recognise that not all dogs are the same. Consumer segmentation is actually done at the level of the dog (ie. how they play with their toys, whether like squeaky toys or toys with stuffing in them).

Humour is also big part of the design process. When Bark design toys they are looking to create conversation starters. Data also plays a large part in the process, as you would expect dogs are a fixture in the office and can provide immediate real time feedback when the team want to test something.

Needless to say, Bark are truely innovating in their focus on the consumer (ie. the dog) and subsequent product development.

Bark created a range of “superhero vs villain” dog toys. The dog was the superhero (naturally), whereas the villains took inspiration from typically “villains” of dogs (ie. squirrels). They even went as far to create a comic book so “dog parents” can get involved.

 

L’Oreal and Seed Phytonutrients.

We’ve heard a lot about farm-to-table, but farm-to-beauty may be the next frontier. Did you also know that you’re twice as more likely to recycle in the kitchen than the bathroom. And when it comes to natural beauty products, we often think about the ingredients but don’t even consider the packaging.

So how do we give consumers sustainable products in a sustainable form? We got to step inside L’Oreal (and try / take home with us a whole heap of samples… which being a man, somebody will be lucky enough to receive from me for Christmas) to hear from creator Shane Wolf and the team about the move into value-based brands and conscious consumers through Seed Phytonutrients. It was interesting to hear the push into sustainability in the beauty industry, no longer should beauty and sustainability be two seperate concepts – they should just be beauty.

The team even invented the first shower safe paper bottle.

Come back tomorrow for day 3 (where we’ll be visiting the American Ballet, Universal Music and Rebecca Minkoff amongst many others).