5 Innovative Brands and What We Can Learn from Them, Part 1

2017-12-04T12:18:37+00:00 August 1st, 2016|

There is a lot of noise out there about digital marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, branding and innovation. You could read 100s of blogs and just as many books, and still feel like you are missing something.  This is because you’re reading about methodologies and strategies, but because these aren’t anchored in real-life examples, nothing is really gained.

So we’re going to flip the model. So instead of talking about the these topics, I’m going to show you 5 real companies in realtime who are doing it well.  Today I want to introduce you to five creative, innovative companies.   Read or listen!


1. Poler Stuff

Poler Stuff is an awesomely weird camping gear company.  They are so outrageous that they make REI shoppers look like a bunch of preppies. 

How weird is Poler Stuff?

  • That Name – They have the word “stuff” in their name.
  • That Logo – Their logo is a crude drawing of an eye on top of a mountain.
  • That Sleeping Bag / Jacket – Their #1 product is a sleeping bag jacket called a Napsack.  A snuggy for hipsters in frigid climates.
  • That Pattern – Their tents and camping jackets have outrageous graphical patterns.

If you noticed that Poler Stuff has a lot of the same attitude of brands from skateboarding and surfing, you are correct. This was a key part of their original story–let’s bring some of the excitement of board sports into the world of camping.

Don’t dismiss Poler Stuff because they are different. They’ve gone from 0-60 in less than 10 years.  Their product offerings are expanding.  They’ve collaborated with Nike, Pendleton Blankets, RAINBRO, and Girl Skateboards.

It’s a rush to click around their website and look at their stuff. Who are these people? I discovered them by way of #campvibes on Instagram.


2. Madsen Cycles

This Utah-based company is showing young parents how to keep a fun, active lifestyle with a family bike.

For years, there were only two options for fit parents who want to take their kiddos on a bike ride:

  1. Bike Trailer –  only solution for parents was to pull a bike trailer behind your beach cruiser and mountain bike.  The bike trailer is a reasonable solution, but the kids miss the most fun parts of riding a bike–wind in their hair and the ability to look around and soak up the scenery.
  2. Car Seat for the Bike – Another option for young children is the child seat suspended above the rear fender. Cute and all, but this setup could go horribly wrong because of the high center of gravity.

What’s a parent to do? Is there something better?


Madsen Cycles offers a simple, almost obvious solution: stretch the bike and slap on a box. Unlike the bikes where your child sits up in a car seat just behind you, the Madsen bike has a low center of gravity. Kids can climb in and out without any drama. And their ride is more fun too.

Don’t you want one? Their website is like staring at an open box of chocolates.  


3. BioLite

BioLite is an innovative camp stove company that is filled with wonderful contradictions.

  • It goes old school with its fuel: TWIGS!
  • …but it burns cleaner and hotter than a campfire.
  • …and it charges your phone at the same time.

Did I mention that BioLite is based in Brooklyn in the NYC metroplex? They act more like a tech startup than a camping gear company.

Also, Bio Lite is working to help impoverished people in the Third World have clean energy and a way to charge their devices when the electrical grid is far away.

Spend a little time on their website and you’ll see that they’re producing innovative products that might motivate you to go camping this weekend, just so you have an excuse to buy a BioLite.


4. Deus Ex Machina

Deus Ex Machina started a new surf company that completely ignored the rules set by the industry titans like Hurley, Quiksilver, and Billabong.  Why be just a surf brand when you can do more?

Deus created the *new cool* by combining three lifestyles: surfing, vintage cars  / motorcycles, and coffee.  That’s right–coffee. Their stores are also coffee shops.  

Deus keeps it all together with a vintage, timeless appeal. It’s as if they hand-picked the coolest stuff from the last five decades and wove into a perfect vintage.

If you are a little skeptical of Deus, that’s understandable. You could argue that they lack focus. But spend a little time looking at their motorbikes, surfboards, or clothing, you’ll see that there’s something new going on here that’s irresistable.



5. Yeti Coolers

They are bear proof. They keep ice for 7 days.  What more do you need to know? 

When was the last time anyone ever got excited about a cooler? Other than cup holders, and maybe your favorite sports team logo on the side, coolers have pretty much remained the same for decades. Cheap, light, and boring.

Then in 2006 when brothers Roy and Ryan Seiders dreamed of a cooler that they always wanted but nobody was making. It would be indestructable and keep food and drinks cold with freakesh effectiveness.

Now here we are 10 years later, and people are lining up to pay $500 for an ice chest.

I expect great things from YETI.


Next on the Blog

In the next three blogs, we’re going to deconstruct these five brands and learn from their successes.

About the Author:

Matt Smith, MBA
Matt Smith is the creative force behind smithHOUSE, a Phoenix-based creative agency that focuses on the intersection of business, design, and technology. About Matt Smith.