nod to an innovator

when was the last time you experienced something and felt that it was true amazing mind blowing innovation?sadly, i am not sure it happens too often which makes it all the more inspiring when it inevitably consumes you in its awesomeness!

why is it so hard to find?  well, i think there are varying degrees of innovation.  innovation can be something small like copa’s single serving wine product that comes in a cute glass for immediate consumption or it can be like netflix changing the way we watch a show like house of cards by releasing the whole season in one swoop.  or it can be big, really really big, and this is where i want to focus for today.

this july my company, kcw global research, is so very proud and appreciative to be celebrating 8 years of helping companies sculpt brands and ideas across the world.  insane.  so excited.

to celebrate this milestone i treated myself to a fundraiser for the frontera farmer foundation which happened to be hosted by rick bayless and his wife deann in their garden at their house.

what does this have to do with innovation?

so glad you asked.

rick bayless is an innovator, of the hard core upper echelon variety.  he believes in utilizing local food in his restaurants and supporting those local farms with his frontera farm foundation.

local food kate?  really?  that says innovation to you?

ummm… you check out a fontera tortas restaurant in o’hare or the philadelphia airport where they serve locally sourced high-quality ingredients IN THE AIRPORT.  and they did not open last week.  and the food is delicious.  yep, there is a guac bar….and fresh margaritas if that is how you roll.

i really respect rick for his ability to push boundaries of what is possible, like serving “real food” in airports, and for his many efforts to actually help farmers be more effective and successful through the grants given by his foundation.

so all of the above it true but i am building up to where he blew my mind.


cascabel with rick bayless

cascabel, lookingglass theater, chicago 3.2012

they call it a play but it is really an experience like no other.  you sit in the audience and you watch the performers, including rick bayless, sing, act, and perform beautiful flamenco dancing and insane physical feats you would expect in a circus act all tied into a beautiful love story…but there is more!

imagine watching rick bayless cooking food on stage that so intricately links into the story line and then see him serving the characters the food he has prepared…and then having someone serve you the SAME food so you are eating it with the cast.  brilliant!  and rather delicious i might add.

he took something we are all familiar with in some capacity, theater, and made it his own.  he made it 1,000,000% rick bayless.  and this is why on my 8th anniversary i would like to share this experience with you and to challenge you to add a little more innovation into what you do and to open yourself to seeing and experiencing the spectacular innovation that is lurking around…


can you think of something you have experienced that felt innovative to you?  maybe an experience?  a bite of food?  a product?  a package?  please share in the comment section below.


interested in learning more about cascabel?  if you are in chicago or will be this month then you might be able to!  due to popular demand it is back on the stage for a second run at the lookingglass theater:


sweet packaging in budapest

so i have been back from budapest for sometime now but there were two purchases of the sweet variety that are still moving around my home.  the chocolate is so delicious and special that i want to be able to make it last forever and the candy is just so pretty that i am not sure i could ever actually eat is just that beautiful.

don’t believe me?  take a gander…


budapest, hungary 4.2014

amazing right?  not only are the candies handmade but they are a mix of flavors, and therefore colors, and presented in a test tube. beyond the gorgeously simple presentation that just highlights the uniqueness and beauty of the tasty candies, we have the flavors themselves.

you might see a pink and green candy and associate that with watermelon but it could be cotton candy or cherry.  the colors mean nothing in terms of flavor.  to the US consumer this would be like having a bowl of jelly belly jelly beans where the colors mean nothing.  crazy mind-blowing.  again, the colors mean nothing.  i feel like this would be a cute novelty for US consumers for about 5 minutes and then they would insist a map to decode the flavors.

i bought a big mix bag, small bag of one flavor, and a couple of test tubes (just in case one broke in transit), and honestly, i am nervous to try them.  it is almost too much excitement and wonderment for me.  but let’s not make any mistake, the candies in the bags are to eat and the candies in the test tube will be with me till my final breath…

so these candies are the star of this tiny off the beaten track in a tiny little shop called cukorka.  please enjoy the little bags which are merchandised beautifully against a red wall with its simple red and white branding.  (for those who may not know me: i LOVE the color red…my car is red, couch is red, toe nails are red, thermos is red, ink for writing my to do list is a red fine point sharpie, my company color is red, one office wall is red…net: i am a bit of a red whore and this brand’s use of red makes me happy to my core.)


with none of the labels having any english on them i am not even sure which individual flavor i bought.  thinking i might save that as a special treat for a dinner party…

and look at how beautiful the individual pieces are…just like edible fimo beads!


seems that in all my excitement i never quite got to the dazzling delicious and beautiful chocolate. consider this the first of many memories of budapest…


okay, so one thing that has become abundantly clear in my qualitative research career is that i am not the norm.

i can look at the proposed package designs, advertising campaign directions, and new product concepts and know with a high degree of certainty that the one i like, is not the one that will be carried through to next steps.  (side note: a client once told me they could save millions of dollars by having me taste potential products…knowing that if i liked it, it would fail in the US. yep, quite a feather in my cap!)

i would like to point out that this does not mean i am bad at my job, as i am not hired to guess what the consumers will like, but it simply reinforces that i am so very often not their consumer target.

why this long winded introduction?  because i am about to share some products that i just do not understand…because i am not their target (she types diplomatically).


huh #1: mac and cheese loaf

not sure there is much to say on this one.  i love my starches probably more than the average bear but this feels like it might be taking the joke too far. would you add this to a sandwich? is this to be thick cut and served as a side?  i am now feeling a little regretful that i did not buy some at the time or ask more questions.  anyone have any insights on this?  please?


portland, maine 8.2013

huh #2: jack link’s jerky chew, original (shredded beef jerky)

this was found in a candy store.  it was sitting beside a wide variety of innocent fun kids sugary treats.  sure when i was a kid we had both sugary and gum candy cigarettes (remember how the gum ones would even give a puff of smoke? and the candy ones had the red coloring at one end to represent the fire?)…but now i am going be a hypocrite because this just felt so wrong to me…and somehow different from those other tobacco interpretations.

do i have qualms about big league chew?  pretty much trying to mimic the same thing but in a soft foldable pack and gum not shredded beef jerky…i have no problem there either.

IMG_3601lakeview neighborhood, chicago, 2013

as i am typing this my hypocrisy on this is starting to irritate me.  so i decided to open it.  give it a taste see how it is.

it looks nothing like i expected it to (although i am not positive what i really did expect).  it has the texture of a fine saw dust.  and tastes like aged raw hide saw dust.


ok, so i think it comes down to my lack of love for chewing tobacco in general.  i cannot think of another reason for this almost physical negative reaction.  the packaging is typically used for chew and when that was combined with its flavor and texture this game ended quickly for me.  sugary cigarettes had a melt to them that made them way way fun.  big league chew offered an awesome grape flavor and even fun sugary original flavor.  ultimately, earthy tasting saw dusty looking beef jerky is just not within my ideal target product set (but i am still being a hypocrite because chewing tobacco is not my thing).  but for every product, there is a consumer….right?