Paul Lavoie, an old friend of mine, built an incredibly successful ad agency brand. Lavoie is a brand unto himself, as anyone who has ever seen him or heard him speak will attest.

But when he retired to spend more time at the lake, I thought he was leaving the brand innovation game behind. Not so.

In fact, Lavoie’s new company Beau Lake¬†is what happened when Lavoie turned his attention to redesigning some, well, fairly mundane objects. Just hit play to get the story.

New brands, or hybrid thinking?

If you think about it, some of the greatest brands today are reinventions of some fairly mundane stuff. Uber redid taxi service, Air BnB rethought hotels, and 1-800 Got Junk reimagined trash removal.

The secret, I believe, is hybrid thinking.

marc stoiber brand strategy

Consider Beau Lake.¬†Lavoie threw standup paddleboards in the blender with Kennedy Boats and 1950’s car chrome. This is what emerged.

Now, Lavoie has turned his imagination to pedal boats, those summer vacation oddities that never seemed to go anywhere fast (except to the bottom) and looked terrible from bow to stern. Beau Lake boats, in contrast, are the coolest thing in the water. But hey, maybe I’m just biased.

The point is, neither paddleboards nor pedal boats are groundbreaking canvases for invention. They’re as ordinary as socks (another commodity that has been beautifully reinvented). But in both cases, the opportunity for improvement was vast – and completely ignored.

are you looking too hard?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to dazzle with your brand. But could the greatest innovations be in paying attention to the mundane? Think about the experience someone has strolling through your store. What sort of small touches could take it out of the ordinary? Or look at the forms your customers need to fill out. How could you incorporate hybrid thinking to make them a breath of fresh air?

If you’re having trouble picking out the mundane bits that could use improvement, check out books like Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. de Bono has some wonderful techniques for helping you break through the barrier of oversight.

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Henry Ford famously said that if he’d asked people what they wanted in transport, they’d have said faster horses.

I’m quite certain that nobody could’ve told Paul Lavoie to bring chrome and teak to paddleboards. Knowing him, I’d bet he just kept his eyes open, and his imagination working while he was sitting in his Algonquin chair. Having seen him in action, I also know that he would’ve thought through dozens of scenarios once he fixated on improving the boards. Every magazine cover, every shop window, every passing vehicle or dandelion in a sidewalk crack would’ve fired up his imagination as he ‘tried on’ ideas. He went broad, and engaged his playful imagination before narrowing focus and honing.

So if you’re noodling ideas on how to make your brand stand out, don’t forget to look at the mundane right in front of you. Hey, paddleboards aren’t the only thing that need reinventing.

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