Archive For: Daily inspirations

Three lessons from disrupting an industry

In relation to winning the FedEx Small Business Grand Prize, FedEx came to our office and interviewed our CEO Anders Berggreen. In this interview, he explains the beginning of byACRE and shares his top three lessons from disrupting an industry:

Three lessons from disrupting an industry

Going from producing film and TV series to designing innovative mobility aids might not seem like a logical career path, but that’s the move made by Anders Berggreen, CEO of byACRE.

The Copenhagen-based business, which was recently named the grand prize winner of the FedEx Small Business Grant 2021, was co-founded by Berggreen and COO Susanne Nørmark in 2015. However, it wasn’t until later that they came up with the idea for the design-led, carbon-fibre rollators – four-wheeled walking aids – that the company produces today.

The idea was the result of a chance meeting with the CEO of another rollator manufacturer at a product fair, where Berggreen was showing a different product. He soon found that he was seeing rollators everywhere he looked – but that they all looked the same.

“I thought about my father, who died of Parkinson’s. My grandma was 97 and she never felt old. [I thought] why can’t we make something cool for them? Let’s see if we can do something to reverse the perception of what a rollator is.”

He also spotted a business opportunity. The global mobility aid devices market was worth an estimated $7.8bn in 2020 and is set to increase to $9.9bn by 2028.1 But Berggreen argues that booming demand is also making existing businesses in the space lazy. “They’re growing like crazy, these stores. Turnover is going up and up,” he says.

Yet launching a new business with a product that disrupts the status quo comes with its share of challenges. A key hurdle is convincing people of the need to do things differently. Securing funding from the bank was a challenge, and persuading retailers to stock the products wasn’t easy either. “They didn’t believe in us,” he explains. “We tried to go through retailers, but they were very resistant.”

Despite the difficulties, Berggreen and Nørmark have built byACRE into a thriving global business. Here are some of the lessons they’ve learned about what it takes to be a disruptor.

1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

Once they started paying attention to the rollator market, Berggreen and Nørmark quickly realised where it was falling short.

“It was obvious there was a lack of design in this industry,” Berggreen explains. “We very quickly found out that was because the way [the existing companies] looked at users was as patients – not people with hopes and dreams.”

Berggreen and Nørmark saw there was a market for a rollator designed for consumers who needed mobility aids but still wanted to travel, go out with family and friends, and generally live an active life. “We simply took age out of the equation,” he explains.

 

Top tip

To find out what is most important to your customers, just ask them. Berggreen and his team took to the streets and asked people what they ideally wanted from a mobility device, or what they liked and disliked about the rollator they currently owned. “And then they opened up,” says Berggreen. “That discussion grew and [we became] able to paint a picture of what was needed.”

 

2. Look outside the industry for design inspiration

Rather than looking at existing rollator designs and finding ways to improve them, the byAcre team took a different approach to designing their prototype. Berggreen explains that he wanted byAcre’s rollator to communicate “activeness” so, as a starting point, he filled a wall with pictures of things that had an active appearance, from sharks and eagles to sports cars and fighter jets.

“When you looked at the wall you could see this organic shape, so we thought that we have to create something that has this organic shape. That’s how the design came out,” he explains. “It was a very good process; I could sit there with my engineers and say, ‘is it active?’”

 

Top tip

“For redesigning a product, don’t listen to the trade,” advises Berggreen. “Or if you do, remember there’s a lot of bias.” He explains how, in byAcre’s early days, retailers regularly told him that consumers weren’t interested in the type of product he was showing, or wouldn’t be prepared to pay its price point – which was the opposite of what the team was hearing from consumers. “If you want to innovate, doing it together with trade is difficult, almost impossible. You can deal with the trade later,” he says.

 

3. Find and nurture your early adopters

While a large proportion of customers that need a mobility device are older people, the byAcre team realised their products were also becoming popular with a younger – and social media savvy – demographic as well.

But developing a strong online presence was always an important part of byAcre’s strategy. “Buying a rollator is a very big decision and it’s very private. Our theory was that people would start doing their research on the net,” he says.

Berggreen says that disability advocates and bloggers who post pictures of themselves going about their lives with their byAcre rollators have been among the company’s most important ambassadors, with their enthusiasm for the brand helping to spread the word.

Building the byAcre name this way translated into real-world demand, too, with customers asking in stores for products they’d seen online, Berggreen says. “Then it started to spread.”

 

Top tip

When launching a disruptive product, Berggreen says, “just be extremely persistent”. Winning over core consumers early on helped the byAcre team to convince retailers to stock their rollators.

 

 

Source: FedEx – byACRE: Three lessons from disrupting an industry –  April 2022

 

How to Help People Fight Loneliness

If we think about common causes of mortality, a few things come to mind. Obesity, definitely; cancer; heart disease; guns and wars. However, you probably don’t immediately put loneliness on that list—but you should. According to experts – most recently, at Brigham Young University – loneliness is an epidemic that could potentially be as risky as obesity or substance abuse. Millennials in particular are dubbed “The Loneliness Generation”, but loneliness could affect anyone—including seniors. According to recent studies, 43 percent of seniors reporting feeling lonely on a daily basis.

A recent 2020 survey made by the community Sixty+Me indicates that the number might be even higher – especially in light of the covid19 pandemic, which has led people to become more isolated. Among Sixty+Me’s survey participants and entire 87% reports that they sometimes or often feel lonely. When they did the same survey in 2019 “only” 75% reported that they felt lonely.

One of the primary reasons for feeling lonely among the Sixty+Me community is the lack of a spouse/partner along with living alone, not having many friends and not having contact with family members.

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How Fashion Brands Are Redefining ‘Old’

Joan Didion for Celine

Over the past few years, older women have continued to pop up on the fashion world’s radar. We’ve seen French fashion house Celine cast American writing legend Joan Didion as the face of their campaign; Dame Helen Mirren as a primary ambassador for L’Oreal; Joni Mitchell as the driving force of Saint Laurent; Charlotte Rampling as the face of Nars. This trend of ditching blank-faced 20-somethings for women with stories and wisdom continues to be growing—and it’s not only fashion brands at the helm. On social media, the blog Advanced Style – featuring street-style photos of older men and women in New York with some sort of chutzpah about them – has over 300,000 views per month, its popularity spurring the much-loved documentary Advanced Style. Instagram accounts like Fashion Grandpas (stylish older men) and Oldushka (Russian seniors in Moscow) have thousands and thousands of followers. Cult style magazines like The Gentlewoman are putting older women on the cover, and magazine editors like Justine Picardie from Harper’s Bazaar happily admit that most of the stories they feature are about older people, not younger.

Of course, a lot of this comes back down to cold, hard finances. Fashion brands are well aware that people over 60 make up the fastest growing group of consumers in many countries: in the UK, example, 79% of disposable wealth in the UK is in the hands of people over 50. It makes sense that brands want to leverage that knowledge by showing their consumers people they’re more likely to relate to over yet another fresh-faced young thing. Even so, this financial motivation does lead to a positive outcome: it reflects and continues to impact a growing cultural shift around physical and lifestyle ideals. As The Observer writes, millennials as well as other generations want more than beautiful people to look at: they want people whose identities reflect stories, wisdom and confidence—and in many cases, the natural representations of those values are people who have lived longer lives and accumulated more knowledge on the way. So although Celine casting Joan Didion does exploit the shock value of portraying age in a traditionally youth-obsessed culture to be ‘edgy’, it also uses Didion’s personal history and reputation to equate brains and experience with beauty and desirability.

The Oldushka Project

Admittedly, there is something fishy about the rapidness of it all. It’s not as if we’ve seen a slow increase in the use of older men and women as the driving forces of brand campaigns: the majority of it happened in the last four years, seemingly one brand after the other. Although this makes it tempting to look at the sudden presence of older women in fashion and media as a vapid trend using shock value to sell things, it may also simply be a natural evolution of things. As Justine Picardie, EIC of Harper’s Bazaar, says, “the pendulum does sometimes swing – You look at the 1950s when they liked that very sophisticated, elegant, grown-up looking woman. And then there was the youth-quake of the 60s, when youth was fetishised. One shouldn’t over-simplify and say this is the first time we’ve ever had an industry where older women have been remarked upon … maybe we’re just seeing a natural shift.”

If we’re to side with Picardie on this one, it’s useful to look at the growing presence of older women in fashion in combination with other phenomenons. An accessible discussion around feminism is growing; the fashion industry is being forced to address and regulating unhealthy body standards; women are gaining more recognition and power to take over key global roles (if Hillary Clinton becomes president, for example, three of the world’s most influential countries will be run by women). All of this means that both younger and older women are cluing in to new standards of empowerment for themselves—a part of which is feeling confident, no matter what age you’re at. As 53 year old Rosie Arnold, deputy ECD at Advertising Agency BBH London, says, “What most people have failed to realise is it’s a fascinating time of our lives as a woman…. You are more solvent, more confident, and have – please God – your health. I’m aware that the kids have left home, and I’ve got money, I’ve got confidence…. I’ve actually got more time on my hands, or more money, and there isn’t a brand out there saying ‘this is cool’ or ‘you can have this’.”

Joni Mitchell for Yves Saint Laurent

So although the fashion world’s sudden fascination with older women is far from perfect – not everyone can be a cultural figure like Joan Didion, or have aged as gracefully as Dame Helen Mirren – we prefer to see it for its positives over its negatives. By continuously elevating the roles of older women in their campaigns, these brands are also elevating the roles of older women in overall culture. Every time a brand or magazine features an older women as its face or cover, the shock value of ‘age’ pushing ‘youth’ to the side slowly disappears. Instead, it’s slowly but surely replaced by a genuine comfort with seeing older women in roles of cultural importance—a comfort that trickles down to consumers of all genders and ages. So, as we like to say: Age is the New Black. Get with it.

 

Why Age is the New Black

byACRE has a lot to say about senior lifestyle and what we can do to enhance it—and no phrase captures our mindset better than “Age is the New Black”. It’s the motto that drives everything we do and communicates our core message: aging is a new and exciting transition of life, and it’s about time brands and products started to reflect that in their communications and design.

We aren’t saying this out of the blue. Recent trends have shown us that age really is the new black—and it’s pretty obvious why. For one, we’re all living longer: currently, there are way more boomers than millennials or generation x’ers—and since birth rates are falling in Europe and North America, there’ll be even more of them over the next decade compared to other generations. That means that brands and people are working towards making seniors’ lives better—especially by addressing mobility. Whether people are finding ways to improve senior mobility or addressing the barriers around it, brands and audiences are talking about seniors moving. How does this look on an everyday scale? For one, we’re seeing more considered and appealing products made with aging folks in mind—things that look fun and useful enough to reflect By ACRE’s mentality of empowering, celebrating and valuing seniors. More importantly, we’re seeing a shift in how aging people are portrayed by industries, especially in fashion.

Anita Kalero by Stefan Heinrichs for Kinfolk

There’s an inherent beauty in age. After all, you simply can’t match the grace of a woman with lines of experience on her face, or the body language of a man that communicates wisdom and confidence acquired over decades. The fashion industry has picked up on this knowledge, too, with a momentum around appreciating age and mobility. Instead of resorting to using cookie-cutter, youthful models in their campaigns, top fashion brands like Celine are turning their focus towards older people with stories to tell—like Joan Didion, Dame Helen Mirren or Charlotte Rampling. Even Hollywood has spent the past few years producing Blockbuster hits like Red, with a cast entirely made of boomers, and we’ve seen senior citizens take over the internet with things like The Betty White phenomenon. Brands from skincare to cars are hip to the trend too, considering that the most successful ad of the past few years was Volkswagen’s Epic Split starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Yet it’s not just brands talking about it, either. The media industry has actively started addressing the change, too: everyone from FastCompany to Kinfolk to Elle Magazine is either writing about the sudden rise of the traditionally ‘old’, or helping perpetuate the trend themselves.

byACRE is among the variety of companies working on changing how we portray people society tends to consider ‘old’. Now, those people are celebrated as more culturally-relevant and powerful than they’ve been in decades. This message trickled down to the media, then to internet culture—and finally, to the mentality and mind of the average person. By recognizing the global influence of seniors and just how important it is to give those people the mobility tools they need to keep on living life to the fullest, brands and people came together to align with byACRE’s values and changed how society looks at aging for the better.

So what do we think about it all? Well, as we said before: Age is the New Black. Thanks to recent trends, this belief is spreading further and further. There’s no denying it anymore. Aging is full of opportunity—and we’re glad that other people and brands are seeing that, too.