• happi happi.com June 2016 42
magazine that a 14-25 year-old will never read.”
Closing out the day’s general session was Michael Strahan,
who spoke via Skype. Urging the audience to dream big to
achieve their goals, this NFL-star-turned-media-personality/en-
trepreneur dispensed some advice: make everyone in your orga-
nization feel valuable.
“Everyone will go out their way for your company. If the team
is winning, everyone is winning,” said Strahan, who wittily reminded the audience that the gap in his teeth“is not as big as it
appears on the screen.”
Clothes, Computers and Cars
George Blankenship opened the final day’s general session. In his
presentation on the future of innovation, this former Gap, Apple
Inc. and Tesla Motors executive discussed the role he played in
executing the retail strategy of all three.
Blankenship rose from a store manager in training at the Gap
to vice president for real estate strategy. When he was set to retire
from the Gap after 20 years, he received a call from Steve Jobs.
“He wanted to sell computers like how Banana Republic
sells fashion,” said Blankenship, who signed on with Apple for
an 18-month position that turned into a six year tenure during
which he opened the company’s first store in 2001 and oversaw
Apple’s retail growth across the US and internationally, including
building its iconic glass cube in New York City.
While it might be hard to believe now, Apple’s retail success
wasn’t a given; according to Blankenship there were challeng-
es from the start. For research, Blankenship would hang out to
watch people buy computers in stores like CompUSA and Circuit
City and time and time again he would hear customers say that
‘they didn’t want an Apple.”
So to sell computers, Apple planned to“ambush people when
they didn’t want to buy a computer” by putting stores in malls.
Blankenship recalled one particular press review that came
in after the first store’s opening weekend in 2001—where lines
weaved throughout the inside and even carried on outside the
mall in Virginia. Peter Burrows of Business Week said that Apple
would be“turning the lights out on an expensive and painful mis-
take in two years’ time.”
After Apple, Blankenship was hired by Elon Musk in 2010
to craft Tesla’s retail strategy. Musk (who Blankenship called the
next Steve Jobs) also faced many challenges along the way, but
there’s no doubt that Tesla is on the rise. In late March, the auto
company started taking reservations for its Model 3, and by April
7, Tesla counted 325,000 reservations (at $1000 a pop)—for a car
that won’t be available until sometime in 2017 or 2018!
“Assume that someone is going to redefine your industry,”
Blankenship told the audience.“Will it be you?”
Hardly Small Potatoes
If you think selling soap is difficult, how about marketing instant
spuds at a time when everyone is talking about eating farm to
During the“Who Are the Growth Leaders in CPG” breakout
session, IRI and Boston Consulting Group provided a look at the
companies that sit atop its ranking of more than 400 CPG manufacturers based on dollar and volume sales growth and market
Speaking at the session was Drew Facer, president and CEO
of Idahoan, the potato company that ranked No. 5 on this year’s
Growth Leaders List among small companies (those with 2015
sales between $100 million and $1 billion).
Facer provided insight into what his firm has done to garner an 86% loyalty rating among its consumers—in a commodity
category. And while he was talking about ‘taters, his advice was
sound for any company, including those in the household and
personal care space.
For example, while the CEO demands that everyone in his
company is frank about the products they create, Facer also relies
on third party sensory panels to deliver honest insight.
“If you don’t have someone to tell you the baby is ugly, you
will lose money,” he said.
In closing, Idahoan’s Facer said every brand must continue to
grow and develop to remain relevant, because“if you don’t obsolete yourself, someone else will.”•
IRI GROWTH SUMMIT
IRI’s Innovation Showcase allowed attendees to see its newest tools and
services in action.
George Blankenship, who has worked with Gap, Apple and Tesla, spoke
at the IRI Growth Summit in National Harbor, MD.