IN-NW Dig-In Sessions: Big Names Leading Through Big Change, with Theo Chocolate, K2, and DWT

If exploring chocolate factories and the freezing environs for testing snow gear sounds like an ideal conference experience to you, then you would’ve been in luck at day one of IN-NW 2015. At six unique “Dig-In” sessions held across Seattle, attendees got both of the above experiences, all while being educated on how big brands leverage their communities and new communication technologies, and why innovators should mind their legal p’s and q’s.

Check out our wrap-ups of sessions at Theo Chocolate, K2, and Davis Wright Tremaine below, and check out our companion coverage of day one’s other Dig-In sessions, here.

Theo Chocolate – This Chocolate Bar Means Business

By Steffany Powell – @steffanypowell

It’s easy to find the Theo Chocolate factory in Fremont—just follow the delicious smell. It leads you to the factory tour and tasting room where, after being fitted with stylish blue hairnets, IN-NW attendees learned about the history of Theo and got to sample the different types of chocolate they make in the factory every day, from bean to bar.

Theo Chocolate

An IN-NW attendee enjoys a sample at Theo Chcolate: Image by Steffany Powell

Chief Marketing Officer Debra Music, Chief Operating Officer Dennis Macray, and Sourcing Manager Nathan Palmer Royston were on hand to answer questions about Theo Chocolate’s history, and vision for the future. Spurred by a deep love of the land and people of the tropics of Africa and South America, Theo founder Joe Whinney passionately worked to bring certified organic, fairly traded cocoa to the United States, He eventually created Theo Chocolate to eliminate the middle men, craft quality organic chocolate, and provide a fair income for the farmers who sustainably grow and harvest the beans.

Theo Chocolate

Beans at Theo Chocolate: Image by Steffany Powell

The tour is Theo’s most powerful marketing vehicles when it comes to communicating their narrative. When asked how that message is distilled to the general public, Palmer said, “So much of the general backstory of chocolate the public just doesn’t know,” further expounding on labor exploitation in conventional cocoa markets. Theo has personal relationships with each of their farmers, and ensure that fair labor practices are employed to produce their product.

Currently, Theo relies on their highly engaged social media communities for marketing and promotions. Their Facebook page invites fans to enter contests and their Instagram showcases the iconic designs that Theo aficionados have come to know and love. Music believes their current strategies are working, however, they are planning on reigning in and tightening up the brand and, for the first time ever, are seeking assistance from outside brand agencies.

Macray acknowledges that they are no longer the only organic, fair trade chocolate in the United States anymore—a trend they welcome—so their marketing strategies might need to change. But one thing that won’t change for Theo is their commitment to sustainable, organic, fair trade chocolate, and the ability to tailor their small batch chocolate to specific audiences.

Davis Wright Tremaine – Making the Revolution Legal

By Jillian Reddish – @myJillieBean

In a digital world that moves – and innovates – quickly, attorney Kraig Baker wants you to slow down.

“Almost every legal problem, regulatory issue, could have been avoided had the person innovating taken a step back, thought about it, and addressed the problem,” says Baker, the chair of Technology, Advertising, Trademark, and Entertainment Practice at Davis Wright Tremaine.

Kraig Baker DWT

Attorney Kraig Baker speaks at the Dig-In session at DWT: Image by Jillian Reddish

At a Dig-In Session packed with legal considerations and tips, even Baker needed to slow down a few times. “We’ve reached a point at which we’re disrupting against really hard problems…how to educate efficiently, provide balance production and economic growth with an efficient use of resources.” Add in the developments of the technology boom, and innovators are poised to solve some of these intractable problems in new and creative ways – until they run into legal hurdles, fines, and regulatory requirements.

“Being deliberate in how you approach innovation may mean you can avoid pitfalls later,” Baker said. “So how do we think through the applications of these tools?” Baker offered a room full of IN-NW attendees some practical considerations to keep in mind as innovators:

  • Think through the road map and avoid the risks of “mission creep”
  • Keep in mind that even when you thoroughly review risks for a tool’s current iteration, adding features requires new assessments of consequences, which can be especially relevant for contracts;
  • Avoid failure to your protect intellectual property, and, relatedly, the failure to enforce those rights;
  • Don’t leverage data for use beyond your original plan without thorough consideration: “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should,” Baker said.
  • Be sure to acquire individual contracts and/or releases from all contributors, including Wikis, independent contractors, and feedback from testers.

And when considering the need for future protections, Baker provided the audience with some final guiding questions to ask yourself as an innovator: “Who else will you disrupt? Who will be upset? Are the regulations in existence useful in protecting important society values, or are they barriers to entry that protect an oligarchy?”

In an expanding world of “BYOD” and “IaaS,” among countless other acronyms, Baker’s session was a helpful lesson in “CYA.”

K2 – Serious Fun  

By Donna Manders – @smokefreelife

Upon walking through the doors of K2, a pioneering ski and sports gear company you know immediately that you’ve left the ordinary world behind. The photo of majestic K2, the second highest peak in the world and one of the deadliest, located behind the front desk provides the first clue: Someone has stuck a cheeky little paper 12th man flag to its summit.

K2 ski snowboard

The back room at K2, where serious fun is had: Image by Donna Manders

As if in response to the image up front, Vice President of Marketing Jeff Mechura introduced the K2 brand and its motto saying, “We are here to have fun. Serious fun.” He pointed out that the gargantuan K2 building in the Sodo district, where the company moved eight years ago, is like a mullet, “All the business is in the front and the party is behind.”

The “party” area he refers to is the cavernous space where engineers design ski equipment, test materials with repetitive motion machines that replicate years of use, and build exact replicas of equipment used in Asia to manufacture K2 products.  IN-NW Dig-In attendees even got to spend some chilly moments in the freezer where materials are tested for their durability in sub-freezing temperatures.

Mechura described K2’s marketing and branding strategy as “organic.” “We don’t have a big bureaucracy here. We don’t work with outside agencies or design firms,” he said. “Messages are created everyday by our in-house crew and our athletes, who use their own networks to get the word out.”

K2 Jessie Cote

Jessie Cote Global Creative Manager at K2 fields questions at the Dig-In session on Tuesday: Image by Donna Manders

Jessie Cote, global creative manager for K2, showed how K2 uses Adobe Digital Marketing Suite to create and continuously update an app for buyers. The app allows an “elongated time for storytelling” via video. It also includes a page with the PDF’s needed to order and conduct other business with K2. “The app provides a lot more information than printed materials. People can download it before tradeshows to make their buying process easier,” she said. “It has really increased efficiencies.”

K2 is clearly “dialed-in” to its customers. It’s using worldclass engineering, continuous innovation, and evolving messaging and branding to stay that way.

Check back tomorrow for more coverage of IN-NW 2015!

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