Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Unbranding: a new marketing strategy. Would you jump at the opportunity to land your product on a popular TV show? What if that show was MTV's "Jersey Shore"? Over the course of last season, Snooki, one of the more, um, colorful, members of the cast, became known for her trademark Coach bag. But lately her repertoire of designer bags has been mysteriously expanding. It turns out, some luxury brands have sent the trashy starlet their competitors' bags, so viewers would associate them with Snooki's unenviable style. Business Insider has dubbed the tactic "unbranding," because, according to Simon Doonan, creative director of Barney's New York, "Nobody in fashion wants to co-brand with Snooki." The sneaky strategy begs the question: is there really no such thing as bad PR?
Are you doing business on the wrong continent? Workers are just as productive and a lot less overworked (read: happier) in a social democracy. Case study: Germany vs. United States. While German workers logged an average of 1,436 hours of work each year, American workers logged 1,804 - the equivalent of nine additional 40-hour workweeks. Yikes. In a review of "Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get A Life," by Chicago labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan, Salon writes: "The Protestant work ethic may have begun in Germany, but it has since evolved to become the American way of life."
The five to follow. Business Insider's Bianca Male has released a list of the five small business thought leaders worth following on Twitter. The list includes small town entrepreneur and blogger Becky McCray, Escape from Cubicle Nation founder Paul Slim, President of New Marketing Labs Chris Brogan, business author Tom Peters, and Small Business Trends founder Anita Campbell. According to Male, these are the people who have "done the whole stressing over making payroll, not sleeping and eating ramen to make ends meet already." For more social media advice, check out our social media toolkit for business owners.
Jumping on the customized bandwagon. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that the market for custom-made goods is on the rise, which is good news for entrepreneurs looking to start a business with minimal overhead. Not only are custom goods better suited for an online shop than a storefront, but when all the merchandise is made to order, there's no need to mass produce any inventory in advance. According to the story, the trend stems from the fact that consumers who aren't buying luxury goods in the down economy are now "seeking feel-good alternatives to items they can no longer afford." One venture capital firm tells the Journal, "We used to get a proposal from one new venture focused on customization out of thousands a year...Now we see several per month. That's a major shift."
Getting San Francisco's seal of approval. The city has been issuing a list of products that meet its standards for environmental and health guidelines for the past five years, calling it the SF Approved List. It's basically a go-to for city agencies and anyone who cares about buying green or sustainable products, from batteries to paint to moving supplies. The New York Times reports that the database of more than 1,000 products is now online - and that the city of San Francisco was able to use its purchasing power to "demand that companies reveal data about products' ingredients." How can you get your green product on the Approved List? First check out the GoodGuide, on which some of the list is based.
Why it takes a beginner to innovate. We promote leaders, hire new employees, and choose business partners based on experience. On the surface it makes sense that you'd be more comfortable with a new hire who's been in your field for 10 years over one who's only been in it for two years. So why has so much innovation come from people with no industry experience (via Business Week). Apple, Netflix, eBay? All the work of neophytes. So what should you look for instead of experience? Ultimately what you care about is an employee's ability to get the job done. And with a beginner, you avoid the channeled thinking of experts and have a better chance at innovating. Here are 8 ways to foster innovation at your company.