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Product Guru Peter Arnell to Co-Create Retail Businesses

'Orange Works' Concept Demonstrates Latest Vision

By Published on . 6

A home fire extinguisher, available only at Home Depot, so sleekly designed it's destined to sit on a living-room shelf rather than under a kitchen sink. A healthful-snack-food company fronted by boxing great Muhammad
Never the modest one, product innovation guru Peter Arnell likens himself to Da Vinci, Jefferson and Michelangelo. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
Never the modest one, product innovation guru Peter Arnell likens himself to Da Vinci, Jefferson and Michelangelo. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
Ali and stood up by the confections giant Mars. What do these products have to do with advertising? In the hands of Peter Arnell, nothing -- and everything.

Out-of-the-box ideas
Mr. Arnell has been unquietly unmaking the concept of marketing services ever since he burst into view in the late 1980s with such out-of-the-box ideas as fashion ads that didn't feature the products, city-inspired in-store installations and architect-designed teapots. No longer a boy wonder, he is proving to be as irrepressible a force as ever, emerging as an outsourced product-innovation guru.

It's all of a piece. "Da Vinci, Jefferson, Michelangelo -- where would they be on an org chart?" Mr. Arnell, characteristically bluff, told me recently in his book-lined office overlooking Prince Street in Soho. "Ben Franklin founded the post office, invented electricity, even created a typeface. What's he?"

Intuition and insight
Underneath the immodesty, though, Mr. Arnell does showcase what marketing creativity can mean and should mean in an era when technology allows almost boundless creative opportunity. He reminds us, in his own words, that "the combination of intuition and insight is a really big idea!"

Mr. Arnell, with then-partner Ted Bickford, rose to prominence circa 1987 by helping designer Donna Karan create her second line, DKNY, based on the realization that the same woman could enjoy both caviar and pizza. He communicated the concept not just through the look and feel of the ads but in the design of the logo and the construction of the department-store boutiques -- effectively creating a synchronized brand experience years before integrated marketing became a rallying cry.

Over the years, the Arnell Group, now a part of Omnicom, similarly crossed boundaries for clients as varied as Banana Republic and Samsung.

Co-create entire businesses
Mr. Arnell's foray into product innovation builds on that background, but with a twist: With a subsidiary called the Intellectual Capital Group, he's seeking to co-create entire businesses with major companies, sharing in the risks and the rewards. Earlier this year, with the privately held Mars and the extraordinarily public Mr. Ali, he created the G.O.A.T. Food & Beverage Company, leveraging the prizefighter's image and increasing concerns about obesity into a line of tasty but healthful snacks. G.O.A.T. stands for "Greatest of All Time."

The Arnell collaboration with Home Depot, announced last week, is called Orange Works. The Atlanta retailer told The Wall Street Journal it anticipates $250 million in sales from the enterprise during the first year.

Although he still does advertising, Mr. Arnell is crossing a new trend line and journeying into the land of open innovation. Companies that once tightly guarded R&D and product development within their four walls are realizing that the great ideas that undergird growth may have to come from elsewhere. To that end, they are incubating, allying and innovating in once-unheard-of ways.

Creating a legacy
What Peter Arnell has brought to the table is the ability to go from open innovation to marketing reality. "To build something with intellectual property," he says, "is a whole different game. It creates a different client relationship if you're creating a legacy for them that can live forever."

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Randall Rothenberg, an author and longtime journalist, is director of intellectual capital at Booz Allen Hamilton.
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