By Vicki Matranga
Design Programs Coordinator
A cork on top of an icicle? In 2011, inventor Ben Hewitt and entrepreneurs Eric Miller and Stephen Bruner created Corkcicle, an icicle inserted into a wine bottle to chill the contents from the inside. Simple in design, yet high in functionality, this market-disrupting idea changed adult beverage drink cooling. The original Corkcicle was picked up by specialty retailers, lauded by Martha Stewart and Oprah, and quickly became a gift-giving hit.
Five years later, the Orlando, Florida-based company offers products to keep drinks cold, hot, stored, carried and shared. Corkcicle zeroes in on the moments when beverages enhance connections, celebrations and conversations.
We are speaking today with Corkcicle partner Stephen Bruner, whose background in finance, marketing and start up culture helped to establish the company and build the brand.
Stephen, where do you find inspiration when designing new products?
All of us at Corkcicle have an insatiable curiosity and desire to learn all we can about what’s trending, what’s new and what’s driving consumer behavior. Largely, we like to spot trends outside of the housewares industry and figure out how we can create a product inside our industry that speaks to that growing need. This allows our products to be fresh and more innovative compared to just seeing what everyone else is doing and making a slight modification to it. But curiosity is the foundation and then building bridges from what we discover into what we do and make.
Are there any specific designers, places or eras that influence you?
We get inspiration from a variety of different brands and their design teams as well as individual ‘famed’ designers. From the start, we’ve always had some influence on our aesthetic from Johnny Ive at Apple. His genius simplicity is always something to strive for in building a product. We also love the stylings and function of guys like Karim Rashid and Yves Behar.
How do you choose which idea to take to the next step — to product development?
We ask two simple questions: How is this product better than other products on the market in design? In technology/function? A good idea has to check one of those boxes, a great idea checks both. We try as much as possible to only bring to market the great ones.
For instance, with Corkcicle, our flagship wine chiller, we saw a need for people to be able to keep their wine cool without the hassle of an ice bucket or diluting their wine with ice. That was a check for technology/function. An in-bottle chiller made sense. The design of the icicle with the traditional cork achieved uniqueness in its design.
How do you identify the key user audience for your products?
We rely a lot on our instinct. We look at the trends and behavior of consumers. It’s admittedly not overly analytical as it is observational, subjective data. When we do get more analytical, social and digital media are a good testing ground for us to see what messages are resonating with different audiences and everything is extremely measureable there.
That’s how the Whiskey Wedge was born. We knew there were other “cooling” devices on the market, but none of them really hit the mark functionally or aesthetically. With Wedge, we were able to use a simple mold to create a sophisticated experience for the drinker. We filled a need in the market with a product that didn’t exist; we bettered the way you could enjoy your whiskey, tequila or other sipping liquor.
Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?
We want to enhance the experience of our customers, giving them the best products to keep their favorite drinks cold or hot. We use minimal, modern design to create products that use different technology to keep things at the desired temperature.
How do new technologies influence your product design? Do you use 3-D printing, Kickstarter or other platforms to develop or launch products?
New technology is changing the way we create and develop products. 3-D printing specifically has made the research and development process a lot easier. It’s truly amazing. 3-D printing has allowed us to make more specific product adjustments and changes on the fly—whereas in the past, we’d have to wait for the prototype then go back and forth with tweaks. The time is now condensed between sessions. There’s a huge opportunity ahead as mixed-medium, 3-D printing advances.
How do you use social media?
Social media is the true face of the brand nowadays. It’s our opportunity to tell the story of who we are, what we represent and how our products can make a positive impact on your life and/or those around you. Additionally, social media has shifted to more of an advertising platform in many ways, and we have to treat it as such in terms of the quality and quantity of posts we put forth. As much as possible, we love our fans to contribute their imagery to our pages.
The data gathered on social/digital marketing is invaluable to determine what segments and messaging are resonating with our brand audience.
Where are your products manufactured?
Our products are manufactured in China.
How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?
Design is growing exponentially in importance along with branding. More people are making purchasing decisions based on product design, not just function and/or price anymore. There are so many choices out there for similar goods, what sets you apart?….Design and Brand. This will only continue to be true as 3-D printing is popularized in the home of the average consumer.
Can you give us a preview of what you will be showing in your booth in Discover Design?
We are thrilled to unveil the newest size of our popular Corkcicle Canteen. Our Canteen products have been sell-outs for us in just the six short months they’ve been on the market. We’re thrilled with the response retailers have been getting from customers. Even Oprah named the Canteen one of her favorite things for holiday 2015.
The 60 oz. Canteen comes with triple-wall insulation to keep beverages cold for 25 hrs and hot for 12 hrs. This Canteen holds two bottles of wine, a growler of beer or a pitcher of frozen drinks and keeps them cold (and frozen!) for 25+ hours or hot for 12. Canteen’s uber chic design with easy-grip flat sides will never sweat and is constructed from stainless steel. It’s the ultimate party vessel for keeping drinks cold at the beach, pool, or on the boat. Works great around the campfire as well for coffee or hot
Tell us about your previous experience with Discover Design
IHA and Discover Design bring the best of the housewares industry to one place and offer the very best and most comprehensive meeting of press, buyers, international distributors and, of course, brands. It’s an unprecedented event for the industry and the Discover Design area is a wonderful component where the importance of design is emphasized and featured.
We look forward to this Show every year. It’s a place to re-connect with old industry friends and meet new potential partners. For us, the Show is a gathering place for the industry’s biggest and most influential people. The energy is inspiring and we enjoy being among the many innovative brands at the show.
Thank you, Stephen, for taking time from your busy Show season to share the “backroom” view of how Corkcicle approaches design. We look forward to seeing your latest innovative products in your presentation at booth N8119. See you soon!
To learn more about Corkcicle’s products, visit ww.corkcicle.com.
Discover Design Grows and Moves to North Building
Get acquainted with the people behind the stylish products that will appear at the 2016 International Home + Housewares Show in Discover Design. Nearly 200 new and established design leaders, including 11 emerging companies in the Design Debut incubator will present their latest products to retailers looking for the unique. Our blog conversations with selected exhibitors will give you a glimpse of the inspirations, influences and ideas that go into creating the exciting products that you’ll see at the Show from March 5 – 8 in Chicago.
Learn more about Discover Design exhibitors here.