Most investors attribute the success of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s products to the company’s late founder and CEO Steve Jobs. Much of the credit also goes to Senior Vice President of Design Jonathan Ive, whose designs redefined Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s image. Ive designed the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, iPod, iPhone, and the iPad, and is responsible for their sleek aluminum unibody designs. Many people, myself included, believe that Ive was just as instrumental to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s success as Jobs.
Therefore, I believe that investors in consumer goods should take a moment to think about the designers behind the products. Ive set the bar very high for industrial designers, and only a few designers have been able to measure up to his success.
Investing in the Yves Behar index
One such designer is Yves Behar, the prolific founder of Fuseproject, an award-winning industrial design and brand development firm. He also serves as Chief Creative Officer of wearable tech company Jawbone. Like Jonathan Ive, Behar emphasizes environmental sustainability and a minimalist approach to his designs. Behar has designed products for General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), Puma, Samsung, Prada, and Swarovski, among many others.
Since Behar’s designs have proven quite popular, it’s interesting to follow a few of his more prolific projects to gauge the effect of his designs on overall sales.
Redesigning fitness bands
Jawbone UP is a wristband that can track a user’s sleep routine, workout activity and dietary habits through an accelerometer which synchronizes to a companion iOS app. The results are logged over time and evaluated to help users improve their daily routines.
Jawbone UP, which was re-released last November after some technical glitches, directly competes against NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE)‘s popular FuelBand wristband, which arrived nine months earlier. Nike’s FuelBand is a similar product, which tracks the steps taken and calories burned daily. It also synchronizes to an iOS app, and results can be shared with friends over social networks for comparison and competition. FuelBand users can also unlock achievements for reaching certain fitness goals.
The FuelBand started a revolution in fitness tracking apps, and profit at Nike’s equipment division rose 18% year-on-year in fiscal 2012. Jawbone’s top and bottom-line growth are unknown, but the company was valued at $1.5 billion in 2011 based on previous rounds of funding.
Shaking up the soda industry
Yves Behar has been involved with another hot company, Sodastream International Ltd (NASDAQ:SODA), which manufactures home carbonation machines.
Shares of Sodastream International Ltd (NASDAQ:SODA) have surged more than 60% over the past twelve months. The company’s top and bottom lines rose 28.5% and 36.1% respectively, and its profit margin comes in at a healthy 9.9%. The company’s business model is simple razor to razor blades — it sells its SodaStream carbonation machines at paper thin margins and recovers profit through sales of higher margin flavor syrups and CO2 refill cartridges.