Commercial Strategy Associate
This week, we interview Elisabeth Powell, Commercial Strategy Associate at Fahrenheit 212.
What do you do at Fahrenheit 212?
I help my clients create new value – new products, new services, new experiences, new strategies – that creates new reasons for their customers to love them. I started out as one of the firm’s three first ever Innovation Analysts and am now an Associate on our Commercial Strategy team. I apply our commercial lens to understanding and analyzing our client’s opportunities and to creating highly profitable competitive solutions. My “superpower” on the Commercial team comes from my background as an anthropologist. I focus on grounding my commercial perspective with a deep understanding of the consumer behavior and cultural landscape – where truly transformational innovations are possible.
Where do you feel most creative?
I don’t believe that creativity can be penciled into a time or location. My most creative moments happen when I have the freedom to think – which could be on a solo jog along the westside, wandering through the Union Square farmer’s market, or over a glass of red wine with my dad.
Do you have any rituals for the innovation process?
For me, it all starts with being a total sponge. I soak up all of the data, documents, interviews, articles, blogs, consumer research, and anything else I can get my hands on. Then, my magic happens when I allow myself to simmer, search for patterns and contradictions, and put seemingly disparate inputs together into powerful insights and ideas.
Where do you call home?
Home is wherever my family is. The house I grew up in playing Monopoly and exploring the creek. The top of Vinings Mountain looking out at the magic of Atlanta at twilight. The end of the dock on Santa Rosa Sound watching another extraordinary sunset…
What do you never leave home without?
My (once) white Keds. They’re my passport to the city, my “walking shoes.” I love to walk everywhere – wandering down new streets and stumbling upon unexpected glimpses of NYC beauty! It’s amazing what I see and who I meet when I take my eyes off my phone and actually look around and engage with this amazing city.
When did you first get into the field of innovation?
I actually discovered the world of innovation while researching for my Senior Thesis, which focused on the application of academic anthropology in business contexts. I discovered phenomenal anthropologists creating tremendous commercial value applying an anthropological lens to business challenges and opportunities. Through their stories, I saw how innovation can truly improve the lives of those served by businesses. Once I discovered the field of innovation, I became obsessed, and have been ever since.
What innovation are you most proud of?
This is a tough one. One standout for me was on a project for a multi-level marketing company. We turned a “waste product” (or so the company had thought) into a portfolio of plant-based infant care products empowering parents to enhance their children’s care. This was truly a powerful commercial proposition, turning waste into revenue, while solving an acute consumer pain-point in a set of products that help parents be better caregivers.
What is your go-to reading source?
Reading theSkimm is now part of my morning routine. I love how it appeals to millions of Millennials by delivering the news with a distinctive voice in an easily digestible format. It quickly gets me up to speed, while also providing some AM entertainment. Another favorite is FastCompany. I find the articles both informative and inspiring!
What is your favorite innovation from the last decade?
I think Venmo is a pretty powerful innovation. It didn’t simply make paying easier – it fundamentally democratized friendships. No longer do certain friends decline dinner invites out of fear of inevitably having to split the check after selecting the burger, while the usual suspect (you love her, but she does it every time) orders the app, entree and third cocktail.
Do you have any side projects, hobbies, or a previous life you would like to share?
I am absolutely passionate about fighting cancer. Whenever I can, I devote time to raising funds and awareness. Some of my favorite events include the Ovarian Cycle, DreamBall, and Taste of Hope. I’m always so inspired by the stories and perspectives I become a part of at these events. While I will not be the amazing researcher that finds the cure, I can make a difference.
Do you have any life hacks to share?
The secret to figuring out whether an avocado is ripe or not? Check under the stem! If it comes off easily, and is green underneath, then it’s good to go! If the stem won’t come off, then it’s not ready to eat yet, and if it’s brown underneath, then you’ll find brown spots inside. There’s nothing worse than cutting into a $2 avocado only to discover that it’s barely edible. (Shout out to my colleague, Alfia, for this total game-changer!)
What is your must-read book?
The World of Goods by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood. I read it in Professor Carolyn Rouse’s anthropology course my sophomore year of college, and it fundamentally changed my perspective on “economics” and business. It unleashed my obsession for the question, “why?” – why people spend, why they save, why they behave the way they do. Today, this relentless pursuit of “why?” in both my professional and personal life drives me to energizing insights.