Innovation out of Thin Air

Josh Linkner
December 11, 2016

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.

Excited to arrive in Hong Kong, your enthusiasm quickly wanes. Your eyes and lungs burn from the smog, as air pollution levels have reached record highs in this cosmopolitan city. The dense haze lingers in the air as children crave to see a rare blue sky.

First looking for fresh ways to market their goods, Hong Kong-based Tiger Beer gleaned inspiration from those soot-filled skies. Realizing what a big hazard air pollution had become and connecting with the need to raise awareness to influence new environmental laws and activism, Tiger saw opportunity where others could only focus on the problem.

The big idea? Turn air pollution into ink. A special device to capture pollution was designed and attached to trucks, smokestacks, and cranes, which allowed the team to turn harmful waste into useful art. 150 liters of ink have been harnessed so far and transformed into art displayed in the streets of Hong Kong and on the project's website, Air-ink.com.

"The streets are not only a great place to drink Tiger, they're also the place where creativity, ideas and passion are born. By using our entrepreneurial spirit to repurpose pollution into ink - the lifeblood of creativity - we're giving creative people the tools to enhance their streets, and empowering inventors to take small but impactful actions against air pollution," said Mie-Leng Wong, director of international brands, Tiger Beer, Heineken Asia Pacific, in a company statement.

Tiger Beer tapped into a highly visible social problem and used their marketing might to both make a difference and fuel their brand. This unique marketing approach has generated millions of dollars worth of buzz and customer loyalty, while helping to improve the lives of the 7.2 million residents of Hong Kong. Certainly a much more effective -and impactful – approach than just another TV spot, billboard, or digital ad.

Too often, we look for inspiration in the obvious places. Rarely venturing beyond the four walls of our given fields, it's no wonder that we get trapped into the echo chamber of our industries. To seek fresh and inspired approaches, look beyond. Peek up from your to-do list into the wide-open world of possibility. If Tiger Beer can transform pollution into art and enjoy a powerful marketing win as a result, think what you can do when you unleash your own creativity.

There's opportunity all around us, even in the most unusual places. It's your job to seize it - right out of thin air.

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