Innovation clearly contributes to brand growth. An analysis run on the BrandZ database shows that the most innovative brands are the ones that grow faster.
Different challenges make that innovation requires bravery. To name a few of them, we can highlight:
- Boundaries of categories become permeable and fragmentation of the offer increases. The era of one size fits all is done, segmentation and personalisation are key.
- Innovation should be an enabler of change towards a more sustainable living but is facing a high say-do gap.
- The pandemic has shaken the way we work, learn, shop, our leisure and has accelerated the digitalisation.
- Influencers and micro-influencers are important channels for GenZ.
The pace of change requires greater agility... but it's not enough to just do the same thing faster.
There are different types of innovation: renovation, incremental innovation, disruption, brand stretch innovation, business model innovation, sustainability innovation. Using the same approach for each stifles creativity.
There has been a trial to optimise innovations’ success and make them meaningful through a stage gate process. However innovation happens when people are free to think, experiment and speculate (Matt Ridley 2021). Some companies have also tried to do the same faster; following an obsession for being the first in the market. This has not always proved to pay off. At Kantar we preconise instead an obsession to learn, test, learn.
Learn, test and learn through a smart, iterative hypothesis based approach to innovation that involves understanding people and context and the creation of minimum viable or lovable products addressing real consumer tensions, exposing these to people with the directive to tweak, pivot, persevere or abandon at pace, to drive sustainable growth.
Innovation: a daunting but manageable challenge.
Successful innovation is meaningful, different and true to the brand. It takes bravery to confront the innovation challenge but there are ways to mitigate the risk and build confidence.
- Empathy: Understand people and context. Understand the new habits. What is great or less easy? Highlight tensions and barriers. Translate trends into what matters for consumers and customers, map customer journeys.
- Stay connected to your target. Put people at the heart of your innovation process. Adopt the stop, consult, react attitude. Bravery requires objectivity.
- Brand centricity. Switch the focus from product total volume sale to long term brand building. Brand and Innovation development must be inextricably linked; there is a brand equity flow from Brand to Innovation and vice versa. Take for example Zoom, who made huge share gains, grew in measures of ‘meaningful’ and ‘different’ and continue to be seen as disruptive and creative. They have stayed very much true to their brand and connected to people’s needs.
- Build confidence. Bravery requires the confidence to face fears, not be incapacitated by them. However, self-confidence is not enough: you must also instil confidence in your stakeholders. This can be difficult when an innovation pushes beyond the comfort zone of familiar needs and occasions. You also need to convince stakeholders that the innovations that might appear niche have the potential to be breakthrough. Demonstrate that the innovation will have the ability to build the brand equity and deliver incremental growth(it won’t cannibalise your existing portfolio).
- Collaborate. The most innovative brands act fast thanks to joining forces. Think Pfizer and BioNTech of course. Rethink the definition of competition.