10 Lessons in Marketing Innovation

1. INNOVATION REQUIRES AN “IN VITRO” ENVIRONMENT

Innovation work is more akin to creative work rather than deductive or analytical work. This style of work has difficulty living side by side time pressured or routine work. It is therefore best to seperate Innovation work from other work.

2.  MAKE INNOVATION ROUTINE RATHER THAN ACCIDENTAL.

Much innovation just happens, someone has an accidental spark of brilliance and the seed to an innovation is born. The problem is, not enough quality innovation happens this way, which has lead to the field of innovation management. Many great innovators such as Google, P&G and Philips have developed processes to make innovation a routine rather than accidental occurrence.  To make Innovation routine you need to plan for it. Consider holding a bi-annual 2 ideation session where you bring all key stakeholders for your brand together to imagine new products and ideas to solve business problems.

3. PRODUCT INNOVATION IS NO SURROGATE FOR BRAND CLARITY

When brands lack a strong brand idea, innovation can sometimes be used to drive consumer interest. This is particularly true in the fashion and beauty categories where news is important to the consumer. When a brand lacks a clear brand anchor innovation can be haphazard and potentially confuse the consumer. First seek brand clarity, this will then help inform what kind of innovation can build rather than undermine the brand.

4. INNOVATION IS A TEAM SPORT

Innovation ideation thrives on the multi-disciplinary talents required to bring a new product to market. The mix of R&D, manufacturing, sales, consumer marketing and finance brains create a stimulating ideation environment where the skills, priorities and distinct frames of reference create the kind of tension required for innovation.

5. ENGINEER THE IDEATION PROCESS

Ideation is about leading people towards creative solution finding. In order to do this people need to be armed with problem understanding, have a rich profile of the target consumer, plenty of inspiration and a flexible set of techniques to creatively imagine solutions.

6. MAKE INSPIRATION A DISCIPLINE

Understanding problems and opportunities is half the task, the other half, is opening up innovation possibilities and this can only happen with stimulus to spark ideas. Stimulus or inspiration can take the form of new consumer knowledge, immersing you in what’s new on your consumer’s world, or watching what’s happening in adjacent and unrelated categories. Keep an inspiration log or file which you can mine from time to time.

7.  GET CENTRED ON YOUR CUSTOMER

Where do you go looking for new ideas? While scouring the world for new trends and technology can help inspire new ideas it’s important that ideas solve a consumer problem or opportunity. A good starting point is to immerse the team in consumer understanding. This could take the form of a consumer field trip or simply to review current consumer intelligence. Exercises which help bring the target consumer into sharper view are always a good starting point to ideation.

8. QUESTION ALL YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

Many product categories have unwritten codes of practice, or generally accepted ways of presenting their products to the market. Its only when we are prepared to interrogate every aspect of the brand experience can we uncover that some of our choices that may not be delivering the value intended. It’s possible that an innovation breakthrough can happen when category assumptions are over-turn to create consumer value.

9. ENGAGE BOTH LEFT AND RIGHT BRAIN

Some good brand and product ideas are as a result of regular analytical approaches. So solutions such as portion packs in the snack market are a solution to snacks going stale. While left brain solutions have value, it’s the more right brain approaches which are likely to result in original thinking. Right brain styled creativity must be encouraged for teams to give birth to uncommon solutions to problems and opportunities.

10. INNOVATION IS SERIOUS PLAY

The play aspect of innovation happens on 2 levels. Firstly creativity requires that we are relaxed to be our most creative and so the process should encourage playfulness. Secondly it’s important to make ideas as tangible as possible. This can be through collage making, drawing or even building a 3-d product prototype to help others understand what we mean. Nothing sells a conceptual thought more than a visual representation of the idea.

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