Innovation which drives demand for a businesses products and services requires more than smart thinking and hard work it requires a style of problem solving which uses imagination to make strategic leaps, I call this Business Creativity.
Historically the concept of Creativity within a business concept has been relatively narrowly defined. With creativity being largely a perception or imagery driver. There is now an appreciation of the power of Creativity to strategically influence the core offering.
Companies can innovate or apply Business Creativity at 4 levels to stoke customer demand for their goods and services.
1. C-Level Innovation (Business Creativity)
Where a business completely reimagines how it makes money in a category and in so doing creates a new value propostion for the consumer. One such example is Zipcar, offering drivers a new way to participate in motor vehicle usage without leasing a vehicle long-term or renting a car on a per day basis (such as car rental) or owning a vehicle outright. This kind of innovation is usually employed by a new entrant or entrepreneurial business.
Take a look at how Jetts in Australia have re-thought the Fitness Centre. Jetts have dropped many assumptions about Gyms and made some some choices:
Jetts REDUCED – Staff on duty and space allocated to non-fitness activities
Jetts ELIMINATED – exercise classes which research shows are only utlised by 10% of members
Jetts INCREASED – hours of operation to 24/7
Jetts INVENTED membership secure access to the fitness club to allow members to train without staff on duty.
Another perhaps more common form of C-level Business Creativity is when a company finds itself in a highly competitive market space and therefore feels the pressure to break-free of the category in some way to both set it apart from existing offerings and to create a new value proposition for the consumer. One of the best examples is Formule 1 the low cost hotel chain from the Accor Group. Formule 1 rethought what was truly important to the road warrior and redesigned their offering around these key requirements. This meant sacrificing some generally accepted hotel services such as hotel bars and restaurants which then freed up resources for room sound proofing and bed quality.
2. Brand Innovation
There are some categories where value can be created by simply refashioning the Brand Idea and Brand Experience. What is required is a central compelling idea which powers the brand and all decisions around the brand experience. Often too little originality is built into the DNA of the brand and so it is expected that the brand communications will create the difference. With the plethora of interesting product and service options already being available, its a tall ask to expect our highly inefficient advertising model to create a miracle.
I love the quote “advertising is the price corporations pay for being unoriginal”, not sure who said it, but aint it the truth?
One of my favourite Singapore brands is a wonderful example of brand originality that does not lean on brand advertising to make it sexier than it is. You must check out The Chocolate Research Facility.
Now they have not reinvented chocolate, they have simply created a premium chocolate experience without any Swiss heritage or gourmet chocolatier imagery. An excellent use of design to create highly original packages of chocolate that create a “Museum” of chocolate or a “Research facility” as they term it.
The 3rd and 4th levels of innovation are areas most companies are used to apply some creative thought in order to bring new products and services or marketing programmes to market. Some industries are doing this better than others, industries where technology can have a significant impact on consumer experience (consumer electronics, mobile technology, internet etc) or where variety seeking behaviour exists, marketers can gain favour by introducing something new.
What will be interesting to watch is how those beyond the FMCG businesses embrace innovation programmes for the design for new product offerings and marketing programmes.