We have worked with many teams that have successfully guided meaningfully different innovations from the initial idea to long-term success in-market. One of the most important qualities that unite those teams and the stakeholders they work for is bravery: the willingness to embrace a radical idea and nurture it through the innovation process and out into the market, despite the obstacles that might arise along the way.
Successful innovation is meaningful, different and true to the brand
The fundamental innovation challenge is to identify ideas that have the potential to be meaningful to the target consumer, and different enough from existing products to have a role of their own in people’s lives. But this is not easy. The payoff is that meaningfully different brands grow three times faster when salience increases, and can command a price advantage over the competition. But there is an additional challenge, particularly for well-known brands: to ensure that the innovation stays true to what that brand stands for.
So how can you create meaningfully different innovations that will drive growth for your brand?
A daunting but manageable challenge
Given the challenge, starting an innovation project can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. It takes bravery to confront the innovation challenge, but there are ways to mitigate the risks involved and build confidence as you go. It is not just a matter of having the right mindset; you need the right information too.
With that in mind, here are the five success factors to encourage bravery in innovation.
1. Empathy: Really understand people’s needs
When I talked to James Watt, CEO & Co-Founder of the craft beer rockstar, BrewDog, for Kantar Talks UK 2021, it was obvious the company’s success was rooted in a passion for beer, self-confidence, and a willingness to take risks. But as James noted, the company’s philosophy “has always been to shorten the distance between us and the people who enjoy our beer.”
That customer intimacy has helped BrewDog become number 54 in the Kantar BrandZ 2021 Most Valuable UK Brands ranking. And while BrewDog has over 200,000 Equity Punk Investors to test ideas and products with, it is possible to develop the same intimacy if you are willing to suspend your view of the world.
If you can immerse yourself in people’s lives and empathise with them, then it is easy to identify how your brand can best serve them. The tensions your brand might help them resolve. The jobs it might help them do. The desires it might help them satisfy.
To encourage bravery, don’t just use consumer insight at the beginning of the innovation journey. Put people at the heart of your innovation process and get feedback from your target consumer to nurture and develop the most promising concepts and get your product ready for a successful launch.
2. Objectivity: Find the right idea and execution
Just because you think an innovation idea is great does not mean it will resonate with others, or be right for the brand. And vice versa. Successful innovation requires the bravery to stand back and assess an innovation’s true potential.
For Kantar Talks UK 2021 I interviewed Steve White, General Manager Europe & Africa, Innovation at Diageo, who stressed the need to find the right innovation opportunities, the ones that solve both consumer and business needs. He said, “We are very choiceful around where we innovate, so we work out how we deliver innovation that is working in service of the business strategy or is so meaningfully different that it will change the business’s strategy.”
And he highlighted the need to ensure that an innovation fits with their brand promise. Talking about the success of Gordon’s 0.0 alcohol-free gin, he notes that the development required the taste of 0.0 to be “true to that Gordon’s experience.” No simple task with a brand as trusted and loved as Gordon’s, but crucial to the innovation’s ultimate success.
So when taking that step back and assessing an innovation’s true potential, one must fully evaluate the potential of an idea or concept to drive long-term incremental growth and brand power.
3. Agility: Learn and adapt quickly
Bravery also means admitting when things are not going to plan, no matter how challenging that might be. It is better to identify a problem quickly, learn from what went wrong, and adapt accordingly. The faster you can identify whether people respond well to an idea or prototype, the less time and resources will be wasted. This is where today’s automated research platforms, like Kantar Marketplace, have an important role to play. By making the research process more agile, it is easier to identify when people are not responding as hoped and identify what to do about it, whether it is weeding out the weak ideas quickly or adapting to improve the chances of success.
4. Confidence: Look beyond the familiar
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 must be able to demonstrate that consumers will find the innovation meaningful. You also need to convince stakeholders that the innovations that might appear niche have the potential to be breakthrough.
Finally, you need to demonstrate that new innovations will enable incremental growth (that won’t cannibalise your existing portfolio) and contribute to long-term growth and brand equity. Good consumer insight can not only boost your confidence, but help you champion the innovation with a wider set of stakeholders.
5. Persistence: Create long-term success
Too many innovations fail to get past their first year in market. Not because they lack meaning or difference, but because companies lack the ability to persevere and continue investment. Innovation doesn’t stop at launch. It takes time to build trial and sales momentum. You need to monitor your launch closely to understand how to optimise the innovation in market.
Steve White told us that, in Diageo’s experience, the biggest innovation growth comes after its first year in-market, which is why part of his role is to make sure the business continues to invest in its innovations after the excitement of the launch has faded.
So, that is why meaningfully different innovation requires bravery. But once you have had your first innovation success you will need the courage to do it all over again, because continued growth demands continued innovation.
We’d love to discuss your innovation needs, so please get in touch.