“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay
Engineering creates Technology but it’s Marketing that creates products.
To innovate means to explore, discover, and define strategic marketing objectives. Understanding and delivering on innovation that gives rise to brand/marketing plans for multi-generational consumer demographics and in a technology-driven age— delivering ROI by aligning vision with strategy, invigorating and reinvigorating brands that last. This is truly a time when you will unleash your muse and materialize visions.
And Get this: You don’t have to have an investment bank behind you to create and innovate. You have everything you need to generate new ideas to brand products and services—and—hopefully, even disrupt the market.
Having a process in which to innovate provides you with the power of a unique workflow framework to create a strategic marketing campaign for products and services that rise above the noise to take hold of an unexploited market. This framework will both challenge you and empowers you to ZERO in and tap your innovation (‘secret sauce’) in alignment with market trends and market white space.
We use our own framework to help anticipate needs with a future-stage approach and design groundbreaking products, create new categories, and niches that ‘dial in’ on ideal customer profiles—integrating differentiation, authenticity, functionality and design.
Innovation as a Strategic Tool
Brainstorming helps to ensure that your brand attributes represent the core values of your company and/or product. In other words, protect brand essence while you innovate and align your ideas with the opportunities presented in the market today and tomorrow.
You see, the idea is to create marketing plans that are always responsive, evolving, and are true to brand integrity. Many marketing leaders steer away from brand core in an effort to innovate. This often winds up diluting the brand and leaving it in a weakened position. Perhaps focusing on innovation only worked initially in creating some buzz and generating immediate income, but eventually that fizzles and the brand is left with identity and market challenges.
Yes, while consumer appetite is always evolving and a brand must evolve to remain relevant in the eyes of its fans, the core characteristics that create your brand identity must remain intact, yet nimble enough to compete long term.
Help facilitate a team discussion about innovation by asking the following questions:
- What’s in YOUR (core)!? How can you avoid settling for basic product value? You must passionately identify the core areas of a product or service and achieve a greater solution that will surpass the initial problem. All of the discovery and data gathered now needs to be assessed and taken into consideration. Can you set out to innovate surpassing end user requirements and developing a solution that delivers beyond basic product/service value?
- What’s critical to deliver? Push yourself to discover the product’s potential—not just original intent—but untapped potential. When you do this, you enable your customer to solve market, commercialization, and business issues from a broader, more holistic perspective–which means the solution will not only innovatively disrupt the market, but it will endure. Step back and analyze the ecosystem where the problem exist and the dynamics the solutions interact within. Think long-range; are there broader opportunities you could solve down the road? When you innovate from a heightened perspective, you’ll be inspired to build in mechanisms that’ll allow you/your customer to “switch on” the provisioning needed—and when needed—to harness greater value—creating a paradigm shift.
- What’s difficult for competitors to imitate? Is there something other than meeting customer needs? It’s worth perusing the offerings of nearby complementors and – broadly thinking of (anticipating) other potential competitors including perhaps those not currently in your market space, but whom perhaps could have the (raw materials or a core value offering) to retool and realign their business strategy to compete.
- What is truly our differentiation? By now you’ve discovered the features and attributes of your product or service. Consider if this product will be a luxury item? Commodity? Perhaps a division spin off or a complete start-up that are unique to you and have great value and potential. Perform a deep dive, repeatedly answering the features and attributes question “So-what!?” as many times as you practical so as to gain inventory of each of the benefits the solution is expected to deliver. For example, “This does X, so what? Well doing X does Y, so what? Well doing Y does Z!”
- What’s the Total Return On Investment” (TROI). Think beyond your initial return on investment and value proposition. Yes, ok, you’re saving customers X over time and X divided by their investment in you equals the return on investment in months or years out. But, what are you enabling the customer to do through the solution you are offering? An example – your root-based organic moisturizer cream and makeup create instant beauty for a woman. What if the product was able to easily color-cover tattoos while acting as a skin detox agent? Now you’re enabling a woman out of recovery and reintegrating herself into society to present well and get a job (1st ROI); This job could sustain her recovery (2nd ROI); Sustaining her recovery will save her life and lift the quality of life and well-being of those around her (3rd ROI). As you can see these new value propositions could be marketed later and create new spaces—perhaps in the application of tattoo damage and coverup. In other words, new segments and industries will be ENABLED because of this one product or service. Fleshing out the TROI and the broadest of ultimate value propositions enables you to discover and innovate the optimal end game solution if you care to think so strategic or long-term. This also assists in prioritizing development budgets and deciding on what capabilities are worth building in early into the product or solution that possibly wouldn’t be “turned on” and used much later.
- What insight have you gained from competitive analysis and benchmarking? The best kind of competitors are the ones ‘you’ choose. Ideally you want to associate yourself with competitors whom are also complementors, creating potential pull-through for you in other areas or supporting the justification of your brand and mission—adding value to your product or service. Overall – the right mix of coopetition, complementors and core competitors provide valuable input and experience into your ongoing brand development and planning.
Examples of “coopetition”? Samsung supplies components for the Apple iPhone but both compete in the consumer market. The game is to careful and tactfully align with competitors who can grow the joint pie and whereas, you are the beneficiary of the larger portion of the pie.
“Poor firms ignore their competitors; average firms copy their competitors; winning firms lead their competitors.” – Philip Kotler
We have often revived brands by harnessing innovation to discipline, ensuring that brands can reverse downward spiral in financial returns and brand reputation—but also, become strong enough to endure market ups and downs.