Tom Downing, innovation director at creative agency Loaf, tries to define the term 'innovation' within brand communication, and questions whether we really are innovating.
Pursuing innovation in the brand communications world
Innovation is widely bandied about as the hip way to label your brand ‘futuristic.’ It’s a way to ‘differentiate’ yourself within the sector. Bolt on the terms AI, Blockchain and VR in your presentation and you're in with the Silicon Valley tribe.
In all seriousness, innovation means different things to different people; yet, it can have a profound impact on brand growth if you understand it and invest in it.
To innovate is to: “action to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” We all want to innovate to a degree.
It speaks to the desire to not sit still and results in quicker successes and a more robust future for your company. However, to really innovate effectively requires a certain mindset and dedication from the top down, across the organisation.
Following a recent 2 day trip to the innovation event Unbound London, I couldn’t stop thinking about the focus across most of the talks: the how-to of innovation. One talk, in particular, satirised the subject and, focussed on how not to innovate.
Follow their 8 tips and innovation will shut down quickly within your organisation! Comedy aside, the point of the talk was spot on.
Why are we all not innovating now? Most brands really want to, but they don’t know how to, and if they try, they often treat it as a siloed off department.
What Does Innovation Mean to Loaf?
As an agency, we are innovating across every department. Be it production, ideation, operations, finance, or client services; it’s a mindset we strive to embed into our culture across the board.
To encourage curiosity, exploration, and the freedom to never accept the ‘normal way of doing things.’ It’s our way of innovating as a business.
We take this approach directly to brands to influence the way they look at campaigns and brand customer experience.
Our ambition is to explore new avenues in brand product, service, and customer acquisition.
This results in the birth of new products, services, and communications that forge new kinds of relationships with new kinds of customers.
So, how do you innovate?
The first step is to set requirements and keep to them. This is essential to make innovation productive for your business.
Innovation has to come from the heart of an organisation. It cannot be pushed to one side or department, it cannot be explored under usual business restraints, it cannot have a clear business plan, and it cannot guarantee an ROI.
Freedom is absolutely necessary across an organisation’s structure to openly encourage innovation through brand, product, or service. The best innovations are born from open collaboration, so it cannot be forced upon under usual business processes.
Adopt a curious mindset. Innovation leaders must naturally have the urge and desire to explore and experiment.
The curiosity mindset is one of confidence in not accepting the norm. Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy Change reciprocates this, by stating “if there were a logical answer, we would have already found it”.
Define a Singular Challenge
Too often, innovators attempt to climb Everest and take on the world. Innovation is about failing fast, learning, and taking the chance to succeed greatly. Listen to your customers and give them what they desire.
Just Eat started by noticing obsessive gamers couldn’t leave their computers, yet wanted takeaways delivered upstairs... in the same building! Solve one problem at a time through exploration and curiosity, and build on it. Walk up one mountain at a time.
Innovation should be focussed on how we can solve or pursue a challenge in different ways. Too often, I see people innovating by playing catch up with the competition. Express freedom in your thinking and take inspiration from completely different sectors, cultures, and trends. Think about where you are going, not where you are.
The Perfect Recipe
So, how do we innovate successfully?
Innovation is easily, and quickly, shut down, as it demands that we abandon traditional methods and encourage a culture of curiosity. Rory Sutherland summarises the perfect recipe of innovation:
“The best innovation happens at the intersection of complexity economics, technology and (evolutionary) psychology” loaf cra
Now go forth and explore the world, expand your mindset, explode the norm, fall down, get up better, and in the end, innovate.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement