Can brands survive without innovation? Well the answer is no, but there is more to this answer than meets the eye. There is no doubt that consumers now expect, and even demand, innovation.
Innovation means bringing new ideas to the marketplace, and some brands do this in a major way, such as Apple with its continuous stream of innovative products. Such iconic brands accomplish what some call the art of creative disruption. They use creative design and fast commercialisation of new technologies allowing new ways of doing things to completely disrupt the market. This can be devastating for competitors, and Nokia is one brand that has lost out in its global market share as it has failed to really catch up with advances from Apple. Research in Motion’s Blackberry has added to Nokia’s woes.
There is another “I” that goes with Innovation and that is Insight. It is not a good idea to innovate by leaving the process to New Product Development departments without the input from consumer insight that marketing can bring. This is increasingly managed by ethnography and anthropology – ways of studying human culture and behaviour. Observation of how people live their lives is often much more effective for developing or enhancing products than asking questions of them in focus groups.
Innovation can also take the form of brand re-invigoration, where the brand basically remains unchanged in what it stands for and even its visual identity but the focus, relevance and execution change as is the case with Burberry. Always a consistent fashion brand, the focus has changed to a new and younger target audience, and the product and communications have changed accordingly to become relevant.
As a final word, most brand experts would advise not to innovate for the sake of doing so. The BBC has recently changed its “iPlayer” website to become more consumer friendly, but received so many complaints that apologies have followed and the company has had agree to restore some of its previous characteristics that customers liked and found easier to use.
So there are several messages here. Firstly, a brand always has to be relevant to the changing needs and lifestyles of consumers, and sometimes new developments in technology can allow for large and disruptive market innovations. Secondly, re-invent your brand if necessary to keep it relevant to your particular customer group. Thirdly, never think from the inside out; always think from the outside in!
Another brand insight from Paul Temporal