Motive: Great product innovation equals great advertising!
by Preetesh Sewraj (@iPreetesh) There is a reason that the brilliant minds entrusted to create our advertising are called “creatives”. Their role is no less different from past artists who were commissioned to create an artistic piece designed to sell an idea to a large group of people. The challenge today, though, is that sometimes creatives are not given adequate inspiration —it’s difficult for someone to be inspired by a bland product that exhibits no innovation and doesn’t add true value to consumers’ lives.
I believe that today we’re in a space where there are very few products that inspire consumers. In a recent survey by my company (Product of the Year 2015, n = 5008), 83% of the consumers surveyed indicated that they were willing to pay more for an innovative product, yet a mere 17% felt that the products available were innovative vs what is currently available.
There are multiple reasons why the innovation pipeline has diminished in South Africa but some of the key reasons include:
- The tough economy: the rand has seen all-time lows in the past few months, interest rates are rising and we are close to having our credit rating downgraded to junk status. These are tough economic times and they have a direct impact upon the cost of raw materials or imported products.
- Price wars: these take out value from markets. As an example, the recent price wars between P&G and Unilever in the laundry category may have been a short-term blessing for consumers but, when value is taken out of the category, it hurts these brands in the long run. The reduced value in the market generally translates into a reduced innovation pipeline.
- Over-reliance on current hero products: some brands are market-leaders and are very comfortable in this role. They know that they can rely on their hero product for many years to come, yet they challenge creative to come up with new and innovative ways to market the same product. Apple is a company that understands that you should never be afraid to cannibalise yourself and offer consumers a better offering than what is currently available.
The key challenge that brand owners need to take up is that, despite market challenges, you have to be constantly innovating. True brand entrepreneurs will anticipate future challenges and have a robust innovation pipeline ready to ensure their products excite consumers and that creatives are excited to create winning communication around it.
Forcing creatives to come up with new ideas upon existing products, and further burdening them with low budgets, only results in weak advertising that neither inspires nor delivers the anticipated business results. As the old saying goes, “fortune favours the bold” and it is the bold brands that win the consumers’ hearts and minds.
The key steps that brand owners need to remember are:
- Innovation is not invention: there is a key difference between innovation and invention. Innovation is about the incremental step changes that ensure a constant improvement, or “kaizen” as the Japanese refer to it. Invention is the creation of a wholly new idea. Invention is difficult to do but innovation should be part of the DNA of every brand owner. If you are not innovating, then you are preparing to cease existence.
- Innovation is not necessarily a cost-prohibitive process: I once worked upon a brand where our innovation was to take a brand with a medicinal image and create a line of products in fun colours with unique fragrances, yet still offering the core brand benefit of germ-killing. This simple innovation did not cost the brand a lot but the market impact was very impressive. It resonated with consumers and gave the agency team something exciting to talk about. Brand owners need to evaluate their products and think of ways that they may create an impactful product with minimal stress upon the finances of the business.
- Innovation does not happen in a silo: Many members of the agency team may spend more time on a brand than the current brand custodian, yet they are never involved in the thought process behind a brand’s innovation pipeline. Brand owners should bring the agency team into the innovation pipeline discussions early in the process to ensure that the agency has time to think of a strong communication strategy, or offer constructive criticism of ideas that they will struggle to develop into strong creative executions. Innovation should involve all key stakeholders to ensure future success.
The relationship between brand owners and agencies is sometimes flawed, and many companies tacitly allow a strained relationship to exist between these two key groups. The ideal-world scenario is that there needs to be a realisation that both these groups are trying to achieve the same goal: great brand equity and sales.
The development of an innovation pipeline is also something that is of mutual benefit to agencies and brand owners, as it dictates the communication strategy for the brand, which ultimately affects brand equity and sales.
Great products also create a more-pleasurable brand interaction for consumers and, as consumers support the brand, a greater inflow of revenue is allowed that benefits the brand’s bottom-line and ensures great communication from motivated creatives.
Preetesh Sewraj (@iPreetesh) is the CEO and chief innovation analyst at Product of the Year South Africa. He is passionate about the various facets of innovation that touch our lives and improve our life’s journey.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.
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