The past 6+ years have presented a bingo card of challenges for businesses. Brexit, COVID-19, political disruption, supply chain issues, rapidly rising inflation rates, and rippling impact of all of these factors and more.
So, during a rapidly changing market, how can innovation build brand awareness and drive revenue? In what ways can businesses use innovative measures to support their products, services and offerings? And how do we determine what 'innovation' truly means?
Watch our full webinar on innovation during rapidly changing markets here. Featuring Jessica Waller, Marketing & Brand Specialist, Emma Young, VP and Head of Global Communications at Bulb, Victoria Biggs, Chief Communications Officer at Motorway, and Alex Baverstock, UK Product & Pack Testing Lead at Ipsos. Chaired by Alice Weightman, Founder of Hanson Search and Co-Founder of The Work Crowd.
Insight #1: Innovation isn't a one trick pony
The term 'innovation' is often synonymous with new products, new inventions, and landmark results that forever alter the market. But the reality of becoming a 'challenger brand' is much more nuanced.
Driving innovation is as much about how brands use data and insights, the principles they stand for during seismic change, how they cater for their audiences now, and more. Eradicating bureaucracy and red tape makes way for opportunities, creativity and experimentation.
"Sticking to the old routine and playing it safe is where brands go to die. It's the age of experimentation as much as innovation."
- Jessica Waller, Marketing & Brand Specialist
Understanding evolving behaviours and attitudes of your target audience here is key. Getting to the core of how significant change (much like the pandemic) informs consumers' pain points and sways decision-making enables you to adapt your operations in a way that's authentically answering needs and wants. And importantly, creating genuine connection.
Key Takeaway: Adapt and evolve existing concepts to meet current needs
"Innovation can be about education and reassurance when the world is unpredictable. It's about making sure you're in the right place at the right time, with the right information, and maintaining a consistent presence when nothing feels consistent."
- Victoria Biggs, Chief Communications Officer at Motorway
Assessing the potential of existing concepts - be it a product or a service - will mitigate the risk of being seen as exploitative during troubling times, and instead provide real answers for real problems. Draw insights from pulse surveys, focus groups and common questions to finesse your solution-driven innovation.
Insight #2: Metrics and innovation go hand-in-hand - particularly in marketing and comms
When faced with a less optimum market, a lot of brands struggle to resolve their marketing and communications spend. And it's not uncommon for senior stakeholders and board members to turn to a perceived 'safer' route and reduce spend to save on overhead costs.
Testing and measuring the outcomes of marketing and comms not only helps you identify the right strategy for your brand during unpredictable times, but will give you the evidence of ROI - and consumer value - you need to secure buy-in.
"Brands that maintain their communication spend - and share of voice - are much more resilient during economic downtime and more able to capitalise and grow at a stronger rate on the other side."
- Alex Baverstock, UK Product & Pack Testing Lead at Ipsos
Rather than gathering the metrics and outcomes at the end of a project or campaign, set up a hypothesis at the start of your innovation, and make A/B testing a number one priority. Yes, you'll be in a position to evolve activity, but it will also give you active proof points in real time for your reporting - a big win for the higher ups.
Key Takeaway: Short-term, smaller scale campaigns can provide just as many insights - and impact.
Larger, 'big impact' campaigns may not be feasible for your brand right now, but shorter-term projects can make just as strong a mark. Keep best practice intact - personalisation, consistency, holistic etc. - but take the opportunity to experiment with variable channels and formats, and use popular tactics like influencer- and cause-based marketing to say something different.
Insight #3: Let purpose innovate your sustainability strategy
Suffice to say that some of the biggest innovation challenges facing us today is how we achieve economic growth, sustainably. This is particularly true when you unravel what sustainability really means and its impact - planet, people, products, growth, commercialism and so much more.
'Purpose' isn't just a nice-to-have; it's a powerful culture that can motivate and accelerate your brand. It can ensure teams are driven by the same mission, increase sales and customer loyalty, and support your brand integrity. Supporting your ESG goals with true, authentic purpose
"There doesn't have to be a trade-off, cost huge amounts of money, or for there to be a huge team in order to achieve true sustainability. Connecting it back to the purpose, the why is important for the survival and success of the business."
- Emma Young, VP and Head of Global Communications at Bulb
Small, effective steps towards your sustainability and ESG goals can be as simple as providing your consumers with more choice, and increasing internal buy-in through your internal communications. This eliminates the sense of overwhelm for your audience and teams that can sometimes lead to apathy, simultaneously driving consistent action.
Key Takeaway: Scale your sustainability goals as you scale your brand
As a business, sustainability is your responsibility, however, progress can also be incremental - particularly for smaller start-ups. As your brand scales, your goals can too for a more effective and sustainable way of achieving those objectives. Bringing your customers into the fold of your ESG goals will become simpler, and more vital.
The concept of consistency seems a thing of the past for most brands, particularly where the market is concerned, and staying ahead of the curve is a key concern for practically every business right now.
Innovation is a big word, and it can be easy to associate innovation with a huge, market-shaping strategy. Yet, the true foundation of innovation is simpler and more nuanced: meeting the needs and wants of your target audience in a new, creative, effective way. And in a way that conveys your brand vision and purpose.
Think of it this way: if you ever heard the phrase, "necessity is the mother of invention", it's a reliable North Star for your brand in our current market.