Innovate – make the most of the New Year

It has often been said that you have to “innovate or die” and this has never been more the case than in the last decade. It was a time which saw brands, both domestically and internationally, fighting for their existence, trying to keep their share of an ever more dwindling pot of disposable income. Brands were forced to re think their strategy, re define their business plans and re connect with a vastly different market place and consumer. Many Irish and International brands took on this challenge with relish and looked upon this difficult period as an opportunity to change their offering, using new and more creative means to engage with their audience.

Now that we appear to be turning the corner from an economic viewpoint, with consumer sentiment rising and exit from the EU bailout system – has the need for innovation lessened? Will a change in consumer mindset lead to a respite amongst brands when it comes to being creative? For some this may be the case, but the truly successful brands will continue to innovative, as standing still is actually going backwards.

While innovation is defined as “introducing something new” or “making changes to an established product” in our experience at RED C, the best practice innovation processes needs to be structured and planned. Leading brands we have worked with in the innovation space have developed processes which ensure idea generation is a perpetual function of their business. Dedicated teams are conceived to ensure steady streams of ideas are generated. Ideas have been hatched through spotting movements in sales data, utilising social media or any other source of information which shed light on consumer needs or highlight an opportunity.

Although it may appear to be somewhat illogical or counter intuitive, evidence suggests the most successful innovation programmes have clear structures and processes in place (including timelines!). Consistency in approach and measurement are fundamental for a successful innovation process. Understanding the problem or business need is often more critical than finding the right answer – to quote Einstein; “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution”. Innovation works best when it is part of a pro active process for any brand and not a reactive impulse after the horse has bolted.

From a marketplace perspective, what was borne out of necessity for many brands, should lead to a realisation of the rewards which can accrue as a function of having innovation as a constant in business plans. Consumers are constantly changing how they interact with brands, with behaviour and needs changing extremely quickly. As this interaction comes through conventional and non conventional methods alike – the one constant should be the innovation process itself, what comes from it is up to you and your imagination.