Innovation has replaced Experience as the digital buzzword of 2016. It’s even replacing “Marketing’ in many senior marketers’ job titles, C-suites the world over are asking the same question: “How do we really innovate to stay ahead?” With this in mind, e3 has launched a thought leadership series to help address the challenges new technologies are causing for UK brands.
Throughout 2016 we will be collaborating with a select group of business leaders across the UK to address the commercial challenges that the latest innovations pose, whether in Web, Mobile, IOT, AI or M2M. By sharing our insights we hope to help them embrace invention and innovate with success.
To kick start the series, we held our launch session in London last week. The closed group discussed key issues of disruptive interventions by challenger brands, new methods for executing digital innovation within existing team structures and the value of creative hacks for exploring new innovations within tight timeframes and budgets.
“Stagnate at your peril”, warned Nicola Hinds, Director of Strategy at e3. She cited the impact of disrupter brands in the transport, hospitality and finance sectors on the established brands, such as Airbnb, Uber and Atom Bank , whose rise have caused a seismic revenue and culture shift. She then demonstrated how latest digital innovations by brands such as Hilton, Audi, RBS have been implemented to try both to retain and attract customers.
Nicola reminded the business leaders present of the impact of the millennial culture shift: from collecting things to experiences. “Focus on the magnificence in the mundane” to win their hearts and budgets, she advised. Use smart innovations to make their physical journeys seamless, their entertainment pure pleasure, and their financial transactions effortless.
“Innovation is an attitude, not a department,” chimed in Matt Boffey, MD of The London Strategy Unit. “Great ideas can come from anywhere.” With extensive experience consulting Adidas, the BBC, Unilever, GSK and others, he shared four tried and tested business models that help large organisations not only to activate innovation but to keep it on track; encouraging Internal Competition, having an Individual Catalyst, developing an Innovation Lab, or inviting external partners to collaborate from the Outside In.
Each approach has pros and cons, Matt advised. In each case it is vital for business leaders to analyse the potential risks over the possible rewards. He recommended that setting up an innovation stream with a ‘Pizza team’ that deploys outcomes and forms habits can be the most effective driver - if you can’t feed a team with two large pizzas then it’s too large he explained; (a quote borrowed from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos).
Once you have your innovation team, Matt recommended, to develop new ideas and launch them early and launch often. It took Angry Birds 52 iterations to get it right. Navigate by users - get a product into market and test, test test and put consumer needs above your skillset – sounds simple but, he said, this is a principle that often gets overlooked. Finally he reaffirmed Nicola Hind’s view, if you want to succeed you must put consumer needs above your own skills. Focus on customer experience over product marketing.
How can established brands implement innovations that compete successfully with lean, mean disrupters while protecting their core product and service offerings? Innovation leaders across all sectors share the same concern. They have to assess the time, cost and risk of innovation projects and the potential disruptions they can inflict on core services and functions. Dom Baker, e3’s innovation guru and creative director, advocates testing new ideas via creative hacks that can take no more than a few days to implement. He recommends that organisations put time into produce prototypes that can be tested to market quickly, without great expense or impact on core business propositions.
This high-octane creative approach can be swift to activate and lean to execute and great impacts can be monitored in short timeframes. Aut inveniam viam aut faciam he enthused: "I shall either find a way or make one." Everything begins with a challenge or an opportunity, he added. He shared examples of YouTube creative hacks and a Jaguar LandRover developer challenge as examples of effective fast innovation cycles that have changed wider company strategies. “There are no bucks without Buck Rogers,” he added, a statement appropriated from Apollo astronaut Gus Grissom. Great ideas drive bigger budgets. Good things made fast by many will reap greater rewards than a few people working slowly over an extended timeframe. “Innovation is a process of magpie-ism,” he concluded, beg, borrow and steal to evolve.
If you are a brand leader and are interested in joining our Innovation Series, are keen to share your ideas under Chatham House Rules, and to learn from our expertise and insights, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org