In the new global economic reality defined by constant change, companies and, consequently, brands cannot simply survive in the shelter of their comfort zone. It is true that change is hard and sometimes even risky, but taking risks and a certain ambiguity are part of the scenario of those companies that succeed. Comfort zones, built under pre-crisis resources and processes, must be expanded to generate new spaces that make room for innovation.

It should be noted that 40% of the businesses that have entered the “S&P 500” over the last 20 years have done so from a business model focused on innovation.

 

Innovation is not born in a laboratory

By definition, innovation implies a change that is new. The term comes from the Latin innovatio and means the action and effect of creating something new. Its lexical components are the prefix in– (inwards), novus (new), plus the suffix -tion (action and effect).

Business innovation represents an improvement in a company’s business model. It can be achieved by making important organizational, productive or technological changes in the proposal that a business makes to the market in order to be more efficient and achieve a better competitive position.

In this context, it is important to note that there are two main purposes for all business innovation. The first is to increase the competitive effectiveness of the company, an aspect that is achieved by making substantial changes in internal processes, making the organization much more competitive. The second purpose is focused on increasing the value that customers perceive with the products and services offered by a business through its brand, an objective that is achieved with a reconversion of the business model, where research and development are essential to find opportunities.

There are four key elements shared by companies that incorporate innovation into their DNA, through their brand:

  • They easily adapt to market changes.
  • They are very agile internally in the development of new solutions.
  • They maintain a long-term vision.
  • They know how to create absolutely overwhelming competitive advantages.

 

Branding and innovation

Brand and innovation are closely linked. Strong brands are not only strong because of innovation, but they are themselves an important source of innovation. Branding facilitates ownership of innovation, adds credibility and legitimacy, improves visibility, and supports communication. Innovation needs the brand as a guide to connect the good things that the organization has with the wants and needs of customers.

Some common drivers for innovation are advances in technology, changes in competition, new trends, internal transformations, social changes, etc. Variations in any of these dimensions force the company to react. But innovation cannot be the effect of reacting to a problem, but must be integrated from a proactive perspective: looking for opportunities, rather than reacting to inevitable changes.

 

The Changemaker Effect

The Changemaker effect is a term coined by Henry F. From Sio to describe how co-creation systems, along with unstoppable technological advances and the democratization of leadership are driving explosive social change.

Talking about innovation means having these Changemakers, people and organizations willing to lead the future, taking and undertaking initiatives. And it is a reality that in the business world the power of change can be much greater with the attitude of these figures, who are able to unite the attitudes of Startups with the resources of a large organization.

From this perspective, 4 values stand out that the most disruptive innovation teams must share: Multifunctional leadership, flexibility, connectivity and passion.

 

Values Needed for Disruptive Innovation

LEADERSHIP. Transformational projects are inherently complex, and can rarely be solved with internal capabilities alone. The leader must have enough autonomy to create a cross-functional team tailored to the requirements of each project, just as they would if it were a small company. A high-performing team is identified when you see its members defend the idea with the conviction and enthusiasm of an entrepreneur looking for capital for their business. Leading innovation teams isn’t easy, it requires a fine balance between respecting the talent of the group and at the same time having enough judgment to make difficult decisions – and make things happen!

 

FLEXIBILITY. In such a changing environment, we must program ourselves to live in “beta” mode permanently. Aware that we start from more hypotheses than certainties, and of the low probability of getting it right from uncertainty, we only move forward with small achievements, contrasting ideas at every step, learning along the way, rethinking solutions and iterating permanently. It is important to understand – and we have not been educated for this – that it has the same value to pass a milestone correctly as to identify a “false positive”, and to dismiss a project in time before investing too many resources in it. Flexibility, agility, creativity and resilience are values on the rise.

 

CONNECTIVITY. Connection is the best secret of innovators. It is the new value of our age. The more stimuli we receive, the more connections, the more ideas, and the greater the ability to innovate. By understanding this correlation, we realize that we can all educate our creativity: it is enough to have a proactive attitude, be curious, be there where things happen, get out of the office, talk to clients… until we focus on a specific challenge and magically the Aha! Organizations have a lot of work to do to facilitate this aspect. For example, equipping yourself with tools that allow you to observe the outside world, create a collaborative culture, open the ecosystem to external collaborators and surround yourself with restless people who enjoy asking questions and discovering.

 

PASSION. It is a feeling that acts as an internal engine of change. It is the positive energy needed to overcome obstacles, the stimulus to think big, the courage to take risks, the main pole of attraction for talent. Many interesting projects are dismissed out of fear or lack of motivation, in the same way that some eventually become brilliant, even though they were born seemingly poor. Passion convinces, it is the courage that never fails, without passion there is no project.

 

Doblin Model

Jay Doblin He argues that “brand innovations help ensure that customers and users recognize, remember, and prefer your offerings over those of competitors or substitutes. The big ones exude a promise that appeals to buyers and conveys a distinct identity. They are typically the result of carefully designed strategies that are implemented across many touchpoints between the company and its customers, including communications, advertising, service interactions, channel environments, and the conduct of employees and business partners. Brand innovations can transform products into cherished products and lend meaning, intent, and value to your offerings and your company.”

For Doblin, innovations are divided into three categories: configuration, offer and experience, identifying up to 10 levels of innovation. The configuration category focuses on the inner workings of a company and its business system, the offering focuses on a company’s core product or service, and the experience focuses on customer-facing elements.

 

Roskam Model

Erik Roscam Abbing, in his Brand Driven Innovation, takes it a step further and sets the Design Thinking as the glue that creates the synergies between branding and innovation: “The brand needs innovation to complete its promise, and innovation needs branding to bring meaning to the brand by understanding the relationship between the organization and the citizens.”

Based on the premise that branding is about finding the balance between who you are as a company and what the customer really values, I consider this an ideal approach to foster successful innovation. The problem is that many of the decisions that companies make in branding are still in the area of marketing or R+D, when any decision of this type must be taken at the same level as the business strategy and this implies from the company’s own management.

Under this reflection, for a company to grow based on innovation, three factors need to come together: a brand culture that facilitates it, a brand strategy that includes it, and good tools that support it. Any imbalance between them will cause innovation to cease to be truly innovation.

 

Brand Driven Innovation

This model shows that the organizations that have been most successful in integrating innovation stand out for agreeing on three key elements:

    • They know what the customer wants. They have a deep understanding about their customers’ lives and the context in which their offering materializes.
    • They know exactly what they are good at and want to achieve excellence in it. They know very well what they are for and what their capabilities are.
    • They know well how to combine the previous two. They have a knack for developing a territory of their own between what the client wants and what they are best at.

 

It is a model that combines branding, innovation and design strategy to help companies grow in a way that fits their vision and values, delivering real and lasting value to customers. Part of a process structured in 4 stages:

 

  1. Build a people-centric brand. The purpose of this stage is to make the brand valid for innovation. You have to take the brand out of the marketing departments and bring it completely to the entire organization. Everyone participates in the building of the brand that is thus integrated into the corporate culture, and connected to the aspirations and needs of customers.

 

The methods to be applied at this stage are internal and external research tools that include context mapping, customer journey, buyer personas, etc.

The goal is to achieve a shared vision and a promise delivered in a visual and understandable way.

 

  1. Build a brand-centric innovation strategy. By identifying the company’s unique capabilities and customer needs, it is possible to find formulas for value creation. A good question to answer is: How can we evolve our capabilities and resources so that they allow us to develop new elements of value throughout our brand’s relationship with the customer? Some of the methods to achieve this include road mapping, future scenarios, customer journey mapping, future concepts… The result is the creation of different innovation milestones, which are then prioritized by configuring authentic guidelines for action.

 

  1. Build a brand-centric design strategy. At this stage, the design process is managed strategically, and decisions are made as to how to use it to create meaningful interactions across all developed touchpoints. Design allows you to take the strategy to something tangible. It closes the circle between vision and value, idea and reality. When a company has identified its unique capabilities and can transform them into value for its customers, multidisciplinary design will help put it into practice.

 

  1. Address all touchpoints. The last phase gets the best out of each of the brand’s customer touchpoints. Every time a brand interacts with a customer, it has an opportunity to deepen relationships with them. The challenge is to understand the customer and their needs and thus create maximum value over time. The ultimate purpose of this stage is to extend Brand Driven Innovation to all touchpoints.

 

Innovation, a driving force for the brand

Innovation today involves adding a new dimension to the traditional approach. A dimension that knows how to incorporate the human variable, the only one capable of adding value to the business from a strategy that merges customer expectations with the brand’s purpose.

In this sense, companies that understand that this is a long-term approach will have a better chance of combining the strength of their brand and innovation, achieving better results.

 

 

 

Carlos Puig Falcó

CEO of Branward