Passikoff: What’s So Good About Brand Innovation?

If you, like Steve Jobs, want to “put a ding in the universe,” think innovation. That’s the way to go – especially if you’re a brand. 

Innovation is brand-critical. It allows brands to stay competitive – to differentiate themselves, to create unique positions in consumers’ minds and allow them to meet consumers’ ever-changing needs. That said, and with the deepest respect for Abraham Maslow and his 1943 Hierarchy, it’s more than “needs” today. Needs evolve. Expectations, happen. Often in nanoseconds.

Expectations are very high especially regarding brands. They’re constantly on the increase. Usually faster than brands can keep up. Which is troublesome because that produces an ever-increasing gap between what consumers expect and what they feel brands furnish. Oh, and the bigger the gap the greater the potential for eliciting disappointment. And, if you’re a brand, you really don’t want gaps. Or disappointed consumers. You really, really don’t want either of those things! There are lots of other things you don’t want, but for the moment keep those two in mind. That gap, however, can be an opportunity too. Because the right innovation can play a crucial role in helping a brand to bridge that gap. 

Generally, innovation is usually thought of as “new products.” You know, stuff like new features, functionalities, and improvements, and it’s possible they can be aligned with customer expectations. But to do that, you need to know two things; 
1) What those expectations are, and 
2) Which values will best fulfill them. 

As an added bonus, that kind of innovation can also lead to experiences that also address evolving emotional expectations. In fact, these days it’s mostly not about the product but the experience. Customer expectations are shaped – even generated – by experiences. Through brand innovation, companies can design user-friendly interfaces, intuitive processes, and seamless interactions that enhance CX. Innovation streamlines processes, and diminishes friction, noise, and pain points. And the more brand innovation meets consumers’ expectations, the more effective it will be when it comes to putting a ding in the universe.

But wait! There’s more.

Marketing is marketing after all. Brands talks about “personalization” and “customization”, but customers expect it. Tailored to unique sector or cohort needs and preferences, innovation can allow brands to develop the personalized and customized solutions consumers expect. Think AI and machine learning. They  allow brands to offer those personalized recommendations, customized products, and individualized messaging that resonate so much and so well with customers’ expectations.

Innovation, of course, involves, nay, requires forward-thinking. If you want to identify brand innovation that will address future trends expectations provide the best roadmap for future trends and also for identifying sector-dynamics flight paths.  By investing in research that measures real expectations, brands can proactively identify emerging trends. Then – if they’re any good – innovative solutions follow – ahead of their competitors, ahead of the curve, and ahead of customers articulated “needs.” At that point, it’s too late – particularly in today’s fast, faster, fastest-paced environment where staying ahead of the competition is more important than ever. 

Leveraging innovative strategies, technologies, and tactics establishes a real competitive edge. It’s customer-centric and builds long-term loyalty, creates stronger consumer connections, and demonstrates a real brand commitment -and not in an in-your-face way. More in a below-the-radar, emotional way. For additional corroboration for that, see the previous paragraph.

Innovation that resonates with appropriate emotionality is best, of course, but rational benefits accrue as well. There are always technological advancements that brands need to embrace if only because they’re growth opportunities. Innovation-opportunities are linked to business growth and brand expansion. Innovation can reduce costs, increase efficiencies, improve product-service quality, create new revenue streams, open new markets, and expand the customer base. So there’s that.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that innovation-driven brands foster corporate cultures of creativity, curiosity, and/or learning. Which attracts top talent and cultivates engagement and/or transformation. You know, the kinds of companies that usually end up on those “Best Places to Work” lists. 

Which brings me to our list. Our 20th annual Most Innovative Brands list. 

Each year we post the top 50 brands consumers identify most with the value of “innovation.” We’ll be posting it next month. And it’s all driven by expectations. Because they’re the real gateways to brand innovation. And sure, it’s our list. But more importantly, expectations correlate very highly with positive consumer behavior, sales, and profitability. Which is great. 

But wait! There’s more. 

Our Most Innovative Brands list identifies innovation from the consumer perspective. See, it doesn’t matter to consumers what promises are made on earnings calls or how many patents a brand holds or even the profits they post. Consumers just don’t look at innovation that way. And while they can’t always articulate what form they want innovation to take, they recognize it when they see it. More importantly, they recognize it when they feel it.

Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash

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