It was when my two-year old niece crawled across the floor, past the TV screen, shunning her toys in favour of the shiny iPad under the coffee table while keeping her eyes on Teletubbies playing on the TV that it hit me…
Consumers have gone from consuming specific content through specific channels at specific times and in specific locations to cross-media consumption, expecting relevant content and offers when, where, and how they want them. This is a change that is challenging brands and marketers, creating havoc and leaving them scrambling to reconfigure their approach, organisation and tactics.
Innovation is not invention. Innovation is also not improvement. Innovation is doing something differently. So how can brands focus on innovation?
Brands first need to accept the fact that there is change. What worked yesterday is not working today and will definitely not work tomorrow. They need to be ready to embrace this change by trying new things, experimenting.
Till yesterday, the ‘Voice of the Customer’ used to be a research study conducted by the market research agencies. Today, customers are not shy to communicate with brands, with each other, or just be vocal about their opinions. Brands need to realise the wealth of feedback that this offers them, and the agility this provides them to experiment and get instant feedback along their innovation cycle.
Brands need to think in terms of a continuum vis-à-vis customers. Not a beginning and an end, but a continuous opportunity – of trying, learning, sharpening, trying something new again. Indecision paralyses and brands need to be careful not to get caught in this paralysis.
Customers don’t have a digital and analog life. They just have a life, where experiences are ubiquitous across channels and mediums. Brands will need to think through the customer experience, tear down any silos that exist within their organisation and provide unique experiences that delight their customers. This will necessitate a rethink on the agency engagements they currently have.
Innovation is not a department. It is a philosophy, a way of life that organisations need to embrace. This necessitates exposing your biggest asset as a brand – your people – to your end customers. Traditionally brands have been afraid to try this for fear of exposing what is ‘internal’ to the brand. In the new age we are in, there is only one face that the brand has – itself. Brands will need to let employees and customers interact to drive innovation.
Innovation necessitates that brands inspire the organisation to try something different. Nike+, Netflix, Gatorade, Avon – all adapted to the new order.
The landscape that brands operate in is seeing the change of new media, mobile technology, and new digital devices already. As consumers gain more control of how, when, and if they interact with brands, brands will have two choices. Either they become agile, innovate, and adapt to consumers’ changing behaviour, or they become irrelevant!
The author is CEO, VML Qais