Faced with some time to think about Why Brands Need To Innovate I started by Googling the topic. I do admit two things:

  1. I shouldn’t have to Google; innovation is a large part of my job. And…
  2. I should have asked Alexa as a prime example of good product innovation.

Now, my search garnered what you would expect to hear; innovation helps give the jump on competitors; Innovation can recruit new consumers or occasions and hence, revenue; Innovation keeps your brand relevant and modern in a progressive world. Or even better, innovation does all three which is arguably the holy grail for product innovation – demonstrated beautifully by the launch of the Robinsons Squash’d range HERE

Then I asked myself the same question and I think it’s all those reasons plus a simple human truth… We like new things! New, shiny, interesting, exciting….

We could also argue that brand loyalty is dead and so there’s never been a better opportunity for innovation to help a brand stand out in the ‘pick me’ crowd.

Now, just creating something ‘new’ won’t cut the mustard.  Innovation derived from the notion of ‘we can make it, so we should’ is definitely a thing, albeit a risky thing. Innovation of this type does however strike one positive cord – more often than not, they see the light of day which many product innovations can struggle to do.

One of the biggest barriers to creating innovation is corporate paralysis. Companies being too nervous to launch a new product or service for fear of failure. Or for not having all the answers from the offset. A natural concern but is doing something better than doing nothing?

Imagine if Amazon’s Lab126 didn’t launch Alexa for fear of it bombing like their Fire Phone.  Could you imagine, now, a world without Alexa?

Of course, doing something successfully is always the aim – no one believes what they are launching isn’t good enough – but innovation can often not be right the first time but that doesn’t mean it’s a failure. It just reinforces that innovation is an iterative process.

At RPM, our Rapid Innovation Process is based on learnings from working with many start-ups. The five-week process starts with a business problem or opportunity, through provocations and creative concepts and leading to packcepts for consumers to validate.   All in 5 weeks.  That’s the same time it takes to home brew a batch of beer.  Just one.

In five weeks, there is no time to be side-tracked with what we don’t know but rather we use cultural insight to hypothesise the hunting grounds we want to know more about and marry it with creativity to develop new product ideas. We also believe it’s vitally important to ground our thinking in robust commercials. We don’t want to be busy fools after all.

To use Alexa as an example again. The initial intention for the ‘wake word’ was to be ‘Amazon’ but as part of the iterative process this changed to ‘Alexa’ so consumers weren’t delivered a range of random things following an Amazon ad appearing on telly in earshot of the voice-control assistant.  That test and learn brought about the name that now fills homes across the world and changed how we order more sugar forever.

RPM’s Rapid Innovation Process relies on having a small, senior cross-function team to ensure we get tangible quick, maintain momentum and remain guided by the mantra – Don’t be afraid to Burn & Learn along the journey.