Meatball Sundae Thought #4: The role of innovation ~ Brand Mix

Friday, January 11, 2008

Meatball Sundae Thought #4: The role of innovation

Meatball Sundae can be pretty depressing reading for executives in charge of marketing meatballs. By "meatballs", Seth means "a branded item of little differentiation and decent quality." His argument - these products thrived in the period of mass marketing where TV advertising could be relied on to deliver a compelling message to the average consumer. But, with the fragmentation of media, this approach is becoming less and less effective. And this has made life difficult for marketers.

2007 was certainly the year of articles about the short life of CMOs. Here's just one of a bunch of similar articles. As this article points out: "As recently as five years ago, the CMO's role was much simpler. Chief marketers devised a brand message, hired an advertising agency to create clever ads, managed promotions, and then waited for their bonus or pink slip. "You would run a major ad campaign and trust it," says Jim Speros, a veteran marketing executive who is currently CMO at Marsh & McClennan. But that won't fly in a world where blogs, social networks, and cell phones are fast changing not just where ads go but how people shop."

So, as I said, all very depressing, but what's the way forward? Well, if mass media is becoming less effective, one area that needs to be pull more weight is innovation. If the goal is relevance and differentiation and you can't get there by saying something different, get there by doing something different instead.

A very interesting account of how to drive innovation was published by Knowledge@Wharton last summer when it interviewed Larry Huston. Larry was VP of knowledge and innovation for many years at Procter & Gamble and the innovation leader for the company's global fabric and homecare business. Here's the link to the interview (free subscription required).

Some of the key points from the article:

1) Don't try and do it all yourself: Even with its size and sophisticated internal R&D, P&G has realized that it can't embrace all the new science from nanotechnology to bioscience itself. So it's set up a new model of innovation, called Connect + Develop has encouraged collaboration with outside expertise.

2) Leadership required: P&G would not have been able to make such a radical, structural change to its innovation model without the support and leadership of its senior management team.

3) Understand the consumer: A really, deep understanding, not one that comes from focus groups. Larry goes into some and interesting detail about the research techniques that P&G uses to get to that level of understanding.

4) Set a high bar: Incremental goals lead to tweaks on what you already have. A discontinuous goal forces consideration of completely new and potentially breakthrough ideas.

No comments:

Blog Directory - Blogged