Is Innovation No Longer Innovative?
28th November, 2012
In a recent article, Proctor & Gamble stated that they wish to triple their rate of innovation. Such a drive towards innovation is motivated by the belief that it will ‘lead to significant share increases, category growth and competitive advantage.’ The term innovation is now used more than ever, with many companies citing ‘innovation’ as a main focus point for profit and growth. Indeed, the current economic climate has left brands, rights-holders and agencies to re-assess their strategies, with many recognising the need to deliver creative strategies and activations that stand out, or are considered ‘innovative.’
The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) surveyed more than 1,200 UK marketers, 40% of which expect their organisations to embrace more risk and ambition over the next 12 months. This is also emphasised through P&G who, along with the company’s strive towards innovation, has stated that they will cut back on traditional marketing campaigns and focus time and money on high impact based strategies. In light of P & G’s strategic developments, and the current influx of the term ‘innovation,’ I want to gain a better understanding of what innovation really is.
I want to understand what makes something truly innovative against a strategy or activation that is high in impact or creative. (I do this in the hope to find a new term that has similar connotations, but is tailored to Slingshot’s own values.)
The problem with defining Innovation
One of the main difficulties when discussing innovation in relation to brands and agencies is finding a consistent definition as innovation varies when discussed between individuals, agencies and industries alike. Innovation comes from the Latin term innovatus meaning ‘renewal or change.’ As a term, however, innovation has developed to offer a wide range of values brands and agencies want to be associated with. Innovation implies an amalgamation of creativity, risk taking, the breaking of boundaries. It refers to changing how an industry works, how an agency works, how individuals conduct their lives or changes what they perceive as normality; innovation implies creativity in an otherwise saturated market.
Whatever the definition, what is most important is that in many cases, agencies and brands that claim to innovate are not innovating and this is diluting the value of the term itself. A while ago, Synergy asked individuals to vote on their no. 1 sporting innovation of all time. In the running was the signing of IMG between McCormack and Palmer, with the birth of modern sport marketing. The overall winner was the signing of Michael Jordan to Nike and the subsequent creation of the Air Jordan.
What is it that makes these examples so special? Well, IMG created one of the largest and lucrative industries in the world; and the launch of the Air Jordan marked the beginning of sports stars as worldwide brand ambassadors, and also defined the way that Nike brand today. If we go back to the original Latin translation, these examples are true innovations as they both changed the industry. Of course these examples are on a very large scale, and it can be stated that true innovations such as these occur very rarely, but I believe that the term innovation should be saved for instances that truly change the way people look and think about brands/agencies/industries.
What is important to recognise is that with the advancement of technology, there are so many avenues for brands and agencies to explore new ways to engage with the consumer. If you look at Outlook Festival’s want for 3D visual artists, architects and designers to get involved to create unique stage experiences for festival goers. Indeed, human experience is of the utmost importance when assessing sponsorship activations; and new technologies are taking human experiences to a new level. There is no doubt that over the next decade at least, the industry will be looking for creative and exciting activations; it will be looking for ‘innovation.’ I believe that there are so many regions to explore, and all of the connotations associated with innovation are positive, we just need to find a new word.