Here’s a common problem. Disruptive change can be found everywhere in the business world. There are at least one hundred categories of innovation happening simultaneously within business at any given time. The most common association we have with business innovation is in the area of product innovation. But, if you swim upstream into business functions you’ll find innovation happening everywhere. In production processes, sales, marketing, communications, organization structures, administration, information flow, automation, in-sourcing, out-sourcing, facilities, customer experience, service, account management, supply chains, distribution channels, technology, R&D, user interfaces, sustainability and in company reputations, business strategy and planning to name a few.
One way of simplifying the complexity of innovation as a thought process is to understand your business more intimately through the filter of your brand. One of the functions of a brand is that it acts as a vessel that carries all of the associations, feelings and impressions of your company in a single image. Your brand actually represents the end of all your business processes in itself. It is the ultimate intellectual capital asset and the reason for being of all the other assets and processes in your business. With the wisdom or folly of each corporate act your brand is either gaining or losing equity. In a well-managed company, the brand can account for half or more of the market cap of the company.
Therefore it is important to know how to study your brand, with diligence and concern for insights and ideas surrounding innovation. In our forthcoming book Soulful Branding by Jerome Conlon, Moses Ma and Langdon Morris - which we anticipate to release in June 2014 on Amazon Kindle - takes on the subject of brand innovation and looks at new methods, maps, models, metaphors and processes that forward thinking companies can employ to become more innovative from a branding perspective.
All brands need continuous regeneration because the pace of change and innovation in the marketplace is so relentless. If a company neglects its identity, persona, character: the multi-dimensional nature of its reputation, it will soon lose its relevance as other more innovative and meaningful products and brands march by.
So how do you think more innovatively about nurturing and developing your brand? If you’ve never done brand development before … it usually is started with a process of discovery. You explore your brand meaning both inside and outside the company, with executives and with consumers and prospects. In Soulful Branding we call this discovery process the "Big Dig". It results in generating insights about gaps between what you want to become versus what people actually believe about you. This insight into positioning gaps can lead to new ideas and strategies about how to better align internal resources, projects and initiatives to better accomplish your brand positioning goals.
Also, a FutureLab white paper (download it here: BrandSpark) describes a Big Dig discovery process that was used inside Nike to successfully reposition its brand with women. An important part of that project, leading to the game changing insights related to knowing how to conduct a consumer depth workshop using a range of brand scanning techniques. Nike had to understand the right context for how sports and fitness really fit into everyday women’s lives. It needed to understand how women thought about sports and fitness, the images and words they used to describe their relationship with it. It needed to understand how women viewed and felt about all the major brands, products and advertising in the category. It need to know what was noticed, what was valued, and who or what really resonated on an emotional level. The brand scanning that was done was not mechanical interview, like you might get with a lab technician dressed in a white lab coat and a clipboard. You can’t engage people in an intimate dialog about the things that really matter with that approach. Learning how to be present with consumers is an innovation technique that can lead to huge business breakthroughs as it did in this case.
All brands have something that acts like an invisible field of energy that surrounds the business and is responsible for the level of vitality that exists within the business. In weak brands this energy field is very weak. In strong brands this energy field represents a clear competitive advantage. Brand Innovation as a discipline is all about acquiring a new set of tools, to enhance your perception in order to strengthen your brands energy field. What makes FutureLab’s BrandSpark innovation programs special is two things. It shows you how to scan the entire internal field of the business for any new developments that might be perceived as equities or leverage points from a consumer perspective. And it is concerned with organizing and aligning the assets and energies of the company for maximum consumer impact. Upgrading your toolkit for brand innovation is a powerful asset for staying in-tune with the times and one step ahead of the curve. To learn more please visit the BrandSpark page at www.futurelabconsulting.com.