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What drives innovation? The expert opinions

Innovation is one of those words that is oft-discussed but rarely, truly defined. There are agencies and departments solely dedicated to innovation, and yet few will.

It’s a topic close to our heart, as we’re constantly helping to build brands on shifting sands; the pace of change in the consumer market seemingly moving quicker than ever before. The question for long-standing heritage brands is how can they innovate and compete with smart, agile startups. The question for smaller brands is how can they remain fresh themselves, creating a brand that resonates beyond a simple trend into something bigger and long-standing.

Innovation is ephemeral, it’s difficult to pin down, but it’s essential for all brands. But what drives it? Rather than answer the question ourselves, we put the question out to a few of our friends in the FMCG space and beyond, hoping to get a handle on exactly what really drives brand innovation.

Olga Péré Senior Marketing Manager – Global Special K, Kellogg’s

“There are many answers to the question of what drives innovation, but if I had to pick, I would say creativity, patience and courage – all, I think, are critical to innovation success.

“Creativity in interpreting consumer behavior, connecting current trends and creating new trends for the future, but also finding out-of-the-box solutions when nothing seems possible anymore.

Patience in developing the best possible articulation of your idea, finding the right way to present it to consumers and customers and adjusting in market if needed. And courage to go where no one has been before and take a risk of failure.”

Alistair Millar Insight Director - Coca Cola

“I believe that fear plays a big part in innovation. Fear can act as a barrier and a catalyst depending on the brand’s situation. At first the fear of change and the fear of failure prevent organisations from fully pursuing innovation or innovative ways of bringing new products to market.

“Then, when tinkering around the edges of a brand has not delivered the change or growth necessary, fear creeps in again and innovation is looked upon as a panacea to solve all of a brand’s woes.

“Working in insight, my role is not just about identifying growth areas and the consumer propositions to best take advantage of these, but it is to allay the organisational fears that can prevent action or cause an overreaction.”

Nathalie Oestmann

Director, Head of Samsung Pay Europe

“What drives innovation here at Samsung Pay is a desire to bring something to our customers that simplifies and enriches their daily life.

“In the process we hope that we also bring value across the Payments ecosystem for people, merchants and banks who are involved in the process of a purchase.

“In fact, the best innovation can be summarised in this quote: ‘Do what you do so well they will want to see it again, and bring their friends’ – Walt Disney”

James Hirst Director, Rare Design

“For me the key driver of innovation is the need to survive.

“If you rest on your laurels and stand still then you will cease to be relevant to the ever evolving consumer, and ultimately die!"

“Over the last decade or so we have seen many examples of this – HMV, Woolworths, BHS and the flagship for failure Kodak globally, who as most of us know were the first company to develop digital camera technology, but didn’t do anything with it.”

Dave Birss Founder & Editor, Open For Ideas

“From my experience, innovation is driven by two main things – curiosity and the desire to put a dent in the universe.

“Individuals who are passionately curious are more likely to be aware of recent developments in technology, shifts in consumer behaviour and novel ways of approaching problems. They’ll ask questions if they don’t understand something. They’ll take this and put it with that just to see what happens. And they’ll be connected with other curious people with varying skillsets.

“Having the drive to put a dent in the universe is what drives them forward to turn their passion and curiosity into an actual thing. Because a sketch on a piece of paper or a prototype on a workbench isn’t worth anything until you make it happen.”


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