3 Misconceptions to Abandon While Implementing Brand Innovation

It might be time to rethink your previous strategy

A orange and blue star coming out a cardboard box
With a glut of brands hustling for consumers' attention, customers are getting harder and harder to impress.
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How do you choose the brands you let into your life? The car you drive, the clothes you wear, the phone you rely on, the way you power your home: You have seemingly unlimited choices. So how do you decide which brands deserve your advocacy, your love and your wallet?

We know the face of competition is quickly evolving as customer expectations become increasingly “liquid” across industries. Meanwhile, the pace of new brand and new product creation has never been faster. From beauty to personal banking, products and services have become so quick to create and easy to distribute that we now have a daunting—some might say exhausting—glut of brands hustling for our attention.

Faced with so much choice, customers are harder to impress, and brands often find themselves in a sea of sameness. To not only grab but hold onto hearts and minds, brands need to evolve their strategy by banishing the following three common misconceptions.

Innovation equals technology

Many brands still lean heavily on technology as the route to creative innovation, which is understandable given the extraordinary things we see trailblazer brands achieving with 5G, mixed and augmented reality and artificial intelligence. But, by itself, technology doesn’t make for meaningful innovation—much less sustainable innovation or genuine connection with your customers.

The most sustainably successful innovations have been the ones that have really answered human needs.

Many brands are stuck in technology pilot purgatory. There needs to be real substance behind our use of technology, driven by real understanding of human need. In short: We need to think beyond technology, tactics or task force to something a lot more human-focused.

Brand and experience are separate

The real route to sustainable innovation is the skillful convergence of brand promise with great experiences that pay off on that promise, including all interactions across marketing, commerce, service, etc.

Branding is still commonly treated as a stand-alone stream underpinned by market research, brand personas and the like. Brand principles are not designed with or connected to experience principles. This leads to huge chasms between brand promise and realization. Bringing brand together with experience as one cohesive system is the route to sustained relevance in customers’ lives. Brand innovation is increasingly experience innovation, and, if we’re to view (and act on) brand and experience as one system, there are key paradigm shifts that must take place for any brand.

Combining brand and experience will have seismic impacts on everything from how we understand competition to how we go to market, how to prioritize marketing investments, who we hire and even how we organize. It’s a massively positive evolution in a brand’s life cycle, but it isn’t easy—if it were, everyone would be doing it.

The only starting point when marrying brand with experience has to come from human insight and a deep understanding of what people need and want—now and continuing throughout the various phases and mindsets of their lives. Human insight, when in sync with market insight, provides routes to innovation where human need meets market opportunity.

This is the most trustworthy roadmap to finding sustainable innovation, lasting relevance and winning long-term customer loyalty.

Merging brand with experience is sometimes impossible

For some industries, the marriage of brand with experience will come naturally, but that doesn’t mean that other industries will benefit from this holistic approach. Even the most utilitarian brands in the most down-to-earth industries can find ways to do it, and it’s imperative that they do if they’re to escape the sea of sameness.

You don’t have to look too hard to find killer examples of creative innovation on all parts of the spectrum, either—there is opportunity across all industries, from entertainment to small-business insurance.

The most sustainably successful innovations have been the ones that have really answered human needs. They’re the ones that make the complicated simple, the dull engaging and the mysterious familiar and that leverage the simple principle that the brand and the experience should be inseparable.

Whoever you are and whatever your business, you’d do well to kick these three misconceptions to the curb and embrace a new approach to marketing where brand and experience are one cohesive system. Only then will your innovations have meaningful and sustainable impact.

This story first appeared in the June 3, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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