Innovation, brand value & the customer journey
- by Dan Martin
Last year WPNC held an event looking at the role and market opportunity presented by online video. One of the interesting areas we explored was consumers' changing behaviour in their decision making and brand loyalty, and how content needs to work hard to inform and persuade.
Stepping aside from format specifics for a moment, what was clear from the research we looked at is that innovating - in every stage of the customer journey, but importantly in keeping your valuable, already on-board customers and supporters - is essential. Today, brands have to continually prove their existence.
Just as over the past 20 years digital media has given people many more opportunities to evaluate and choose their first decision entering a relationship with a product or brand, so it has latterly influenced their choices in switching.
Facebook's recent moves in the direction of ad transparency, where people seeing advertising based on their inclusion on a customer list can instead choose to be excluded - and therefore see ads designed to recruit new customers for instance - are a reflection of this.
For a platform like Facebook, its currency is regular and frequent use; giving advertisers access to those audiences is how it delivers value. But if people are fed up being flooded with echo-chamber ads, then the platform risks them moving away, therefore risking its primary commodity.
I have always liked this piece of work by McKinsey. Like all good insight, it takes account of current trends but fundamentally is rooted in more long term change that survives pique.
In this case, how people make decisions. It's about 10 years old, and what's fascinating is when McKinsey decided to revisit it in 2017 to test its veracity, what they found was that not only does the model they suggest broadly still hold true, but that the behaviours they saw in the original research have become more deep seated.
The key take out for me was about innovation. Customers value brands that adapt, all the time focusing on offering new and differentiated product or service, while still maintaining the quality and core feature sets people liked in the first place.
Take Netflix, an oft-cited example from the new economy and a disruptor-in-chief. The core offer of cost-effective subscription to movies and TV series from the comfort of your home (goodbye Blockbuster!) has not changed. What has changed is that now Netflix makes the TV programmes and movies as well as being an intermediary. And they are not only good, but they are really good, allowing the platform to compete with traditional, well-heeled studios at their own game - attracting A-list talent, winning oscars, golden globes and baftas. And it innovates in experience design, offering downloading and offline viewing, child-safe options, on a mobile and smart TV (remember when it was just on a computer screen?). No wonder Amazon has followed the same path.
So what to do for your organisation? Disruption isn't the only way to innovate, though it's an excellent one if your market is ripe for it. Consensus seems to sit around four broad kinds of innovation: disruptive, customer-led, brand-led and design-led.
Now it's worth saying that these are not mutually exclusive. For instance, a customer-led innovation programme would take into account how disruptive it could be, how it fits with the brand and how the design of the product or service would come into play. It's more which philosophy leads the way of approaching the solution.
Therefore when selecting an innovation strategy, it's helpful to consider which elements of your business strategy have the biggest gaps, and how the DNA of your organisation might respond to the models on offer. For instance, if you have a solid brand, but feel your core product needs a revamp (rather than a complete overhaul), perhaps a design-led model with a good helping of brand is the mix for you.
For sure, there are plenty of options out there for arriving at the best avenue for success. Try them all if you can! Prioritise always. No single solution is perfect, so prepare to fail, and if you do then get ready to start again, because failure (hopefully failing fast) and learning what to do differently is part of the landscape - so embrace it.
And if you like the topic of innovation and want to hear more, follow our updates here on our website, via our emails (sign up below) and on our LinkedIn page. We are planning an event for the spring with some excellent speakers, so watch this space!