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Why Brands Now Lead In Innovation

There’s plenty of innovation going on at research labs all across the globe. In space, in pharmaceuticals, in renewable energy, and countless other fields, people are working day and night to find breakthroughs and discoveries. But it’s brands that are doing the most deliberate innovation right now. Why? Because consumers are demanding it. Ecommerce is booming because people want the convenience of shopping from home. Retail is going all out to create experiences that consumers will find compelling enough to bring them out to the mall. Consumer products are constantly re-inventing themselves to be greener, more sustainable or less damaging to the environment. Financial services are competing to make banking and investing easier, safer, more secure and socially responsible. Sports and entertainment events are aiming to be ever more spectacular. All this is driven by consumer demand. Marketing has always been concerned with meeting customer needs, of course. But today’s world moves at the speed of a mouse click. So competitive brands are forced to follow the rule of A-B-I – Always Be Innovating.

The key word that drives brand innovation is “competitive”. The brands that are most successful in developing new and better offerings are the ones that will outpace their competition. Fiscal responsibility is important but you can’t out-budget the other guys. You have to out-perform them. That means brands have to please the customer. And customers are constantly evolving, growing and changing their minds. So brands have to be attentive to the market’s every nuanced need. It’s like sleeping with an elephant. You may share a wonderful, loving relationship. But every night you’ll have to be hyper-sensitive to every little twitch and snort the animal makes.

To do this, brands must stay engaged with their market’s world. A brand must understand how it fits into the customer’s entire life. That means it must strive to understand the customer’s whole life. People don’t let brands into their lives unless they have a purpose for it. Brands must understand that purpose. They must know the roles that they play in the customer’s life drama. They must recognize when the plot shifts and their roles change. That way they can be responsive and keep up with changes in their markets’ values and needs.

Need to make innovation integral to your
business culture? Ask Boardwalk.

Brands that relied on animal acts, like circuses and orca shows are gone now because they didn’t evolve with their markets’ changing values. Brands fail to meet changing consumer wants and needs also fail. Sears really should have evolved into the world’s premier etailer. Instead, Amazon did. Yellow Cab should have become the world’s first ride share company. Instead, Uber did.

Today, brands have powerful tools to augment traditional methods for gaining market intelligence. Today, data mining and inbound marketing support classic methods like qualitative & quantitative research and trend watching, etc. So any brand that is caught short by a sudden market swerve has only itself to blame.

But brands aren’t innovating at the pace that they are just to stay one step ahead of their rivals. They’re finding that innovation opens new markets as well. A breakthrough in a legacy product could easily generate an entirely new range of cutting-edge products. A local brand could suddenly achieve transformative success that then opens up the entire world to them.

Science and technology will likely spawn humanity’s most important innovations, like (hopefully) finding a solution to the climate emergency. But it is brands that are creating innovative solutions at a much faster pace. To them, brand innovation is a matter of survival.

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