Sitting through a research debrief the other day, the meeting turned to a discussion about whether there was a ‘gap in the market’ for the particular new product concept we were evaluating.
Leaving aside the obvious rejoinder ‘but is there a market in the gap?’, it reaffirmed my conviction that, to achieve genuine breakthroughs, a genuine breakthrough in the whole approach to innovation is needed.
Marketing innovation historically was a tried and tested process of identifying a need and filling it. The marketers job was to uncover these unfulfilled needs – the ‘gaps’ – between the current products on the market and the consumer’s ‘ideal’ products.
The process was purely one of ‘deductive reasoning’, based upon consumer research and gap analysis. As a result of decades following this process, the marketing world has arguably developed a dependency on research – so that marketers’ first instinct when confronted with a problem is still to ask “what does the research say?”
Research of course remains of vital importance. However, when you are trying to apply genuinely fresh thinking in order achieve real breakthroughs, all the old caveats about research being a rear-view mirror apply. As has been pointed out many times, if all your competitors are doing the same research, asking the same questions, and coming to the same conclusions – is it any wonder that it is difficult to achieve really new thinking? Faced with this, the process of innovation needs re-inventing.
To my mind, one answer lies in the way the world of marketing and branding has changed in the digital age. In this age of 24/7 access to consumer opinions from blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, consumers are no longer prepared to accept the old model of ‘push’ marketing, with its reliance on ‘interruption advertising’. The internet has empowered the end-user: from isolated to connected, from unaware to informed, from passive to active. No longer can brand owners control what is said about ‘their’ brands – as far as consumers are concerned they are ‘our’ brands. Users of products & services are increasingly seeking to exercise their influence, demanding goods that perfectly match their needs and values. Branding is increasingly a collaboration between brand owner and the consumer.
The tidal wave phenomenon of consumer collaboration also represents a potentially exciting development in the world of innovation.
Collaboration represents an opportunity to harness the collective power of all those users who are genuinely passionate about a product, a brand, a category – listening to what they say, taking on board their criticisms, their suggestions for improvements, their new ideas…
Consumer collaboration gives marketers a chance to tap into those users who are genuinely passionate about a product, a brand, a category and to collaborate with brand advocates to develop new products that genuinely new products that by definition answer consumer needs.
At FutureBrand we believe that participation is increasingly at the heart of the success of a ‘future’ brand. As a result, we have developed a series of powerful digital tools, including future prediction techniques, internet-based idea management and crowd-sourcing, designed to harness the passion and energy of consumers in order to build remarkable brands.
Consumer collaboration represents a huge opportunity to be innovative with innovation. I am genuinely excited to be at the forefront of this with FutureBrand.