Year-end innovation reviews often focus on the past year’s cool new things. But coolness doesn’t guarantee big success (see: Apple Watch). And innovation doesn’t always mean new things.
True innovation is successfully meeting your target audience’s needs in a new way.
2015 saw its share of new ways to connect with the audience.
In some cases, marketers successfully grew their businesses by figuring out new ways to connect with consumers with the same products.
So in an effort to suck the fun out of this simple post, The Armchair MBA has created a handy Innovation Quadrant Chart, with examples, to illustrate his point.
- One axis is whether the product is existing or new, the other is whether the use or market is existing or new
The point is that while cool stuff is, well, cool — creative marketers can find meaningful growth with existing products or existing markets.
Existing product/Existing market
- GEICO has had the same marketing strategy for over 200 years, and its ads are so ubiquitous that breaking through the clutter and maintaining awareness is a big challenge. GEICO knows that no one will voluntarily sit through another GEICO ad, given the option. What to do?
To address this issue, GEICO co-opted the annoying and often ignored pre-roll (the ads shown before the video content you are waiting to see). The viewer is thus ambushed with the main message within the first few seconds (“You can’t skip this GEICO ad – because it’s already over”), and the rest of the spot is essentially wasted (but still amusing) airtime.
- GEICO gets in a quick reminder and the rest of the spot is engineered for viral use.
Watching these actors keep straight faces while the dog destroys their dinner table (after the first 5 seconds) is worth the wait.
Existing product/New market
- McDonald’s has endured years of lackluster growth in the face of fast casual and burger competitors (e.g. Panera, Chipotle, Shake Shack).
- To drive growth, they’ve streamlined their menu, added promotions, experimented with new products (revamped Quarter Pounder, Premium Sirloin Burger), and even tweaked their positioning (removing antibiotics from chicken, going to cage-free eggs).
But the most successful move so far has been Breakfast All Day, started nationally in October 2015. Apparently 1/3 of the later-day breakfast customer had not visited McDonald’s in the prior month, leading to McDonald’s first quarterly year-on-year growth in 2 years.
- The jury is out as to how durable this growth is, but by leveraging tried-and-true products to compete in new markets (lunch), McDonald’s has reenergized the business.
New Product/Existing Market
- A company called Bragi recently introduced “the world’s first wireless smart earphones”, called The Dash.
- By eliminating wires they’ve solved a significant consumer issue, and by integrating a music player, tracking and communications features, The Dash is a formidable (and at $299, costly) new alternative on the landscape.
- These earphones are unlikely to bring in new users, but these features are very likely to steal market share – – again, by identifying and solving an existing consumer need in a new way.
New Product/New Market
- Finally, a company called TrackR Inc. introduced a product called Bravo, which is a coin-sized device that attaches to things like keys, and by using an associated app, allows the user to find these often-misplaced items. It costs around $30.
- By applying technology to an increasing annoyance for an aging population, TrackR has essentially created a market of small, inexpensive ‘memory helpers’.
These examples are a very small slice of lots of creative approaches that were taken in 2015 to grow business.
The key for marketers is to understand unaddressed consumer needs (even if the consumers don’t know they have a need yet), understand what assets and barriers are at work, and offer a better way.
It is unclear whether anyone has yet solved the problem of helping you remember what you were going to get when you went down to the basement.