Back to business means back to innovation

For many of us September means back to the office, but not back to business as usual. Team structures in marketing departments and marketing agencies have changed. The way we work has changed. As consumers, we’ve changed. So as marketers, we need to change our habits too. As that’s easier said than done this blog sets out why change is good for marketers, practical ways to improve creative thinking and how to make innovation a new habit.

Let’s start with why change is good

Apart from the fact that consumers have changed, fresh thinking is a healthy habit for every business in good times and bad. Innovation is the number one lever for profitable growth and profitable growth is the single biggest way to bring value to a business. For one company alone, our sister company, think, identified opportunities worth over £500,000 net value in one ideas generation session.

It could be a long time before we’re safely through the pandemic so our spending habits could change further which means one intense period of ‘back to business’ change now won’t be enough to keep marketing departments on top of customer wants. We need to get in the habit of regular fresh thinking to stay engaged with our audience’s wants and needs. What’s more, a business-wide culture of change is a really effective way to remove blockers like “we’ve tried that” and “there’s no budget for that”.

identified opportunities worth over £500,000 net value in one ideas generation session

Innovation isn’t the sole responsibility of the management team. Little ideas can come from anyone in the organisation and build up into a big business-changing idea. Innovation ideally should be a business-wide cultural shift but one person can start the habit of innovation within their team.

How do you start the habit of innovation?

Start by putting innovation on the agenda

Schedule time in your team members’ diaries for fresh thinking. It could be a 1-hour speed-thinking session, one day, or a series of sessions.

Decide what challenge needs fresh thinking about

Innovative thinking can turn any marketing problem into a valuable business opportunity. From proposition ideas and scoping out market opportunities to marketing strategies and branding. Pick one challenge for your session.

Anything goes so get creative

There are hundreds of techniques you can use to generate new ideas, from telling a ‘once upon a time story’ about your challenge, or describing it from an animal’s point of view to describing the problem using metaphors. Other idea-generating tools you could try are:

  • Thinking like a child
  • The silliest thing you can do with your product
  • Look at your product in a new way – how could you have it in every category of your selling space?
  • Listen to people, ask “What do you think?”
  • Don’t just sit there – go out, buy your products and try new combinations
  • Turn your product or service into a character - how would you describe the character?

Score the ideas

With all the ideas scribbled down, it’s time to score them against the criteria that are important to the business and your objectives – budget, time constraints, brand-fit, key messaging etc. The ideas that are fit for purpose will float to the top. Don’t get rid of the ideas – create an ideas bank so they’re ready for solving your next challenge.

Put them into action

Now you can prove your idea will work, it’s time to get buy-in from your usual stakeholders and make the idea reality by putting planning and schedules in place.

Measure its success

If the new idea is linked to a commercial venture, you will want to measure how much profit it makes, if it achieved your objectives, and if it needs any improvements. Then feed all these learnings into your next ideas session and go through the steps again to keep on improving.

Marketers can solve almost any commercial challenge using this process. For big challenges it helps to work with innovation marketing experts who can manage the process for you and give you the benefit of their experience at each stage.

OTB Agency has supported many big-name brands through company-wide innovation projects and helped to embed idea-generation in their culture.

For help with your innovation and marketing challenges, get in touch: jo.waddington@otbagency.co.uk

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