Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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Monday at the ARF, a rather remarkable grouping of industry leaders brainstormed about a new set of principles for how to innovate.

The main purpose of the meeting was the on-going research transformation initiative at the ARF and participants included research/consumer insights leaders from CBS, J&J, Levi Strauss, Unilever, the former head of research at Zenith Optimedia, the author of the book “Primal Branding”, and the head of Talent Management for Knowledge Networks. The research transformation initiative is centered on the concept of listening, translating, and bringing the human to life to inspire the enterprise and improve marketing effectiveness.

It is important that the new research roadmap leads us to different approaches (or it’s really the same old approach with new words) and we started talking about implications for the innovation process. We observed how, for many marketers, the typical process often results in new ideas coming to research as concepts to be tested. A “bad idea” is one that doesn’t meet the action standard through valid concept testing procedures.

In the new approach, where we believe that more value from the research/insights function can come from the creation of good ideas rather than from testing and screening, we created a different path forward.
Principle one. The research/insights function should be constantly listening to people via a variety of approaches including social media so we don’t miss the next important trend.

Principle two. Research/insights should be proactively forming innovation concepts based on “aha-s” it hears not just reacting to ideas created by others. Research should collaborate with the innovation team at setting the innovation agenda.

Principle three. Innovation starts with an idea that might be best activated in ways other than creating new products…via media, customer service, product development—or the combination of the three. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is a great example of innovation that was activated via a 360 media approach rather than the creation of new product variants. Innovation is more than creating new and different products!

Principle four. A bad idea is one that has a faulty premise about human life patterns, marketplace conditions, or is impractical. Ideas that get lower than desired concept testing scores, but are based on solid marketplace insights, should lead to constantly refining our understanding of how to articulate and decorate a good idea so consumers can best connect with it.

This last principle puts concept testing into a new role. It means that concept testing acquires learning objectives (testing the validity of the underlying assumptions from which the idea sprung) and is a constructive reshaping tool…for example, how do we best express the essence of the offering. Concept testing and development programs should also allow people to reveal how these new marketing ideas might connect with people to form new stories. If concept testing protocols can be augmented to reveal stories, it can lend itself to much more impactful communication with leadership teams to produce unforgettable insights and help to drive an initiative forward.

On Wednesday April 1st, at the ARF annual conference, we have devoted the whole morning program to “Innovating Innovation” which will take us farther down the road beyond “new and different”. A series of world class speakers from Microsoft, 3M, Crispin, Porter+Bogusky, Procter, Wrigley, AAA, award winning author Erich Joachimsthaler, Nielsen Online, and GfK Arbor will talk about innovation that goes beyond “new and different”. We believe if you come on Wednesday, you will approach innovation differently starting on Thursday!

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2 Responses to “Innovating Innovation”

  1. ray pettit

    I like the idea of broadening the concept of innovation – to not limit it to ‘new’ products (or line extensions), but to thoroughly explore the human dimension. This absolutely requires new thinking and research approaches – .

    When this is linked with the storytelling paradigm, it becomes clear that research also needs to be communicating in ways that are ‘understandable’ – this also serves to bind all of the parties inextricably together as each adds its own spice and flavor to the recipe – a common language may well be storytelling.

    More and more, research needs to become a learning process, that opens up ideas and allows us to pack them with relevant and engaging dimensions.

  2. We are living in a 360 marketing communications world. At times, it often seems that the pace of change (whether it be new technology, media programming or new product introduction), is running at 360 miles per hour or way over the speed limit.
    It is becoming increasingly necessary to look forward in order to understand how a consumer is likely to behave given a constantly changing set of personal circumstances and outside influences. The principles you have outlined effectively set the agenda for how research should be innovated going forward.