Leaders

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Innovation, brand value and the customer journey

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Consumer decision making is changing, and that’s impacting brand loyalty.

This became clear to me while I was researching a presentation I made at an event held to examine the role and the market opportunity presented by online video.

One of the interesting areas explored was the shift in consumer journeys, and the notion that content consequently must work harder to inform and persuade people to act.

Today, brands have to continually prove their existence

Stepping aside from video format specifics, it’s apparent that innovating - in every stage of the customer journey, but importantly in keeping your valuable, already on-board customers and supporters - is essential. Today, brands have to continually prove their existence.

Just as over the past 20 years digital media has given people many more opportunities to evaluate and choose their first decision when entering a relationship with a product or brand, so it has latterly influenced their choices in switching. 

Facebook's recent attempts to move towards greater ad transparency are a reflection of this. People who previously saw advertising based on their inclusion on a customer list can now choose to be excluded - and therefore, for instance, see ads designed to recruit new customers instead.

For a platform like Facebook, its currency is regular and frequent use; giving advertisers access to those audiences is how it delivers value. But if people are fed up of being flooded with echo-chamber ads, then the platform risks them moving away and then it loses its primary commodity.

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I have always liked this piece of work by McKinsey. Like all good insight, it takes account of current trends but fundamentally is rooted in more long-term change that survives pique.

It's about 10 years old, but when McKinsey decided to revisit it in 2017 to test its veracity, it found that the model broadly still hold true. Yet it also discovered that the behaviours evident in the original research have become more deep-seated.

Customers value brands that constantly adapt

The key take-out for me is innovation. Customers value brands that constantly adapt, all the time focusing on offering new and differentiated products or services while maintaining the quality and core feature sets that people liked in the first place. 

Take Netflix, an oft-cited example from the new economy and a disruptor-in-chief. The core offer of cost-effective subscription to movies and TV series from the comfort of your home (goodbye Blockbuster!) has not changed. What has changed is that Netflix now makes the TV programmes and movies as well as being an intermediary.

The fact this programming is generally very good allows the platform to compete with traditional, well-heeled studios at their own game: attracting A-list talent, winning Oscars, Golden Globes and Baftas. And it innovates in experience design, offering downloading and offline viewing, child-safe options, all on a mobile and smart TV (remember when it was just on a computer screen?). No wonder Amazon has followed the same path.

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So what to do for your organisation? Disruption isn't the only way to innovate, though it's an excellent one if your market is ripe for it. The consensus seems to sit around four broad kinds of innovation: disruptive, customer-led, brand-led and design-led. 

Now, it's worth saying that these are not mutually exclusive. For instance, a customer-led innovation programme would take into account how disruptive it could be, how it fits with the brand and how the design of the product or service would come into play. It's more about which philosophy leads the way of approaching the solution.

Therefore when selecting an innovation strategy, it's helpful to consider which elements of your business strategy have the biggest gaps, and how the DNA of your organisation might respond to the models on offer. For instance, if you have a solid brand, but feel your core product needs a revamp (rather than a complete overhaul), perhaps a design-led model with a good helping of the brand is the mix for you.

No single solution is perfect, so prepare to fail

For sure, there are plenty of options out there for arriving at the best avenue for success. Try them all if you can. Prioritise always. No single solution is perfect, so prepare to fail, and if you do then get ready to start again, because failure (hopefully failing fast) and learning what to do differently is part of the landscape. Embrace it.

By Dan Martin, Digital Strategy Director at WPNC

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