Five lessons learned from successful innovators

Five lessons learned from successful innovators

Innovation is the foundation on which strong brands are built. Meaningfully different innovation is a huge growth builder but is often overlooked as brands focus on survival mode through the turmoil of inflation, global challenges, climate change and technology advancements.

Kantar’s annual Outstanding Innovation Awards celebrate brands from around the world that consistently use innovation as a driver for growth. This year, Kantar identified five lessons of successful innovation.

1. Consumer first mindset
A consumer first mindset involves always looking for and understanding human tensions. When looking for new opportunities, our winners go beyond whitespaces and look for the blind spots that often exist on the periphery of their category. This is important not only for breakthrough innovation, but also when innovating to continuously improve your core offer. Coca Cola commented “We look at how we can create a different set of experiences for people to interact with Coke”, to engage meaningfully with the brand beyond the product offer and packaging. It’s important to recognise that consumer needs keep evolving, and having empathy leads to products that just ‘feel right’. And don’t stop with just the innovation idea, make sure you understand the factors that influence consumer choice and purchase, and ensure adoption of your innovation is frictionless.

2. Be fit for your brand
The award winners were all really clear about their brand’s strategic foundations and had a clear purpose. Not all innovations are right for your brand. Ensure you have the balance right between protecting your core and looking for incremental growth opportunities. For Oreo, innovating from a strong foundation of being meaningful to consumers and differentiated from competitors, allows your brand to evolve beyond its core with consistency and a view to long-term sustainable growth – not just short-term sales and ‘easy wins’.

3. Learn, test and learn
A strong theme from winners was the idea of adopting a learning mindset – a culture that encourages and empowers teams to experiment and being prepared to try and fail. They think less about the traditional stage gate process and endless ideation, instead putting more energy upfront to get to the meaningfully different opportunity spaces. They then focus on testing assumptions throughout the innovation journey and being prepared to change tack if necessary. Kantar Marketplace offers a solution that keeps pace with the most agile of approaches, while accounting for the interplay between both intuitive and considered responses. You can now test your early stage innovation ideas, test concepts or screen potential packaging options within 48-72 hours.

4. Better for the planet, better for you
Sustainability was at the heart of their thinking for a large number of the winners. They understood that there is a wide gap between a consumer’s desire to be sustainable and their ability or willingness to do so. They designed the innovation to drive the behaviour change they were looking for – understanding and resolving the critical tension points that stop consumers from buying more sustainable products.

5. Shape the future
A final observation about the global award winners was their commitment to not just follow trends blindly, instead leading with foresight and imagination. PepsiCo commented “We have a responsibility to attract and drive the category, as much as driving your brand”. They invest in creating and shaping the trends to stay ahead of the curve, capture consumers’ heart and minds and futureproof their brands. They do this by using both an ‘inside out’ and ‘outside in’ thinking approach. ‘Inside out’ takes account of your brand’s current power and potential, and then envisaging something better, what could be, not just what is. ‘Outside in’ seeks to expand your frame of reference, exploring how people’s lives and attitudes are changing, the emerging tensions and how categories around you are being re-imagined.

It takes bravery to innovate. Kantar’s agile research approaches enable you to iteratively test and learn, quickly and cost-effectively, to build strong propositions that lead to incremental and breakthrough innovations with confidence.

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