…and yet, branding never comes up in most conversations about innovation. It’s not even mentioned on a rather comprehensive Wikipedia page discussing the topic. But in a world increasingly being transformed by digital capabilities, a company's brand is a critical element of innovation – and it may be the most valuable and differentiating one.
In case you enjoyed the summer at the beach and missed it, Unilever created a new billion-dollar brand in July that should get your attention now that you’re back at work. The New York Times covered the acquisition and pointed out the connection in their story $1 Billion for Dollar Shave Club: Why Every Company Should Worry. Here's a quick recap as it relates to innovation:
- Razors and blades aren’t really innovative
- Buying things on the internet isn’t really innovative
- Combining the two isn’t really innovative either (Dollar Shave Club has other internet based competitors, including Harry’s, and even category leader Gillette had an internet subscription service)
So what “innovation” did Dollar Shave Club create to warrant Unilever paying $1 billion to acquire them? They built a strong and compelling brand, and turned customers into active brand ambassadors – at one point, they had over 50,000 people per month referring a friend.
B2B companies take note: this isn’t just a B2C phenomenon. Almost half (49%) of B2B marketers list their peers and colleagues as a top source of information after web searches in Demand Gen Report’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report, rising significantly from 20% in 2015. Laura Ramos, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester notes 74% of buyers go online for business purchasing, and more than half (53%) would rather research online than speak with a salesperson. As these statistics and the Dollar Shave Club example demonstrate, building brand ambassadors for your new innovations can be a critical element of success.
Innovation will continue to incorporate advances in products and offerings as well as business models and business configurations. But if you aren’t integrating brand into the discussion you’re missing a valuable tool in your approach. If you’re responsible for innovation, talk to us about how brand can help.
About the author: As an executive at two leading global companies and founder of two high growth bio-material companies, Andy Shafer developed a unique understanding of the dynamics required for success at both start-up and Fortune 50 multi-national companies. Initially a Slack and Company client, he now brings his expertise and experience developing business strategies, commercializing innovation, and building brands to our team and clients as a Senior Advisor.