Brand Strategy & Design
View All

Take An Expansive View of Innovation To Sustainably Grow Your Brand

August 21, 2018

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: “Innovation is the life blood of our business.” At times, this phrase may sound like a cliché, but companies who truly embrace this mantra have historically delivered greater returns than those that don’t. And while many companies already have innovation departments, more often than not, many companies equate innovation as simply launching new products. As a result, companies often overlook other types innovation that at times can bring even stronger returns than just launching new products.

When looking for profitable growth, it helps when companies look at multiples types of innovation at their disposal, including:

1- New Product Innovation – This is usually the first type of innovation that comes to mind for most brands, and it spans a wide spectrum in terms of complexity: it can be as simple as releasing a new size/flavor for your brand, or as complex as launching a “new-to-the-world” category. It usually involves new formulation and packaging, as well as potential updates to the lineup.

One recent example of new product innovation is Hillshire Farm’s Premium Carved, a new line of expertly carved thick cut meats that appeal to consumers seeking fresh, less processed meat. Aside from upgrading the product itself, the company also took the important step of communicating the versatility and premium nature of the product through smart packaging design. The graphics represent an evolution from Hillshire Farm’s base equity (which features a red lid for lunch meat) to convey artisan quality. A dark, rustic cutting board showcases the quality of the natural protein to create an elevated experience. The imagery also communicates versatility with varied appetite appeal to demonstrate different usage occasions for each protein type.

Although it is important to proactively and strategically launch new products, most brands will find that there is a limit to how much incremental business new products can deliver on their own. To be effective, new product launches often require significant investment in terms of people, money, and time. That is why over time, brands that rely solely on this type of innovation, or fail to make the necessary investments to support each launch, could find diminishing returns in terms of both top-line growth and profitability.

2- Commercial Innovation – In many cases, brands can achieve extraordinary returns with little or no changes to a product’s formulation, simply by tapping into new insights about their consumers and positioning their product in a different light. This is what we refer to as commercial innovation, and there are many examples of brands that have successfully grown this way. In some cases, all it takes is making small changes to your brand’s package design. One of the most recent examples is “Share a Coke,” but there are many examples. For many years, P&G’s Bounce grew by promoting little known benefits of it basic dryer sheets, such as pet hair repellency, and by highlighting new, unexpected ways in which consumers used their dryer sheets, such as freshening different parts of their home. Yet another example of commercial innovation is Sargento Snack Bites. Instead of coming up with a new type of cheese, Sargento realized that a simple change in form and portion size could deliver improved snacking convenience - a small change that delivered outsized returns.

Brands that are keenly attuned to the needs of their consumers are best positioned to deliver successful commercial innovation. Even if no reformulation work is needed, we recommend managing your commercial innovation with similar rigor as new product initiatives, following a formal stage-gate process.

In the next article, we will share 3 additional types of innovation: shopper, supply chain, and business model innovation. Stay tuned to discover new ways in which your brand can achieve breakthrough growth.