In a world where technological advances are quickly creating new ways businesses can reach audiences, manufacture goods and transport products, the word ‘innovation’ is somewhat overused. However, its significance remains, as everyone must innovate. All businesses, whether they be a tarmac producer or paper clip manufacturer, an oil drilling firm or Bit-Coin (a purely digital form of currency) – they all require the management team to consistently look at themselves and seek ways to improve their offering and remain competitive. This notion is summed up nicely by Julian Tempest who said, “In a rapidly changing world, an enterprise that doesn’t innovate will quickly fall into decline”. You only need to look at the likes of Woolworths, HMV or Blockbuster for well documented examples of companies content with what they’ve got and not looking at what else is happening around them.
This is nothing new, nothing all of you reading this don’t already know, but who is responsible for innovation? Whose responsibility is it to understand the here and now and find ways to shake up the status quo? Is it the CEO? The board of directors? The sales director? The newly appointed director of digital transformation? Well, my thoughts are that it should sit firmly with the marketing directorate.
It is the marketing team who are at the business end of any organisation. It is they who have an intricate knowledge of what company’s USPs and what the company is selling / providing, as it is this information that dictates the best “route to market”. The marketing function tirelessly researches why their customers buy their product and they use this to define the core messages used in their marketing collateral. The marketing analytics tools widely available these days to track, monitor and predict buyers’ behaviour are incredible. A business’ ability to know their differentiators is what is used to out sell their competition and all this data is collected by marketing.
Too often I see marketers gather all of this information and commercial data, build a sensible marketing strategy and carry it out, often with great success. But the link between them and their ability to then change and upgrade their products and solutions is all too slow.
Here’s a recent example which got me thinking about this topic and I hope it might put this into perspective. One of my clients recently hired a senior marketing innovation manager whose sole responsibility was to analyse all their products and services, assess the impact they’ve had in their respective markets, and then look at what would make it better. This position wasn’t about actually marketing the products or services, but to work alongside the marketing directorate and use the commercial data to drive innovation and change. This work was extensive and many ideas were born, discussed and rejected, but regularly, there were great ideas which meant the core services where drastically changed and ultimately improved. It was exciting to see a business identify the significance of the marketing team’s ability to see the opportunity and invest in a resource to properly exploit it. Now there is some accountability for innovation.
Innovation doesn’t have to be revolutionary, it just has to make your product or solution better, and I think the people best placed to sniff out innovative developments are those in the marketing team. We know CEOs are looking for their senior marketing executives to be more accountable; I think this mentality should be instilled in the most junior marketers to help create a new generation of innovators.
Peter Bush – Managing Consultant, Marketing Practice, VMAGROUP