Companies wanting to keep ahead of the game know that just creating a brand identity is not enough – everyone does that.
In today’s world, where styles and ideas are copied faster than branding companies can think them up, innovative branding is what sets a firm apart.
Experts say firms must keep themselves in the news by launching new and original products. And they believe firms in Dubai should be more adventurous and would do well to follow the emirate’s innovative spirit and can-do attitude.
Olivier Auroy, General Manager of Landor Associates, told Emirates Business: “In the world of branding there is a saying, ‘if you don’t innovate, you die’. Madonna (pictured above) is a good example of how innovating makes you successful.
“The brand Madonna was able to renew itself through great producers such as William Orbit, Mirwais and Nate ‘Danja’ Hills. Every time there was a new product but it was the same Madonna brand.
“For many successful brands innovation is what motivates their employees and differentiates them in the market. Good examples of this are Apple, Microsoft, Pixar and the outdoor clothing and equipment firm Decathlon. For these brands research, development and marketing go hand in hand.
“However, that is just part of the story – a lot depends on your brand mission and values. If you claim to be an innovative company you’d better live up to your promise.
“Brands like Virgin and Sony have a reputation for being innovative and consumers expect them to come up with new products.”
Innovative branding is achieved by creating a new product or service that was not available before. But how is that done?
Peter Matthews, Group Managing Director of brand consultancy Nucleus, explained: “In order to create a truly new product or service a company needs to really, really understand the market and the current offerings.
“Based on this understanding it needs to identify a gap – or an unsatisfied demand – in the market that is currently not met by what’s already on offer.
“While market research helps, consumers don’t know whether they want something until they see it. So the way a company tests and validates its concept is vital.
“Then a company needs to design or invent a product that fulfils the need and captures its target audience’s imagination and protects its intellectual property.
“Finally it needs to manufacture and market the new product or service to meet demand and roll it out to create market leadership before someone else follows.
“This is difficult because true innovation requires considerable time and investment and risk-taking – and most investors prefer to back ideas that are up and running and profitable rather than risk backing something new.”
Auroy added: “Product innovation can be achieved by extending an existing product, brand value or through scientific discovery. Let’s take the example of a dairy product. It can be an extension of the core product – a company could be known for yoghurt and they could introduce chocolate yoghurt.
“A company can stand for health and deliver on that promise. A very good example of this is a company in Europe called Danone, which promises to deliver health and wellness to its consumers. Every year it tries to come up with a new product that lives up to the promise of health and wellness.
“An example of product innovation is Danone’s Essensis, a yoghurt that is good for the skin that Landor helped to develop. We did it by exploring the possibility of relating the product to beauty, specifically the skin.
“We developed the idea of cosmeto-food – you are what you eat - we promoted the pronutris formula made of Omega-6 and we came up with an appealing name and design to attract female consumers. The results were amazing – the product just flew off the shelves.
“Another way is an opportunity that comes from research and development. For example, based on research you might discover that elderly people feed yoghurt to their pets – so you create a product accordingly. Having said that, innovative products are sometimes created by pure chance.
“For instance a prized after-dinner drink was created after someone discovered a barrel of grape juice that had been left behind in a cave. Someone tasted it and tried to reproduce it.
“It does not always come from a rational thinking process. However, more than anything, you need someone or an organisation to believe in your innovation.
“It took a few years for the inventor of Post-its to convince investors it was a good idea. It was the same with the Dyson vacuum cleaner.”
Market research plays a vital role in product development as companies have to sell their products to make money. They must know what kind of people their product will appeal to and if there is potential for creating a need.
Auroy said: “Product innovation is often about creating a need, generating desire. It is often based on market research. When Apple created the iPod, it was the synthesis of three major insights: People like to carry a lot of music with them, they should be able to get the music without buying it at a store and they want something light, practical and handy.”
The sQuid, a prepay smart card created by Nucleus, is another good example of creating a need. The sQuid replaces cash for small payments and uses contactless technologies to reduce transaction times.
Matthews said: “We created the sQuid and our own network to avoid bank and credit card transaction charges. This way we could deliver a next-generation payment system that was low cost – maximum 1.5 per cent fee for retailers – and which integrated with transit smart cards that are rapidly gaining popularity for public transportation systems in the United Kingdom.
“As it is a prepay card it’s just like cash but safer and more convenient. We invented the idea, named the brand – sQuid is slang for a pound – designed the brand identity, created the unique technology, built up the operations and will launch the live system, integrated with citizen and transit smart cards, in Manchester this May.
“Interest is high and we’ve been approached by many cities around the world to see if sQuid can launch there too.”
However any number of innovative products will not sell if they are not well designed. Design must serve the product from a functional and emotional point of view and ensure that the product is easy to use and great to look at.
Auroy said: “Imagine if the iPod was an unfriendly and impractical object to carry – it would not work. Similarly if the iPod was an ugly object that met your needs but did not make you look cooler or trendier, it would not work either.”
The best way to come up with new products and design them well is to think out of the box. Some companies cannot be innovative because they do not allow their employees to be creative.
Lucasfilm and Pixar have created playful and inspiring working environments that invite employees to be creative.
Auroy said: “At Landor we sometimes ask our designers to leave the office and go where they will feel inspired. I don’t mind them going out as long as they come up with a good idea. Changing the environment, breaking the frame and changing the rules all help.
“I think companies in the UAE should be bolder and try new things. Dubai is all about audacity and being the first in the world. ‘Nothing is impossible’ could be Dubai’s slogan.
“It does not show on the product side yet. Dubai-based companies could launch many ‘new’ products - 4x4s, solar energy, sunglasses, yachts... there are a lot of opportunities out there.”
Out in front
- Start with your brand values
- Look at consumer and social trends
- Identify business opportunities
- Break free from the conventions
- Be different from the competition
- Make sure that the way a product looks reflects the benefit it gives through design
- Find a powerful and clever way to create a buzz
- Don’t be afraid to fail and start again
A change is as good as a brand new idea