Invention, Innovation, and Creativity; Spot the Difference

Invention, Innovation, and creativity; spot the difference.

Innovation has always been the stepping stone for every brand, irrespective of the category. In the fast-changing dynamics and disruptions in the current era, there’s an escalated requirement for them to innovate differently. Interestingly, according to several studies, only one out of five products meet customer expectations, which further necessitates the need for meaningful ideas and innovation.

Severely hit by the jeopardy caused by the covid19 pandemic, inflation, war, climatic changes and tech evolution, brands often follow a transient path, pushing the fundamentals to the backseat. Amidst the transition, what we must not forget is that fundamentals are inevitably critical. There’s no denying that difficult times catalyse disruptive solutions, and ground-breaking technologies and dynamic innovations testify to that. While innovation drives growth, the fabrication of a tough strategy to fight and survive tense times is more dominant. A recent study by Accenture reveals that in 2023, 62% of high-growth companies seek to invest heavily in innovative technologies, compared to 54% of other companies. Why do you think they made the big change? Right, because they understood the significance of innovation to outperform their competitors and tense situations.

Key to brand growth

Invention and innovation are poles apart. While invention is the realisation of a new idea, innovation is the commercial application and fulfilment of the idea.

Oftentimes, innovation and creativity are used synonymously, but are they the same? No. Being creative and deploying that creativity in business is essential as it generates unique ideas. While creativity is coming up with new and valuable ideas, innovation is the successful implementation of those ideas and technology, which again is a key component for fostering growth, however, the innovation must also be useful and produce viable solutions to problems.  

In simple terms, innovation is imperative, but it may not necessarily mean robust technological advancements or breakthroughs in business models. They can be as minimal as upgrades to the company’s services, improving customer experience, marketing campaigns or adding new features to an existing product. Eg, nowadays, traditional publishing is taking the shape of web novels, web tools and audiobooks to cultivate a market of niche readers who may prefer to read/listen on the go, and even aids the visually impaired. 

All brands are disruptive and experimental:

Since 2020, 52% of Fortune 500 companies have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist. Time is uncertain and the business environment is constantly changing. However, we must not forget that opportunities exist for everyone, in all categories, and the brands that fail to innovate lose it to agile and faster-moving competitors. What one needs to do is find a meaningful way to resolve consumer tension, and he’s halfway through. Leading brands and even startups are incorporating various way-outs to achieve breakthroughs in their business. For eg. If we consider taking a quick recap of 2020, the pandemic escalated the need for e-commerce and quick commerce. Many start-ups like Blinkit, Zepto, Gorillas, and Swiggy Instamart emerged as prominent players driving the growth of quick commerce, by committing deliveries within a narrow ‘order placed, and order delivered’ window. Adding on, if we talk about the US-established brand Xerox launched in 1906, it ceased to exist after 115 years of existence in 2018, as it didn’t adapt to the changes that time brought and decided to function without any upgrades. Another example of a failed innovation is Google Glass, wearable smart glasses, that saw the sunset because of bad marketing and lack of clarity on why the product existed. Considering all the aforementioned instances, it’s true, business strategies can either make a business or break a business.

Technology is at the frontline of innovation. With the emergence of new-age technologies like AI, IoT, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Voice Marketing, and more, the game of brand innovation has grown stronger and more impactful. The people of today are extremely conscious and thoughtful when it comes to the environment, and therefore, they actively engage in those products that embrace sustainability. Brands, with the help of technologies and techniques, are religiously indulging in creating products and services that fulfil the purpose of social responsibility. Lending a helping hand are also the social media platforms that, when clubbed with technology are driving the growth of brands by providing real-time insights and glimpses into customer attitudes towards various things and even the brand itself. Customer feedback in return is extensively used by the brands to understand, discover, innovate, and rediscover.  

Checklist for an all-embracing innovation strategy:

A comprehensive innovation strategy is an explicit roadmap toward a fruitful future for any business. It also outlines how a company can use its resources to realise the goals of innovation, value creation, and competitive advantage. The following objectives must be embraced by the brands to survive amidst the sea of changes in the market ecosystem:

  • First and foremost, a company must ensure a secure revenue stream from its core brands, thereby enabling them to adapt to evolving consumer needs and deflect the initiatives of its counterparts.
  • Secondly, leverage the plus points of existing brands and use innovation to augment the growth of core brands.
  • Thirdly, strive for new and bigger opportunities that will give rise to a new source of earnings and lead to an optimistic future for the company.

Uncovering the opportunity with meaningful innovation:

Behind every note-worthy innovation, irrespective of how big or small, is someone who observed a potential opportunity and focused on the big picture. All it takes is an intuitive and inspiring innovator, who can connect the dots between what is now, what’s to come and what’s happening around them. Amidst the three phases lies the opportunity, that can be tapped with a systematic, future-oriented, and creative approach while others miss on it. 

Moving on, this doesn’t imply that a dash of creativity isn’t required to encourage great innovation. Imagination is a major factor when it comes to crafting ideas that captivate the attention, hearts, and minds of people. However, that spark doesn’t just cultivate out of endless and aimless contemplation, ideation gives birth to numerous concepts, but few splendid innovations. For eg, Gen Z and even millennials are becoming increasingly aware and conscious about what goes into their bodies. By using this mindset and tapping into consumer insights through customer satisfaction surveys, brands like Holy Crap Cereal, Jewel Farmer, Plaay and others are building suitable products that deliver satisfaction and fulfil the requirements of health-oriented customers.

Meaningful innovations spearhead the growth of brands. It encompasses finding the right areas of focus and delivering value to consumers better than their rivals. It’s moving beyond the churning out of ideas, ensuring that the ideas are intuitive, intentional, problem-solving, producing tangible results, correctly implemented, and building brand relevance among the customers for long-term success.

White space and blind spots:

When looking to innovate or allure customers, one thing that comes to mind for a brand is to target the white space in a product category- where consumers are unmet. While it’s easy to discover this opportunity for a brand, it’s also rooted in the behaviour of other brands who can see this as the same opportunity as the previous brand. Therefore, whitespace is more prone to becoming cramped.  An innovation devised to exploit the white space may be a meaningful approach, however, it may not be unique enough to be unsurpassed.

No business is immune to blind spots, they are all prone to encountering gaps in one or the other aspects. They are the looming tensions or loopholes that tend to become prevalent pain points if left untreated. However, what must be considered is that blind spots have huge growth scope and if the problem is prone to becoming widespread, so is the fix to it. While it’s tedious to identify such primary behaviours, they extend to the brands the opportunity to brainstorm and come up with a meaningful yet distinct innovation. To fulfil this purpose and find solutions for the insights they identify, they must be willing to acquaint themselves with new tools, techniques, and learnings and upscale their skills.

Mastering meaningful innovation:

  • Pay attention to the diversity of thought:

It’s always good to brainstorm with diverse mindsets. While having similar thoughts in a room often leads to monotony, when companies solicit ideas from diverse groups, they unlock new potential solutions that could mark the beginning of a golden period for the company.

  • Emphasise customers:

Providing solutions, fulfilling customer needs, and addressing their pain points should be at the vanguard of a brand, and prioritising these factors foster meaningful innovation in a real sense. Brands that consciously focus on fabricating products and services that best suit their needs and preferences and revamp their strategies to be in line with the customers often stay ahead of the growth curve. Be it old methodologies or ground-breaking technologies, the crux is to satisfy a customer and impart a fulfilling solution.

  • Tap into cultural zeitgeist:

It’s certainly not a cakewalk anymore for brands to enter the cultural zeitgeist. With enormous competition, the objective is to make the brands culturally relevant. They won’t survive by staying in a vacuum, without acknowledging the consumer pulse. They need to be mindfully participating in the conversations consumers are having and the communities they are building, especially revolving around the cultural aspect. Brands should emphasise building a consumer-obsessed mindset wherein they can tap into the collective attitude or outlook of people or culture during a specific point in time. Cultural relevance is no longer optional for brands, they need to be constantly plugged into what’s happening around them.

  • Capitalise on fresh or emerging trends:

It’s essential to stay updated on leading trends and new technologies emerging in the industry if a business seeks to grow or wants to be in a better position compared to its competitors. When a brand capitalises early on transpiring trends, it positions itself to receive the monetary benefits from the mushrooming market that a new trend could bring with it. Tapping into the trends before they become mainstream can be a win-win situation for brands as they have enough time to do what it takes to capture the interest of customers and leverage the many perks of the trends.

The building block of a relevant brand:

A brand is on the cusp of growth if it proactively embraces and nurtures meaningful innovations. Being the lifeblood of a brand, innovation sets the tone of the brand’s journey. As a market research company, by diving deep into the pool of consumer insights, entailing design thinking and taking suitable measures to fulfil their requirements in unique ways, we guide the brands toward the trajectory of reaping the rewards of business growth and building goodwill that lasts.