March 31, 2009

Creativity and Innovation to get the edge

In these uncertain times, many of us are looking at our businesses and wondering – where to from here? Everyone seems to function slower, in wait of a clear direction. Marketing budgets are down or blocked. Just cut back on everything and try to weather the storm is the mantra of many.

Few are those who are going to see the glass half full. Yet, times like these are an opportunity. And this is how it should be seized:

What is the role of Marketing in an organization?

Depending on the type of business product or service, marketing will be involved at different levels, but if its role were to be summarized in one sentence, I would say that marketing is here to add value to the business proposition.

And what drives Value in the market?

In a word, Uniqueness. I would define this as the sum of tangible benefits and points of difference that make your product or service a better fit for your target market, and trigger consumption / purchase and re-purchase.

So I propose that the role of Marketing is to create and sustain that “Uniqueness”.

I recently ran a survey on Linkedin asking what one should expect of their marketing team in times of recession. The answers I received were showed the mood of the times – ‘make greater direct impact on sales’ was highest on the wish list. While this is an undoubtedly practical expectation, how do we deliver it?

I think the more visionary amongst the respondents had the right answer when they chose ‘more creativity than ever’ and ‘outside the box innovation’ – as these are the most effective tools for delivering to expectations. I certainly empathize that in the midst of today’s reality it is challenging to maintain a focused strategic vision. Nevertheless, we need to act now in ways that will ensure we come out fighting fit when this climate ends. Times of recessions are a strategic opportunity for those who can avoid myopia – they are a time to leave the competition behind. Let’s not forget that in growth mode everyone finds something to survive on, and gaining the edge is harder.

Encouraging creativity and innovation is what everyone should do. R&D is not only for product development. Creativity and Innovation need fostering at all levels of a business. New ways to reach consumers, innovative promotions, smarter trade tools, sharper communications, and better market insights. We need to get businesses in fighting order if they want to preserve their market share and push the weakest out of the market.

So by all means review your marketing investments, challenge their efficiency, that but don’t stop all activities or you will suffer deeply from the loss of momentum and will lose Brand equity.

Take this opportunity to explore new avenues of reaching out to your consumers. Drive innovation within your teams. You just have to open the tap and facilitate participation and individual initiatives. You will probably find out that everyone in your business has his own idea on how things could be done better and cheaper.

Good Luck.

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