Are agencies giving innovation a bad name?

Agencies claiming to understand and help clients innovate are the main culprits giving the entire innovation industry a bad name, said Giles Day, director of innovation of Landor's new innovation unit Landor NorthandSouth.

Day added that today a lot of agencies are claiming to be stars in innovation or even labeling themselves as “innovation agencies” but the truth is, they do not have a backing of great design and skills.

“A lot of ad agencies are offering innovation but many are not doing a great job and hence tarnishing the image that advertising folks are not great at innovation. Bad innovation agencies are hence being bypassed making them obsolete in the innovation game,” added Nick Foley, president of Landor SEA and Pacific regions.

According to Day, innovation is not part of advertising or media or even branding. It is an industry of its own.

While the new unit might carry the backing of Landor, it will work independently and have expertise in “very rapid innovation and design thinking."

“The innovation industry is still a young one and we simply have to do a better job at creating greater things quicker,” said Day.

On the client side, while it might be easy and proper to say innovation is everyone’s job and everybody should ideally drive innovation across an organisation, truth is it is harder than that. Innovation has to come from the top.

“Really, it is at the end of the day a CEO's job as they are in touch with multiple stakeholder and control the flow of the dollars,” Day added. But innovation is by no means easy. Nearly 90% of all innovations fail and while it might be idealistic to say failure is the first step to success, the truth is, failure can also be expensive.

So what are some of the steps to successfully innovate?

Day describes innovation to be a mix of small and big ideas. The two sides of the innovation coin are: creating desire and sweating the assets. Brands need to create a want for your product but in a manner which will not exhaust your budget. It is important to work within your means.

Day outlines four key steps to successful innovation

  1. Be aware of the money – you need to follow the money. Sure you need to have a beautiful idea but it needs to be within what you have. You can't spend exorbitantly with no returns."Innovation is about making money and that is why people innovate. Sure its fun but if its not bringing you money, there is no point,"Day added. At the end of the day a business still needs to bring in the doe, otherwise heads are going to roll.
  2. Think like a human - You need to know what your consumer wants tomorrow, not next week or in the future, but tomorrow."You really need to understand your everyday customer and then you can reduce the risk. I don’t think companies are very good at that. Most companies try to do things at a very formal level but they do not really try to understand their target groups on a personal level," Day said.
  3. Balanced portfolio - You need a portfolio to convince your management that taking risks will have a positive impact. You need "renovation" involving small changes, "core innovation" which requires you to bending the category and breaking rules (and ultimately make money) and break through innovation which will let you be seen as a game changer.
  4. Bend the category - In a category you are not a leader in, try to slowly bend the rules and if it works, everyone will abide by your playbook. You need to try to understand the rules of success= in your given the opportunity. If you know the rules, you can choose which ones we want to break.

    If you enter a category that’s new to you, you’ve got a good chance of failure…but if you change that category you’ve got a much better chance of success.

Day was speaking at Landor's breakfast series Wake up with Landor.