They did what? Yogurt from a Fashion Magazine? Salty Snacks launching a Lemonade? Lighters extending into Perfume? Toothpaste launches Frozen Foods?  How does innovation like this make it out the door? I think it happens more often than we like to admit.  We convince ourselves that innovation must be new and newsworthy and that taking an established brand into a new category “for that brand” is innovative.  We dig into the big data that is available and find correlations (“women who read fashion often eat yogurt” “many people drink lemonade or margaritas with our chips”) or we convince ourselves our technology is hero (“we are really good at dispensing small amounts of flammable liquid, what else can we dispense?”) or we focus on a feature (“we know how to design taste”). You can imagine the conversations. You know what is missing? The human, the person the innovation is designed to serve, and the brand, the entity which has a personality and image that has been developed over years that is bringing this to life for the person. Innovation must be more than just new and newsworthy. It must be meaningful and useful to the person it is designed to serve and it must be coherent with the brand that is offering it. It must fit in…to the life of the person and the story of the brand. Look at these Innovations by established brands… Here one can see the arc between the home brand and the innovation, both in the insight about the person and the brand.  Story tools, such as those in design thinking practices, are helpful to create a story arc in our Innovation Pipelines on our established brands and even when we are imagining a whole new brand/suite of offerings.  Looking at each innovation as a chapter in the life of the brand is powerful. In the examples above, I see the next chapter of the Special K healthy lifestyle brand story in this frozen flatbread launch and understand how the people they  serve might need this (even though this requires expanding out of the dry goods into the frozen area of the store). Gatorade serves athlete and aspiring athletes, so recovery bars make sense even though their home base was a yellow liquid for University of Florida all those years ago. It is a natural expansion of the brand story of supporting athletes, just as the iPhone is a natural extension for those seeking access to information and connection wherever they are from a computer company.  And, Mt. Dew KickStart is an answer to the morning wake up call for its tribe in a way that fits into its people and brand. There are a lot of bad innovations launched and lost every year. Don’t forget that for an innovation to be really successful, it needs to be…. New/do something new Meaningful to the person Coherent with the brand.


Take Action

Look at your innovation pipeline today–does it make human sense?  Is there a coherent story revealed for the brand with each innovation opening up the next chapter of relationship with its users?  Are the people you serve the center of the story (rather than just the brand?)If not, explore the power of Story to both see your stakeholders as fully human (not just a consumer or a demographic) and to imagine and sequence your pipeline of what is to come in the context of their life and in a way that fits in and makes sense.  What story are you telling?

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