The Power of Brand in Innovation
Pop quiz: What do a vacuum, noise-canceling headphones, a hair curler, and the hand dryer in an airport bathroom have in common?
On the surface, not much, but all of these products are part of Dyson’s portfolio. Dyson has been a household name for a while, but if you asked anyone 20 years ago what Dyson made, they’d say “vacuums.” Since its first product, the G-Force vacuum cleaner, launched in 1991, Dyson has created dozens of vacuum cleaner models with new technology in each. But they’ve also expanded their portfolio into many seemingly unrelated categories and have not only remained credible but have seen massive success in their category expansion. So much so, that the company now sells four Airwrap hair stylers every minute. How is this possible?
Let’s look at what drives Dyson. The brand’s mission is to “Solve problems others ignore” through engineering. Their stated belief is “There’s always a better way.” Their company values include Curiosity, Discovery, and Brave Thinking. Dyson has never seen itself as a vacuum company. It sees itself as an engineering company, and engineers make things that solve the world’s problems.
Mission, Belief, Values, a category re-imagined. If those sound like foundational elements of a brand, it’s because they are. Dyson’s approach to innovation closely mirrors Superhuman’s, as it is driven by three equally important factors; 1. Well-defined customer problems 2. Organizational expertise and 3. Your brand’s story.
Most innovation managers know that well-defined consumer problems and a strong understanding of current expertise and resources are key to a great innovation strategy. But Dyson, like Nike, Apple, and other cult companies, sees their brand as the secret ingredient to successful innovation. At Superhuman, we define “brand” as a distinct story that shapes a shared understanding of your business.
Here are three reasons why incorporating brand can give innovators an edge:
The innovation process starts with what you stand for at your core:
Brand strategies are created to define elements like purpose; what a company exists to do, belief; what a company values beyond observation, and human truth; or a well-understood tension the brand solves for people. When an innovation process starts with these higher-order elements in mind, ideas are not built within the constraints of existing categories or competitor norms. Instead, ideas are built to reinforce the brand’s story.
Teams are free to explore a wider range of ideas:
Because the innovation process considers questions like “What problems are we solving for people?” and “What story do we want to tell about ourselves?” instead of “What can we make?” team members cast a wider net as they ideate. When elements of the brand like purpose, beliefs, and human truth act as a springboard for ideation, teams are challenged to think bigger and differently.
Brand elements create clear guardrails, and help teams prioritize ideas:
An innovation process that incorporates brand helps teams determine where they can and cannot credibly stretch, considering new categories, and new types of products and services at the start of an innovation project. It also challenges teams to develop and stick to brand-led guardrails as they ideate and gives teams a framework with which to prioritize ideas that reinforce the brand’s story and vision.
The end results are differentiated in the market:
Great brands are differentiated in their categories. By using the brand to inspire and evaluate ideas, companies ensure they are introducing offerings that help them maintain a distinct identity in the market and are difficult for competitors to duplicate. Because new offerings reflect the brand story, they also help create loyalty among existing customers and capture new ones.
At Superhuman, we believe that when used to its full potential, a brand can influence how a company communicates in the world, how it connects through internal and external experiences, the way it makes business decisions over time, and the products and services it creates. We structure our brand strategy process with this perspective in mind, collaborating with client partners to not only create an inspiring brand foundation for marketers, but one that can be activated across disciplines, including R&D and product development teams.
Stay tuned for our next piece about how brand guides portfolio strategy to learn more about the power of brand.
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