Jeremy Basset, Global Marketing Strategy Director at, Unilever
Innovation Stories was a morning packed with innovation leaders, insightful speakers and lots and lots of ideas. First held in 2012 the event was created to help newly appointed innovation champions share ideas on what their role was about and how they could provide innovation services to their clients. The role for agencies remains critical today as we see innovation being led from in-house, incubators, labs and elsewhere.
Although there’s no one size fits all, the stories shared highlight innovation best practice:
1/ Innovation is a mindset not a department
Innovation must be understood as a culture running throughout the business rather than as a separate function.
Jeremy Basset, Global Marketing Strategy Director at Unilever shared some amazing insights from their Foundry program. Since its creation in 2014 the Unilever Foundry has seen:
- $6m+ invested into pilots
- 65+ startups piloted
- 32+ start-ups being scaled-up
Jeremy highlighted the need for innovation to be collaborative to be successful. If a great idea stays in a PowerPoint it dies.
Hamish Nicklin, Managing Director of AOL UK shared similar insights and outlined AOL’s vision for ‘culture and code’ working together – something the business applies to help drive its mergers and acquisitions:
2/ Innovation should be commerce first not technology first
There was a constant thread throughout the day that innovation was not about new shiny things but a tangible source of growth for the business. As many CEOs are former CFOs, innovation must focus on driving business impact.
- Jeremy Basset of Unilever confirmed that the key to impact is commercial relevance.
- Jonny Spindler, Chief Innovation Officer, AMV BBDO, discussed the need for innovation to focus on the core business. For example, if you’re Nestle, why incubate start-ups that create apps instead of focusing on chocolate making? Most companies need agencies to focus on immediate solutions to ensure that the business is still there in five years time – rather than trying to sell an innovative idea that won’t reach the customer for five years.
- Michael Johnston, Strategy Director at Hirsch & Mann Ltd shared his definition of innovation as ”the successful exploitation of ideas that address future customers needs in order to drive growth.”
3/ The future of agencies might be in scaling-up not starting-up
Jonny Spindler shared his thoughts on the best approach for agencies to provide innovation services. Because it is a core capacity for agencies to build commercial models, and because they are businesses themselves, it leads them to become partners to other businesses in helping them to scale-up. This means helping big companies scale-up their innovations as much as helping start-up scaling-up to mass market.
Start up are great to help bring business intelligence on innovation to larger corporations but they don’t bring growth – which is what the business needs in the first place.
Lawrence Weber, Managing Partner, innovation at Karmarama to add “Agencies need to embrace new models to avoid being squeezed out of the equation”.
On a end note, the most inspiring idea of the day which was from Danielle Fiandaca who spoke about what3words – a project which assigns 3 words to each one of 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares worldwide – solving the problem of addressing in large parts of the developing world.