Innovation: keeping FMCG brands relevant

How can brands innovate for maximum impact?

You can say what you want about the shifting fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) landscape, but at least it’s not boring.

Innovation is everything in this industry. It’s the key to growth as well as to keeping brands relevant. In fact, brands that rest on their laurels and don’t drive for innovation won’t last long in this crowded marketplace – which is bound to keep things interesting for the foreseeable future.

The importance of innovation is undeniable, but many big brands find themselves shackled by their size, struck by an innovation gap that will inevitably lead to lower margins and profit growth.

Finding a way to break free of traditional practices and embrace the new world is essential in order to stay in the game.

Incremental vs revolutionary innovation

Some big brands are trying to move in the right direction. Look at Aviva’s efforts to drive innovation by partnering with start-ups in financial services, and L’Oreal backing start-ups in the health and wellness sphere. Not only do these kind of partnerships keep innovation and market trends front and centre, they also help business problems get taken care of swiftly, provide agility and speed to market, and offer the opportunity to experiment externally.

But, time and again, we see brands making small yet ill-informed tweaks to both their marketing efforts and products, faltering as a result. They dabble in incremental innovation – improving the current offering for existing customers – rather than revolutionary innovation, where a new offering wins over new customers.

An example is the tweak Dove made to its packaging for the limited edition ‘Real Beauty Bottles’. Designed to be reflect a variety of different body types, the move was off the mark and rejected by consumers – mostly because it wasn’t based on customer need.

In order for innovation to make its mark in this digital age, brands need to ensure they reach out and engage with consumers to pin down exactly what it is they want. If based on customer feedback and desire, even the small changes in marketing can help bring brands up to date and offer increased chances of growth in an over-saturated marketplace.

Bigger isn’t always better

Innovation isn’t just about drumming up ideas but comes from an attitude focused on solving real-life problems.

Over the past few years, there’s been something of a revolution happening in FMCG, and not necessarily from the big brands and their partnerships. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that smaller, niche brands are taking advantage of their size and agility to tap into new markets.

SME news publication Real Business highlighted the creativity these smaller fish are applying to areas such as delivery, personalisation and product development. Its article cites brands such as myBaker, an online marketplace which tapped into the Great British Bake Off fever by offering the sort of unique, fully personalised bakes larger corporate competitors were unable to provide. Or Garçon Wines, with its award-winning, full-size, flat and postable wine bottles.

Don't lose your identity

To truly succeed with innovation, an understanding of the art of FMCG brand architecture is essential.

While new ideas and concepts are flying around, it’s important to keep the very values on which you built your brand intact. It’s also advisable to adhere to the old adage: keep it as simple as possible and as complex as necessary. Sometimes the best innovations are based on the simplest idea.

Finally, be careful with your brand. Make sure your new ideas don’t stretch beyond what you’re known for. If in doubt, a good rule is to test the concept with your target audience.

While growth in the FMCG sector is driven by brands that take risks, it’s learning how to walk the line between innovation and the principles above that provides the greatest chance of success.

Linney understands that as the world of marketing grows and channels fragment, innovative ways of getting our clients’ messages to the right audience at the right time is key. Contact us today to find out how we can help your brand stay at the front of the pack.

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