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Build Innovation into Your DNA

July 28, 2020


Build Innovation into Your DNA

Where will your company be in 10 years?

 It’s a question we hear a lot, especially when we’re in meetings, creating 5- and 10-year plans. But a recent estimate predicted that just half of businesses on the S&P 500 index would be around in 2030.

 With COVID, that number has changed even more drastically. It’s a sobering thought, for a lot of reasons. Then add the fact that something like 70 percent of all businesses have to close their doors in their first 10 years. It's clear we should be asking a different question.

 What can we do to make sure we’re still here in 10 years?

 The answer lies in how we build our businesses—and that includes building innovation right into the very DNA of our brands.

Adding Innovation to a Brand’s DNA

I make a lot of noise here about how we need to get in touch with the essence of our brands. We have these core values that resonate with our customers, and we can’t (or shouldn’t) ever look to change that.

 That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be innovating though! At first glance, that might seem confusing. How can something both stay the same and always be moving forward, always changing, always innovating?

 The answer is that innovation can be—and should be—part of our brand’s DNA, much the same as our other core values. We have a higher purpose, a mission that we stay true to across time. But we’re always looking for new ways to fulfill that mission.

 In some ways, innovation needs to be part of our core values. DNA is a double-helix, so one strand of the helix is your core mission and the other is innovation.

Why Innovation Is Key to Longevity

The statistics on the rates of business closure and longevity are sobering. But there’s a more hopeful message buried in the numbers.

 Some businesses survive. Some stick around for 10 years, or even longer! Not every business will close up shop before the end of a decade.

 If we look at brands that have been around for a long time, we can see two things are true for most of them:

 1.    They have a higher purpose that they stick to.

2.    They continually reinvent how they fulfill that purpose.

 The key to success is knowing your mission. The key to longevity is innovation.

 Brands that don’t innovate are stagnate. They allow themselves to fall out of touch with consumers. They stop delivering their message or fulfilling their mission in a way that resonates.

 Of course, many successful brands go through stagnation followed by dynamism. When innovation is in your DNA, it’s easier to recognize when you’re stagnating. And it's much easier to then do something about it, to kickstart the process of innovating.

Tell Yourself a Story

So, how can you tell if your brand is innovative? One of the easiest ways to do it is to dig into narrative.

 We talk a lot about brand narratives as something we give to our customers. Storytelling is actually an incredibly effective way of understanding an identity. (It’s why human beings create all kinds of stories to tell ourselves—being storytellers, crafting identity, is baked into our DNA!)

 A story can tell you where you’ve been. It can tell you about what you did in the past that made you who you are today. It can also tell you where you’re going—it provides a vision.

 When we ask ourselves, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”, we’re asking to create a narrative. This provides us with a vision, which can illuminate what we value, what we think our purpose is.

 We might also ask ourselves, “What were you doing 10 years ago?” Or we might look back to the start of our brand or a very successful period in our company history. Looking at the narratives we craft there has that same illuminating effect.

 Let’s look at McDonald’s. Its success is rooted in what it provides: a particular experience, something consumers know and trust. McDonald’s has been known to experiment, usually discovering ways to provide faster service or more consistency.

 It’s also known for being a family-friendly place to pick up an affordable meal. Through its Happy Meals and Ronald McDonald House charity, it has an image of being a friendly place for children and their parents. It also has a place in many people’s memories. You might remember meeting up for a special meal with family members. Maybe you breathed a sigh of relief on a road trip when you spotted the iconic golden arches.

 One of McDonald’s greatest blunders was the Arch Deluxe, which hit the market in 1996. It was aimed specifically at adults. It was an innovative product for the brand, sure, but it didn’t speak to the McDonald’s mission.

 By contrast, McCafes have been a huge hit. They provide both the convenience of McDonald’s and the healthier options and atmosphere of other coffee shop chains. The McCafe concept pairs with McDonald’s breakfast options, making it a tried-and-true place to grab both a coffee and a breakfast.

 McDonald’s is innovative when the brand remembers its core values: providing excellent value and products customers know they can trust. It’s less successful when it attempts to woo people who were never in its core demographic, as the Arch Deluxe demonstrated.

 McDonald’s can tell a story about itself that illuminates both its mission and how to keep innovating to deliver on that mission.

Innovation Is the Only Way Forward

We’re in a period of unprecedented upheaval. From what we’ve seen in the last few months, brands that innovate will be ready to take on whatever the future has in store.

 Innovation should never come in a vacuum though. We’ve talked about it before, and innovation has to be informed by your core values. Surviving into the future—and thriving—all starts with the why.


Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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