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Marketing driving product innovation

Kara Melchers

Managing Editor, BITE Creativebrief


The Companies House graveyard is littered with businesses who have failed to respond to the changing needs of their customers. Only 66 of the original Fortune 500 companies are still listed. “Innovation is the difference between a leader and a follower,” said Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of arguably the most forward-thinking brand of our generation. Today innovation is vital for survival.

Services can be a key brand differentiator in any business, so it’s smart marketers who are spear-heading a drive for service innovation. Virgin America is the only airline based in Silicon Valley, “We see ourselves as more of an incubator,” says Chief Marketing Officer Luanne Calvert. They have created VX Next - a group of entrepreneur frequent flyers who generate ideas such as Biz - an in-flight social network that connects flyers with fellow travellers.

Be it functional, emotional or societal, innovations are only successful when they address a genuine customer need or desire. Nike+ is the original example of service design for the digital age. “When I buy this product, take it home and sign up for the services, I’ve created a link so much stronger than anything you could say in communication,” said Stefan Olander, Nike’s Vice-President of Digital Sport.

This type of customer-centric innovation can help make brands a much more intrinsic part of our lives, which is why service design should be high on the agenda for any business.

Read on for examples…

NatWest, helpful innovation from the helpful bank

NatWest were the first banking app to use fingerprint technology. They also built Get Cash – an app that enables customers to take cash from an ATM when they don’t have their card.

Their latest service innovation – Intention to Lend – is a response to the notoriously competitive UK housing market and tighter lending criteria. Buying a house has become a race against the clock for bank approval. To deliver on their promise of helpful banking, NatWest created a service that gives the customer proof of the bank’s intent to lend. It’s a real-time tool that quotes a specific amount against a specific property and helps NatWest customers to beat the next bidder.

These service innovations play a pivotal role in cementing the brand-to-customer relationship and emphasise NatWest’s helpful banking proposition.

Agency: SapientRazorfish, London

have used the app to buy their dream home
average GetCash requests a week

BMW Genius goes mobile

The BMW Genius App is the mobile component of the North American BMW Genius Everywhere program, which extends the relationship between drivers and the Genius team. The decision to create a web app let BMW cater to many devices with a single product. Throughout the customer journey, the app evolves from a reference for technical questions, to a platform for exploring details about BMW features, tailored to each user and their vehicle.

Agency: Big Spaceship, Brooklyn

Volvo make the invisible, visible

Volvo Cars has developed LifePaint - a unique reflective spray for cyclists. Invisible by daylight, it glows brightly in the glare of car headlights, lighting up cyclists who are on the road at night. Volvo has always marketed their vehicles on reliability and safety; LifePaint is a reinforcement of this message. In the past road safety was predominately targeted at car drivers, however with an ever growing number of cyclists on the road this service innovation demonstrates a more lateral approach to the message.

Agency: Grey London, London

Aviva rewards good driving

Aviva needed a point of difference that was true to its brand promise of ‘Recognising every customer need.’ Aviva Drive recognises that good drivers deserve to be judged on their driving, not by their demographic. The new product replicates black box solutions, making the technology available for all Aviva customers. The app has driven the lowest cost-per-acquisition ever for the brand.

Agency: Dare, London

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