Defining the real purpose of marketing innovation

Peter Sayburn is co-founder and chief executive officer of Market Gravity.


Innovation is vital to every business – and to society too. By harnessing the creativity inside our companies we have the potential to make all our lives better. Innovation is the combination of creativity and implementation, to solve a human problem and critically, to create business value. 

It is much greater than simply a big idea or new piece of technology; it’s about putting your ideas into practice. Every company has hundreds of ideas, but it’s hard to harness them and get them to market. 

Innovation needs room and time to iterate, experiment and learn through trial and error; it can often be difficult to do at the same time as dealing with other work priorities, making process improvements or completing your ‘business as usual’ activities.

This process is worth it in the long run and innovation is the only real path to enduring business success.  To stay relevant to your clients and customers and one step ahead of the competition, you must keep doing new and better things. 

Innovation can result in creating higher market value for a business too – an ‘innovation premium’ in the stock market. 

We’ve seen some great examples of marketing innovation from companies such as Standard Life.

Large companies often struggle to help their employees understand workplace pensions, with information being static, dry and hard to understand. Standard Life responded to demands for more engaging communications by creating an entire communications consultancy, 56 Degrees. 

How do you create a culture of innovation? 

Innovation is about culture, not products, but some cultures seem to be more innovative than others. Creating a culture of innovation is not as straightforward as it sounds but there are certain characteristics within businesses that encourage proactive innovative thinking among employees. We have created a set of six principles as guidelines for businesses looking to instill innovation in their own company culture: 

1. Purpose – set a single-minded goal or objective. Businesses that are great at innovation know why they’re innovating, are confident in their mission’s long-term value and align colleagues around a shared strategy with clear success measures. 

2. Leadership – create the right conditions for innovation. Visible senior sponsorship is key to successful innovation. The leadership team needs to commit and provide clear and consistent communication on the role of innovation. This means setting expectations and backing new initiatives through their own actions.

3. Capability – create team with diverse disciplines and skills. A successful innovation initiative often features a small, highly motivated, team that has the right combination of skills and experience, with the right attitude and a strong focus on the results.

4. Collaboration – value others’ ideas and sharing and learning. Rather than being secretive and protective, innovative businesses share big ideas early with employees, partners and customers. And they know that they can’t do everything themselves. 

5. Competitive advantage – play to your strengths. Successful innovators take advantage of the fact that they’re part of an established business. This gives them an inherent advantage over pure start-ups and enables them to have a greater impact. 

6. Obsessive customer focus. Innovative businesses know that while they may not be able to articulate it, every great idea addresses a real customer problem.  The key is to focus on the problem – not the idea.

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