Editorial

New Zealand Marketing - - News - DAMIEN VENUTO Ed­i­tor

Slowly slowly.

In 2014, City Univer­sity of Lon­don pro­fes­sor Paolo Aversa and his pit crew of data geeks pub­lished a re­port trac­ing ev­ery innovation in For­mula One over a 30-year pe­riod.

What the re­port found was that innovation in For­mula One tech­nol­ogy didn’t al­ways re­sult in suc­cess on the race­track. On the con­trary, in cer­tain cir­cum­stances, the less in­no­va­tive cars per­formed far better than the spruced-up vehicles of their op­po­nents. An anec­dote Aversa re­cently told the Har­vard

Busi­ness Re­view re­counts the 2009 sea­son when Jen­son But­ton, who had fin­ished 18th the pre­vi­ous year, ended up win­ning the Driv­ers’ Cham­pi­onship in a ba­sic, al­beit solid, Mercedes-brawn car. Rac­ing against a field of in­no­va­tive hy­brid speedsters, But­ton’s mod­est sin­gle-per­son-mover whizzed past the com­pe­ti­tion all sea­son long.

Only a year later, by which time the tech had been tested on all his com­peti­tors, did team owner Ross Brawn in­vest in it and, un­sur­pris­ingly, won the cham­pi­onship again.

Aversa’s study showed that time and time again, teams that held back on innovation or in­no­vated more cau­tiously ended up being more suc­cess­ful. The rea­son being that chang­ing even a few fea­tures of a highly tech­ni­cal For­mula One car in­tro­duces vari­ables that could lead to fail­ure. What’s more is that this principle can be ap­plied to vir­tu­ally any tech­ni­cal prod­uct.

Of course, we love to mythol­o­gise cer­tain com­pa­nies as being supremely in­no­va­tive and push­ing their in­dus­tries to the brink of mad­ness. Ap­ple, for in­stance, is of­ten thrown around as the ex­em­plar of innovation, chang­ing the world with its stun­ningly de­signed con­trap­tions. But think of when Ap­ple re­leased the iphone 7. The gen­eral con­sen­sus was, ‘Okay, so they re­moved the ear­phone jack and in­tro­duced a pres­sure-sen­si­tive home but­ton’. Pretty meh, right?

This might be the case, but it didn’t stop peo­ple all over the world from queu­ing for hours and lodg­ing pre-or­ders to get their hands on one. The point here is that Ap­ple un­der­stands that small changes de­signed to en­hance the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence are vastly su­pe­rior to ma­jor re­designs that ren­der the prod­uct a glitch-rid­den disaster.

But can this slow-burn method be ap­plied to the media in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly at a time of enor­mous change when innovation is listed as a pre­req­ui­site for sur­vival?

One need only look at Proc­ter & Gam­ble chief brand of­fi­cer Marc Pritchard’s con­fes­sion ear­lier this year that his team had erred in try­ing to be a “first mover on all the lat­est shiny ob­jects” to see the im­por­tance of adopt­ing a more strate­gic ap­proach to in­no­vat­ing in mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing.

The ob­vi­ous counter-ar­gu­ment to this is that ad­ver­tis­ing is a messy cre­ative process that can’t be mea­sured against the tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions of a race­car or a mo­bile phone. I’m not deny­ing that. But this hasn’t stopped other cre­ative in­dus­tries from gen­er­at­ing enor­mous suc­cess from a more mea­sured ap­proach to innovation.

A clas­sic ex­am­ple is Hol­ly­wood’s re­make and se­quel strat­egy, which shows that sub­tle cre­ative changes to work that al­ready ex­ists can of­ten gen­er­ate some­thing pop­u­lar and enor­mously lu­cra­tive—both of which are, af­ter all, the pri­mary ob­jec­tives of ad­ver­tis­ing.

Also, it isn’t only cin­e­matic cre­ativ­ity that has a pen­chant for in­no­vat­ing bit by bit. In April this year, Justin Bieber col­lab­o­rated with Luis Fonsi to cre­ate the first Span­ish-lan­guage num­ber one hit in the US since the Macarena in 1996.

What’s in­ter­est­ing is that the orig­i­nal ver­sion of the song was re­leased in Jan­uary to a rel­a­tively medi­ocre US re­cep­tion. How­ever, rather than can­ning the song and start­ing anew, Fonsi worked with what he saw as a good core, writ­ing a few English lines and through what can only be imag­ined as some su­per­hu­man form of per­sis­tence, recorded the song with Bieber singing in Span­ish. At the end of it all, it was a touch of slow, pa­tient innovation that lifted what was a good track to some­thing that will go down in his­tory. Isn’t it fit­ting, then, that the name of the song,

Des­pac­ito, trans­lates to ‘slowly’ in English?

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