PASPALEY

Taking on a cultural icon

A constant battle for share of marketing budget rages between product and innovation on one hand and brand and communication on the other. Both sides have compelling arguments, wheeling out a handful of outlier case studies to prove their points: Google, AirBnB and Facebook vs Nike, Dove and Coke. “Just make amazing stuff that sells itself” vs “connect emotionally through purpose and values”.

The reality is, as usual, a little more complex. In fact, every brand relies on a combination of all of the above. However, the effectiveness and relative importance of each vary significantly over time and between categories.

I have tried to simplify this by mapping product and services categories according to two key dimensions, ending up with four distinct strategies that help inform decision making for all categories and at any given point in time.

But before we get to that, a couple of ground rules:

1. There are two types of innovation – Functional and Symbolical – that fulfil the same purpose.

We tend to regard innovation purely in terms of functionality, but this narrow definition often tricks us into seeing innovation where there are mere improvements, as well as preventing us from recognising innovation that doesn’t manifest itself physically. 

A brand is a promise to solve problems for people, and every brand solves a combination of two kinds of problems: Functional and Symbolical. Solutions require two kinds of innovation:

Functional innovation: Functional innovation takes place at a products and services level (including related experiences) and seeks to improve the product’s performance according to the category’s key drivers – be it convenience, safety, quality, flavour, features or some other functional benefit. 

A constant battle for share of marketing budget rages between product and innovation on one hand and brand and communication on the other. Both sides have compelling arguments, wheeling out a handful of outlier case studies to prove their points: Google, AirBnB and Facebook vs Nike, Dove and Coke. “Just make amazing stuff that sells itself” vs “connect emotionally through purpose and values”.

The reality is, as usual, a little more complex. In fact, every brand relies on a combination of all of the above. However, the effectiveness and relative importance of each vary significantly over time and between categories.

I have tried to simplify this by mapping product and services categories according to two key dimensions, ending up with four distinct strategies that help inform decision making for all categories and at any given point in time.

But before we get to that, a couple of ground rules:

1. There are two types of innovation – Functional and Symbolical – that fulfil the same purpose.

We tend to regard innovation purely in terms of functionality, but this narrow definition often tricks us into seeing innovation where there are mere improvements, as well as preventing us from recognising innovation that doesn’t manifest itself physically. 

A brand is a promise to solve problems for people, and every brand solves a combination of two kinds of problems: Functional and Symbolical. Solutions require two kinds of innovation:

Functional innovation: Functional innovation takes place at a products and services level (including related experiences) and seeks to improve the product’s performance according to the category’s key drivers – be it convenience, safety, quality, flavour, features or some other functional benefit.