simple innovations

Clydesdales and Customers


How do you cause a disturbance? Shake up the marketplace?

It begins by tapping into the emotions and psyche of the consumer. Take the Budweiser Superbowl TV spot about the man that raised and trained a Budweiser Clydesdale horse and gave him up to be a part of the Budweiser team. The horse never forgot his trainer, and sought him out by cantering down the street to find him after a parade. They share a ‘hug’, and the consumer feels heart-warmed by their happy reunion. Just about everyone felt touched by this commercial, and thereby touched by the brand as well. Everyone who saw the commercial in real-time talked about it, and many who didn’t see it live, looked it up later on YouTube. This is the essence of causing a disturbance.

While the phrase is often (over) used, it’s hard for people to think outside of the box. I tell them to start very simply.  Turn off of your computer, your iPhone or your iPad because the answers aren’t in your screensavers or mobile devices. Tilt your head up slightly and observe the world around you. Inspiration and ideas start with observation. Attend events, business groups and round tables. Most of all, talk to and be inspired by new people.

The ideas don’t have to be earth shattering. They just have to delight the senses or sensibilities of your market. After all, the cakepop is just a really little piece of cake dipped in chocolate coating and held up by the timeless popsicle stick. Just like that, you have take-out cake, a very small tweak to a favourite treat that puts big smiles on people’s faces.

How can you further delight your customer and keep them engaged? What else can you sell to them? It could be a product, a process or a service. So, don’t be afraid to shake it up. Today, more than ever, you have to be engaging and re-engaging your customers with things that are new and interesting.

That’s innovation. It’s as simple as that. Have an idea and bring it to market in a way that delights customers and keeps them coming back to you!

How will you shake up your bowl of oats?

Listen to the radio interview that this article is based on below.

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The Cake Pop is the Essence of Innovation


Innovation Insights

One of a series by Ken Tencer, Spyder Works CEO

Some say that successful innovations “mask the complexity behind them”. I put it a bit differently – I believe that successful innovations harness the obvious. One of the great examples of this is the cake pop. These deceptively simple desserts –  frosted balls of cake on a lollipop stick – reflect everything that is right about innovation. It’s a bold new use for a traditional product that opens up huge opportunities for creativity and new sales venues, while reflecting a societal shift to healthier lifestyles (smaller portions), more frugal indulgences, and ease of access for people on the go (look ma, no fork!).

Let me say that again: cake pops didn’t come out of nowhere. Invented by blogger/baker Angie “Bakerella” Dudley in early 2008, they took off a month later when Martha Stewart invited Dudley to make cake pops on her TV show. But cake pops succeeded because they addressed changes in societal norms and consumer behavior.  They also met one other need: they brought a rare and fun originality to the baking and catering industries. Covered with sprinkles or styled to resemble mini ice-cream cones, cupcakes, Christmas trees and even flowers, cake pops can now be found at birthday parties (where they leave much less mess behind than slices of cake), weddings, corporate events and family dinners – anyplace where gracious hosts and hostesses are always competing to serve the newest of the new.

Understanding consumer needs and capitalizing on market shifts represent the essence of innovation. It’s bringing new things to market to continuously re-engage your customers and meet their changing needs. Surprise your customers, delight them and solve their problems, and watch your sales pop.


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Examples that show innovation can be easy

Originally published as a Special to Globe and Mail Update, January 4, 2012

Image from a Shreddies campaign in 2008

When I ask business owners and managers about innovation, many of them talk about ideas they have percolating but they have never pursued.

They’re too busy fighting front-burner issues to think about anything new. But if innovation is going to be a source of new products and revenues, I have three words for you, from one of the world’s most innovative companies: Just Do It.

t’s as simple as that. Innovation is about bringing ideas to market rather than letting them languish on a half-forgotten scratchpad. And innovation doesn’t necessarily mean invention. More often, it’s about acting on an opportunity you have already recognized, or adapting existing solutions for other markets or industries.

How simple can innovation be? Consider these examples:

Seeing the same thing in a different way

Think of the publicity coup for Post’s Shreddies – and its 18-point gain in market share – when it reintroduced the timeless breakfast cereal in diamond shapes rather than squares.

Exploring new markets with the same products (or slightly adapted features)

Toy giant Lego has launched a Lego Friends brand to target girls in addition to its dominating “boy brands” such as Star Wars Lego and Lego Ninjago.

Tapping into (or teaming up with) new market trends

Hyundai now provides a multimedia tablet as an owner’s manual instead of the traditional printed book.

Bringing together features from existing products or markets to create something “new”

The maker of SLAP Watch offers a unique twist on silicone watches with interchangeable faces, bright colours, and spring-coil bracelet – all in one item.

Innovation is the engine that drives your business forward. Think about it: customers are engaged by new and exciting products and services. It gives them something to talk about, a reason to buy again, and more often.

You wouldn’t change the oil in your car just once a year – the engine would sputter and die. Your company shouldn’t leave ideation, innovation or the introduction of new – even small – improvements to an annual schedule. Without the tune-up of continuing innovation, your business will also sputter and die.

You should make 2012 the year that innovation becomes a continuous, front-burner activity, just like sales and marketing.

How do you take the first step in your business? Set aside a 15-minute slot in your weekly sales and marketing meeting. Ask everyone at the table to talk about one interesting innovation they have seen in your industry, or better yet, an industry far from your own. Discuss which examples are most applicable to your business, then charge a person or team to flesh those ideas out. Monitor their progress monthly in the same team meetings. Success breeds success, and feedback and inclusivity are its lifeblood.

Winning through innovation doesn’t have to be scary, painful or expensive. Business owners and managers can do it step by step. Start by creating an environment in which employees, trusted partners and even customers offer great new product and service ideas. The active ingredient in “win-novation” is simply creating a process to examine those ideas and pursue the best of them.

The cost is low, the potential sky-high. It’s better to implement a number of smaller innovations than to have big ideas and do nothing with them.

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