Innovation: Hardest thing to get Right.

“I wish my stove came with a Save As button like Word has.  That way I could experiment with my cooking and not fear ruining my dinner.” — author Jarod Kintz. 

This quote pretty much sums up how I think about “innovation” in marketing. How do I experiment with cooking without messing up my dinner?

If you think hard about marketing innovations over the last 10 years, you’d think of gamification, group buying, social networking, location based marketing, video, user generated content, mobile device technology and such. Innovations in pure marketing technology include  things like cloud computing, digital billboards, predictive technology, HTML5, High Resolutions Displays, social analytics,  and business-ready storage (or cloud storage, as we like to term it).  

However, innovation is not just new technology or new ways to do things. True innovation must be marketed, or adoption will lag and scale in your operation will never have a chance.   I remember years ago when I was with a large agency, we had the coolest toys — but the problem with new toys is that in many cases the ideas don’t accompany well-thought-out strategy. Delays, technical limitations, inexperienced teams and in some cases reckless experimentation can be as bad as not taking risks at all.

As Greg Satell wrote in “How to manage innovation,” a very good article in Forbes: “Go to any conference these days and some whip-smart technogeek will declare that you must, ‘innovate or die,’ and then dazzle you a wide array of case studies to illustrate the point.  You’ll feel inspired, then scared and then have a few beers and go about your business.”  
Before this writer tries to scare marketers from testing new toys, let me tell you a few that I believe will shift our email and eCRM space.

Video:  Not video as we know it today, streamed and user-generated.  I’m talking about intelligent video in email that is highly personalized, available on any device and any automobile that has electric locks.  Today, I get email in my car and projection navigation is built into windshields.    Video will be how brands connect all four screens, and will virtualize the inbox as we know it today.  Tomorrow’s email will be as visual as television is today.

Artificial Intelligence: This will process your email for you, as an all-in-one smart email virtual administrator.  The time you spend in email sorting, filtering, and scrolling will be greatly minimized.   It will manage your preferences, your permissions and be the optimizer for brands to connect with you.   As I’ve said many times, “all innovation in mankind has been based on the need to compress time and space” (think transportation, phone, Internet, etc.)

Both these innovations will better connect individuals with brands and networks in a smart, efficient , dynamic manner that will bridge every active generation using electronic devices. It will connect the Silent generation to the Gen Z’ers.

Since these innovations will change the role of marketing, I advise all of you with marketing in your functional job description to do two things.   First, commit your time to a couple of innovative areas. Tes video, learn new ways to contextualize email for more than direct response.  Test real-time!  Test offers on demand! Test mCommerce!  Go heavy with mobile experiences, as that user experience will personify the future digital engagement model.  If you aren’t a quant geek, you’s better begin playing with some pretty savvy decisioning technologies or you’ll never keep up, and decisions will be 30% substance 70% aroma. 

Innovation in marketing is about great ideas that can scale to improve your business.  Some of the best innovations we will see over the next 10 years may already be upon us. We just haven’t figured out how to operationalize them.
By David Baker
David Baker is the global vice president of product/solutions for Acxiom .
Courtesy of MediaPost

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