How Brands Can Get a Jump on 'Technovation'

Three Ways Marketers Can Use Technology and Innovation to Strengthen Their Brand and Build Relationships

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Mondelez marketing exec Bonin Bough used 3D printers to make custom Oreos.
Mondelez marketing exec Bonin Bough used 3D printers to make custom Oreos.

Brand marketers have traditionally walked a tightrope between two distinct roles -- creative visionary and revenue driver. They have been responsible for not only bringing forward the best innovative marketing strategies, but also for being able to predict how those strategies will directly affect the bottom line. But the status quo is changing.

Today, establishing relationships with customers is now (or should be) at the core of any strategy or campaign. And success is being measured according to less predictable and more indirect factors. Things like the campaign's overall "cool factor," its original and exciting uses of technology, or its status as "first to do something" are more and more becoming primary campaign goals. There are many reasons for this shift; chief among them is that marketers are recognizing that innovation has a trickle-down effect on consumer loyalty and engagement, thanks to the way technology is sculpting consumer-brand interaction.

This movement has given birth to a trend brand marketers are calling "technovation," which is basically the intersection of technology, innovation and the creative, free thinking that brings them together. Technovation as a marketing tactic can complement, and sometimes even replace, more traditional creative mediums like print and TV advertising. And because it is, by its very nature, leading edge and original, technovation strengthens brands' relationships with their customers who now view them as fresh and trendsetting, no matter how long they've been around.

So what does staying on top of technovation entail? Here are three strategies for brands:

1. Use existing technology in unexpected ways.

Brands don't always need to build something from the ground up to be innovative. Sometimes it's enough for a brand to use existing technology in novel ways to demonstrate that it's fresh and forward thinking. This is an especially effective tactic for large brands that want to demonstrate their enterprising spirit.

Cookie giant Oreo recently called attention to itself by using 3D printing technology (originally introduced for modeling and creative projects) to dispense cookies on demand from a vending machine.

In order to demonstrate a mainstream, consumer-friendly application of its more wonky technology, IBM used its Watson (cognitive computing) technology to power a branded food truck that could recommend ingredients to patrons.

A Hong Kong-based anti-littering campaign by Ogilvy & Mather uses Snapshot DNA phenotyping technology to convert DNA from trash on the ground into facial images of the litterers, which then grace public anti-littering ads.

British Airlines built a unique interactive roadside billboard that gave drivers real-time information about the planes visibly flying overhead by taking in-flight radar data and analyzing weather patterns and flight paths.

2. Introduce entirely new technology.

Sometimes it's not that the technology you're using is broken and needs fixing -- it's that you simply can't use existing solutions to do what you want to do. Brands that prioritize technovation-based marketing strategies see this as an invitation to build the solutions they need from scratch. Many times this takes place on the vendor side, but every now and then you see new technology coming directly from the brand.

A perfect example of a brand introducing new technology to extend its reach is Amazon's Dash Buttons. These are physical buttons that Amazon Prime members can adhere to household appliances or surfaces, and then simply push to order their most frequently used products. An avid Gatorade drinker, for instance, can stick a Gatorade-branded button to the fridge so that when supplies are running low, she can easily reorder -- from Amazon -- by pushing the button.

This is not just about product sales for Amazon, though. It's about Amazon creating more awareness of and attracting new members to its Amazon Prime program.

3. Let the campaign dictate the KPIs, not the reverse.

This is going to scare the business side of the room, but innovation of any kind requires a leap of faith. The good news is that this leap of faith doesn't need to be taken blindly. Advertisers have access to numerous sources of data that tell them about their target consumers. This insight acts as a safety net that allows them to push the boundaries of innovation and explore new ideas.

Being the first to do something also means getting comfortable with the fact that there's no existing structure built to support it. This is especially true when it comes to KPIs that can measure the success of technovation-inspired campaigns.

We're already seeing this as the world goes digital; the previous analytics and success indicators are becoming outdated, if not obsolete. Now consider the introduction of innovative technologies that are several steps ahead of the already widely adopted technologies.

With technology putting more control into the hands of consumers, a whole new generation of KPIs has surfaced that take a more holistic view of engagement.

Indicators such as awareness, time earned and engagement rate might be the most representative of this new wave of analytics. What these metrics track is the additional time spent engaging in a digital dialogue with a brand and how that additional interaction will affect the consumer's actions in the future. These metrics are also important because technology gives everyone a soapbox, so understanding how people are interacting with and sharing content within these networks is extremely important.

The brands that are on the leading edge of technovation are finding ways to optimize each interaction with a consumer and his or her network to tell more complete and valuable stories, and are using the data from these new KPIs to drive their strategies.

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