TopShop's Justin Cooke Launches New Innovation Agency

Innovate7 aims to help brands embrace modern thinking

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Justin Cooke of Innovate7
Justin Cooke of Innovate7

Justin Cooke, the former TopShop CMO and Burberry marketer who helped launch the brands' innovative digital initiatives, has left the fashion world to launch Innovate7, a U.K.-based startup that aims to help brands embrace modern thinking.

Mr. Cooke has teamed up with Nicola Peters, a former colleague and engagement marketing manager at Burberry who helped steer programs like "Art of the Trench," as well as undisclosed former staffers from Apple, Facebook, Red Bull and Nike.

The company is built on two propositions. First, it aims to help brands innovate their businesses. Innovate7 plans to fill gaps in companies' processes and thinking that prevent them from become modern-thinking ventures -- whether it be through advertising, marketing or technology.

Second, the company will be developing what Mr. Cooke described as "world-changing" technology. First out of the gate will be a social platform, the name of which he was unable to disclose at press time. Set to launch this year, Mr. Cooke says it will "absolutely have relevance to brands and will challenge the top five social networks." According to Mr. Cooke, the project has received an investment stake of 19.9% from an undisclosed media group, along with private venture capital funding.

Mr. Cooke billed the company as "the world's first disruption agency" -- although "disruption" is already a familiar buzzword in the ad industry and is the core of TBWA's longtime mantra.

"What we do will be a real mixture," Mr. Cooke said. "We have a lab approach. For example, when you look at huge industries, you will sometimes see that there's something missing that's preventing them from moving into the future. It could be a piece of technology. We plan to come up with that solution."

In order for brands to ensure their profitability in the future, Mr. Cooke said they have to anticipate and embrace the innovations that could disrupt their businesses. But the innovation, he said, will not necessarily be about creating. It's also about evolving.

TopShop's Future of the Fashion Show
TopShop's Future of the Fashion Show

"People always assume innovation is about doing something new. But it can be about taking something that already exists and doing it really well, like what Steve Jobs and Apple did with MP3 players," Mr. Cooke said. "I want to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckeberg, Britain never had one so why not me."

The decision for Mr. Cooke to start his own agency might strike some as surprising, given his fashion roots. But at his previous stints, instead of working with traditional ad firms he preferred working directly with partners from the tech world. Among his past projects were TopShop's ambitious "Shoot the Runway" that allowed users to customize the brand's Fashion Week catwalk and the "Future of the Fashion Show" multiplatform fashion show experience created with Google, as well as Burberry's Art of the Trench and Retail Theatre Experience.

Sheena Sauvaire, who had been marketing director at Topshop for six years, has been promoted to CMO, following Mr. Cooke's departure.

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