Given the current tough times, innovative ideas will find it hard to break through. Money will be tight and early cash flow tricky. Innovative ideas will be shaped by real needs rather than blue sky thinking.
Harold Pinter, who died over Christmas, won the Nobel Prize for Literature and had a reputation for capturing the way people actually speak in his plays. Pinter used slang, pauses, stutterings, cliches, repitition and the evasions and tactics of everyday speech to capture what daily life was really like. Pinter’s work jettisons melodramatic lines delivered in received pronounciation to be rooted firmly in the dialogue and music of society’s darkest or most ordinary corners. For Pinter, the East End of London was the place he mined his material; just as Alan Bennet did in Leeds.
It is as if these dramatists looked for innovation in language where people actually work, rest and play. Above all, they were listening and observing in the real world – where their most innovative insights were incubated. As we look at innovation in the business world we can learn much from these dramatists.
As we move, at breakneck speed, from 6 to 9 billion people on the planet, all marketeers need to explore what this will mean for their products and, above all, consumers. One thing is for sure, even if progress returns to the heady recent past, the Majority World will not become the new Middle Class over night. In fact, if they did, we would need more than the raw materials of this planet to serve them.
When the Berlin Wall fell, Pepsi, who had been the only player in Eastern Europe, set up focus groups and strategy task forces to make sure that they could maintain market leadership. Coke, hired all available trucks in Western Europe, filled them up with product and sped over the border in a massive field marketing excercise. Handing out product free – they built awareness and, pitched price at an affordable level to build volume. More to the point, they went to listen to the consumer and from that dialogue build their marketing strategy going forward. Many leading fashion houses do the same. Often, they find innovation in the ways the informal market rearranges the proverbial old hat.
The Majority World is a massive market. What will it need? How can it be delivered? These questions will not be found in Focus Groups. It is going to take an eye for detail and an ear for the language on the ground. Above all, you can’t buy what you can’t see – so the winners will be those who understand the logistics that can place the product where consumers can buy. How is your company responding to this challenge?