Tight focus key to innovation

04 January 2012

NEW YORK: Companies like Intel, Samsung and NASCAR are pursuing increasingly nuanced innovation programmes as they seek to drive growth and engage consumers.

Intel, the technology group, premises its R&D output around a core brand statement of being the "sponsors of tomorrow", and is making increased use of tools like social media as part of this process.

The company's philosophy is based on the notion of "disagree and commit" - taking account of all potential viewpoints, but setting aside any divisions once a strategy is decided upon.

"It's the idea that we all have different points of view, but we all have the same goal and at some point we have to move forward," Deborah Conrad, Intel's CMO, told The Hub Magazine. "It does help breed the freedom to fail and to take risks, versus doing nothing."

Samsung, the electronics manufacturer, has similarly established a clear positioning to foster innovation, alongside recognising the requirement to adequately support its activity in this area.

"It takes a lot of time, effort, energy and capital to be innovative. Not all organisations have enough access to the resources you need to break through in this day and age," Ralph Santana, CMO of Samsung North America, said.

"As a company, Samsung is focused on smart designs, smart connections and smart experiences. All of those things are fundamentally grounded in some type of consumer insight."

NASCAR is also implementing a range of eco-friendly initiatives such as recycling car parts, bottles and cans, and backing moves to install solar panels at some tracks, despite its central emphasis on "fast cars that burn copious amounts of gasoline".

"If we can create fans who are more engaged with NASCAR because of what we're doing in the green space, that would be an important win for us," Steve Phelps, NASCAR's chief marketing officer, said.

"Most Fortune 500 companies have some type of sustainability or green effort going on and more than 100 of them are involved with us. They are thrilled that we've taken these steps. It allows us to bring in new partners and attract new sponsors to the sport, as well."

Elsewhere, Vibram, the footwear group, has revolutionised its business by moving away from solely making soles and similar items for other firms and launching the successful FiveFingers "barefoot sports shoe".

"Product innovation is really hard, but it's definitely easier than it used to be because it's easier to gain stimulus and feedback. We have so many more ways to engage with the consumer and so many more tools that make it easier to gain insight, information, and collaborate," Tony Post, CEO of Vibram USA, said.

Data sourced from The Hub Magazine; additional content by Warc staff