Innovation: brand it or lose it

David Aaker
Prophet Brand Strategy

Innovation is increasingly at the centre of the strategy and the DNA of most firms, from HP's 'Invent' to Toshiba's 'Leading Innovation' to Toyota's 'Moving Forward' to Cargill's 'Nourishing Ideas'. The logic is that innovation will lead to growth and profitability. Growth will come from innovation-driven new products and businesses, and profit will follow from innovation-inspired margin increases and cost decreases. Further, as most markets drift towards commodity status, with offerings becoming similar, innovation is seen as the way to create differentiation, thereby shielding firms from price erosion.

Indicators of the interest in innovation abound. Each year some of the most influential books are focused on innovation.1

Further, business publications such as Business Week and Fortune regularly have cover stories on or related to innovation. Yet with all this interest in innovation there is little discussion of how innovation should be branded. Firms emphasising innovation often regard branding as a tactical detail. And the subject of branding is virtually never raised in the books and articles on innovation. The focus is on the benefits and even necessity of innovation, how to make it happen, how to overcome organisational barriers, and how to overcome implementation problems. Nothing on branding.