NEW YORK: Innovation is now less about "never-seen-that-before" breakthroughs, and increasingly brings existing ideas together in a way that meets the needs of consumers, according to speakers at ARF Re:think 2009.

At the event – covered by WARC Online's US Editor, Geoffrey Precourt, here – Phil Roos, managing director of the Arbor Strategy Group at GfK Strategic Innovation, said Apple, Google, Whole Foods and Splenda exemplify this trend.

He described these firms as the "generation of companies that took the news that others had made and brought it together in an interesting way that addressed consumer needs."

Barry Calpino, North American senior director of new products at Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., has worked with GfK as part of a process of "constantly drilling for new sources of growth."

The key, he argued, is establishing a "broader frame of reference for each product" in order to "find new areas of opportunity and keep growing."

Procter & Gamble has sought to achieve this aim by developing a culture of innovation, both in its overall business model, and in its research strategy.

Kristin Bush, CMK Senior Manager, Digital Research, at P&G, argued that the art of "listening to consumers" is increasingly key.

Listening to the people who buy brands, rather than exclusively focusing on "asking", offers "deeper, more penetrating insights," and can also provide "early detectors of risks and opportunities."

She added that new technology enables researchers to move beyond a door-to-door approach, and to understand, for example, that consumers sometimes "do something different than what they say they do."

For full coverage about ARF Re:think 2009, click here.

Data sourced from WARC Online