Breaking Foundations: Reimagining Innovation in Modern-Day Marketing

Innovation is a concept that drives SwayBrand and is truly part of our everyday vernacular and experience. We tend to separate the term from work routine, but truth be told, innovation goes hand in hand with every aspect of our work and your own. The talk of innovation applies no matter what type of business you are, obviously exactly what you do and the scale of it may differ.

Managing and marketing innovation play a very important role in retaining and increasing the success of your company. Differences in marketing this innovation lie within what innovation looks like for you and your company and how it can reap benefits.

So what is innovation?

Innovation can be a new idea, method, or product according to most dictionaries; this can be very ambiguous and somewhat uninformative. Innovation revolves around the consumer or user. One must actively and avidly look at the problems they face and how one can solve them — how your brand or company offers the solution. When you talk about innovation what are a few things that come to mind: How does it compare to progress? Where can innovation be found? What types of innovation are there?

Ironically, a greater understanding and the answer to all these questions can be found within another. To whom does new innovation apply?

Ultimately, this buzzword’s definition can vary depending on who you ask and who you are as a company. What is innovative for you specific business may be old news for larger corporations, but in the end progression is not the term one should use in-house. Although a smaller company may be catching up, it does not take away from their ability to perform successfully and internally or culturally innovate within their own means.

Innovation can be found in any business ecosystem and in all market industries. It entails ensuring every dollar reaches its full potential, whether that be an audience who matters, an innovation in design, in product, in marketing techniques.

Through and through, innovating can be part of a plan for increasing revenue opportunities and eliminating future hurdles. Or maybe not. It is not a one-size-fits all and now is most definitely not the time to hold back.

As we begin to emerge from a period of pandemic and racial turmoil, you must reflect on whether you will return to the same old marketing strategies that were implemented before quarantine or decide to lead the industry (or community) into the new.

Take Netflix for example. When the on-demand media-services provider was just beginning to turn heads, they embarked on a strategy that involved collecting a stockpile of data on emerging trends and marketing to directly satisfy customers’ needs and yearnings. The salient decision to listen to the customer instead of simply being the middleman for content made them revolutionary. This helped build Netflix as a brand of their own and transform also into a production company while giving the boot to RedBox and knocking them off the leaderboard (don’t feel too bad for them, they did the same to the nostalgic Blockbuster).

Innovation doesn’t always have to push boundaries. When it comes to the marketplace and standing out, innovation can simply distinguish without breaking rules. We can take a look at the rise of music streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and so on. On the surface level, they all offer the same thing: on-demand listening. But, people are making conscientious decisions to choose one platform over the others. Whether that be Apple Music’s authentic digital radio station, Spotify’s personalized recommendation system, or Tidals mission to provide exclusive content by artists who co-own the platform itself, different key selling points attract varying demographics of subscribers. These differences promoted the downfall of Pandora and led them to offer their own subscription service.

For example, innovation in marketing content can be augmented reality. Swedish company Ikea took the problem of visualization head on. Sure, one can walk into one of their enormous stores and look at a stunning dining set in a pre-designed kitchen, but how would it look in your own? Ikea’s answer was an app (Ikea Place)that could virtually translate their furniture into your home.

This problem of visualization was not a new one and one that was solved through virtualization. Ikea was not the first to come up with this grand idea, but applied it in such a manner that no one else in their respective industry had. The application and execution differentiated this app as innovation rather than progress.

The French cosmetics company, L’oreal, had a similar problem. Customers would walk into a store and find themselves perusing aisle after aisle, free exhibition after free trial, looking for the perfect shade or the perfect color. They decided to develop an app (L’oreal Makeup Genius) that allowed users to do a digital makeover and sample products to match their skin tone.

Just as they weren’t the first, they weren’t the last. Dulux Paints launched a similar app (Dulux Visualizer) which could virtually paint the interior walls of your home, Sherwin-Williams (ColorSnap Visualizer) followed soon after.

In many ways, just as innovation solves a current problem, it can also provide aid to problems consumers didn’t even know they had. You can even argue that this is a much more intricate concept which takes divergent thinking. But, you must always remember that it isn’t always the priority or responsibility of a consumer to highlight the problems they are having; nonetheless, communicate them to you. It takes a mentality dedicated to inventing and trying new things to find these niches that can propel your company forward, a sort of growth-hacking skill if you will.

This way of creative thinking is not the priority of the marketing department. When you talk about innovation within a company, every single department must be onboard. From communications and human resources to finance and production, innovation holds the same weight of importance. Innovation needs to be part of the company culture. One must think: Could we do this differently? Could we try something new?

Though innovation is usually enabled by technology in our business realm, it encompasses far more — it can encompass culture (e.i. striving to do new things, challenging the status quo). It is ultimately a mindset. A conscious decision to be willing to change and test. This often brings the misconception that innovation leads to a greater workload, yet it is only a way of thinking about the work you do. Everyone should be encouraged and has the ability to innovate, yet this isn’t a menial task.

Building this concept into company discourse can take some work. Larger established companies don’t usually have the pressure of innovation. They already have a market foundation and a community of consumers. A start-up mentality is all about scaling creativity and therefore utility in the work environment. There is nothing worse than being told how things are done. Innovation allows for creative freedom and independent thinking.

As we look to reimagine what it means to innovate in modern-day marketing, you must remember to listen to the voices that matter most, inducing independent thinking within your company, and keep in mind that innovation may look different to you than your neighbor.

Today, this means zooming in on minorities and pursuing greater representation beside them, instilling creativity inside the four walls of your company culture, and staying updated with the world around you. The foot-race for innovation is one that will never cease to exist, but to stay ahead of everyone else breaking foundations is a great place to start.

This post was written by David S. Rodriguez. For more information about SwayBrand, contact us at