Why branding is just as important as innovation

  • Voices
  • June 26, 2017
  • Simon Wedde
Why branding is just as important as innovation

New Zealanders tend to be obsessed with ‘innovation’ when better results could be achieved faster with ‘branding’. Don’t believe me? Look at what Geoff Ross achieved with 42Below. He didn’t invent vodka. Or Rod Drury, with Xero – accounting software existed already. What about Trade Me? Sam Morgan didn’t come up with the idea of auctions, online or otherwise.

‘Innovation’ is just a fancy term for a new idea. And while new things are important, the amount of effort invested in them and the amount of money allocated by government to them, through organs like Callaghan Innovation, is surely excessive. Instead, I’d like to see more attention paid to taking existing ideas, making them better, branding them right and taking them to the global stage.

It’s not like there isn’t ample precedent for branding over, or before, innovation. Take Apple, for example. Apple didn’t invent the portable media player; it just took major strides to perfecting it for the masses with the iPod. Apple didn’t invent the tablet computer – Microsoft did. Apple didn’t invent the mobile phone, either. And it most certainly didn’t invent the watch, or even the smartwatch. It just made all these things simple to use and, through branding, extremely attractive to own. Yes, Apple is innovative, but that imaginative thinking has always been driven by a singular brand idea – to humanise technology.  And therein lies the nub - brand leads.

What all these companies, and indeed most successful businesses (see Best Global Brands 2016), have in common is that their singular focus has fallen on improving products with which their customers are already quite familiar.

How is that to their advantage? Other than the obvious margin and shareholder value they create: Apple tops out the Best Global Brands with an estimated brand value of US$178,111 million - not bad for a company with essentially no factories.

Part of the trouble with new ideas and whole new categories of products or services is that they are inherently risky. While inventing the next great must-have widget might appear to have the advantage that a whole new market is created – and hence there isn’t any competition – it just isn’t quite that simple. The potential customers don’t know that they ‘need’ your new gadget (or service), so you must get out there and tell them about it. Creating a new market isn’t a simple matter. Your great ‘innovation’ might end up being the next Facebook. It might. But it probably won’t.

It is also fiendishly difficult to come up with a truly new idea that is commercially viable. Even the bible said (in Ecclesiastes) ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. While that could be debated (not in a pub), the sentiment nevertheless holds true.

Which brings us to another structural reality of the New Zealand market. We simply don’t have the scale of other nations. If it is tech innovation, anyone who has been to California’s Silicon Valley will instantly acknowledge the massive disparity in that hotbed of technology when compared with, say, Wellington. Without knocking our ‘best little capital in the world’, there can be no question that the scale is very, very different. The streets of California aren’t paved with gold, but when it comes to innovation and venture capital dollars, it might as well be.

And then you have London, Paris, New York. Even Sydney. It might sound like a fashionable T-shirt, but with the scale of sheer numbers of people and the resources they represent, well, it is hard to match.

This Kiwi preoccupation with innovation over branding means there is less oxygen available for the latter. Just for a moment imagine if more entrepreneurial minds – for that is something New Zealanders have plenty of – were turned towards taking clunky existing things, and making them beautiful and appealing. What we have is the freedom and distance and cultural heritage of doing things differently. We should see a bigger focus on creative ways to adapt, market and build brands; that is the future and that’s what some of our top exports have done.

Take Rockit apples as an example. They most definitely didn’t invent apples, not even red ones, but their simple tube of apples packaging concept made the stalwart fruit all of a sudden coveted and highly attractive. 42Below made a quintessentially Russian drink fantastically Kiwi; and speaking of which, we’ve managed to completely and utterly rebrand the Chinese gooseberry (that’s right: now internationally known as Kiwifruit).

And, I mean, who describes accounting software, of all things, as beautiful?

Rod Drury and Xero. That’s who.

  • Simon Wedde has spent twenty years as a strategic lead across both global corporates and start-ups. He thrives on solving vexing problems for businesses, sometimes a little surprisingly but always with a commercial focus.
  • This article originally appeared on Idealog.

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

topics
Beneath the Surface
Beneath the Surface
In this series, brought to you by Microsoft, we talk to a conceptual photographer, illustrator ...
Insight Creative
Insight Creative
Insight Creative specialises in shaping business stories out the core insights that often lie under ...
20/20 (tele)vision
20/20 (tele)vision
Media consumption is changing. But by how much?
The Hot List
The Hot List
Our rundown of the hottest shows, brands and creators in New Zealand media. 1. magazine ...
Cannes Lions 2017
Cannes Lions 2017
All the winners, the shortlists and the drama from this year's edition of advertising biggest ...
Merger Mania
Merger Mania
All our stories on the nation's two failed mergers in one place
Bauer Beyond the Page
Bauer Beyond the Page
When it comes to creating branded content, there are few better in the Kiwi market ...
The Indies
The Indies
Over the course of this series of articles, we look at how always-nimble indy agencies ...
AdRoll on automation
AdRoll on automation
Marketing automation is tipped to eventually become the only way advertising is traded in the ...
Game Changers
Game Changers
It’s all about PEOPLE. Join us as we discuss global insights, ideas and innovations from ...
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
Celebrating all the winners of the 2015 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards.
Future Tense
Future Tense
In a new series, StopPress talks to a range of newsmakers currently trying to shine ...
Beyond the Page
Beyond the Page
In conjunction with the MPA, the Beyond the Page series shows how some of the ...
Up Country
Up Country
In conjunction with News Works, the Up Country series talks with some of New Zealand's ...
Sounding off
Sounding off
As part of a content partnership with MediaWorks, we've asked a few of the company's ...
StopPress Podcasts
StopPress Podcasts
We sit down for a chat with industry leaders to find out what they're up ...
voices
features

TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2017: Karma Cola puts money where mouths are

Ethics may not be something traditionally associated with the soda industry, but for Karma Cola, creating good looking, great tasting, do-gooding drinks is at the ...

Sponsored content

Linkage analysis: data's hidden stories

Ipsos' Leo Cremonezl and Jonathan Dodd talk transforming your customer data into real financial and business benefits.

features

TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2017: Lion's journey to reignite the beer market

Faced with a market in free-fall, a decade of declining beer volumes and an iconic brand fast losing relevance, Lion was in need of creating ...

'It's like crack cocaine': Effies international judge Chris Baker on the harmfulness of short-term thinking

  • Advertising
  • October 16, 2017
  • Erin McKenzie
'It's like crack cocaine': Effies international judge Chris Baker on the harmfulness of short-term thinking

The industry will this week again be raising a glass to the most effective advertising in the country at the Effie Awards. But this year, the event takes place in slightly more inhospitable conditions, with many questioning what marketing success even means anymore. Is it about ROI? Is it about long-term or short-term results? And if it is about long-term results, then why do we have awards events every year? This year’s international judge Chris Baker answers the big questions swirling around the Effies.

Read more
news

Exit Interview: Paul Gardiner, Bauer

Former Bauer commercial director Paul Gardiner sits down for a final chat with StopPress before his move across the Tasman.

Next page
Results for
Topics
Jobs
About

StopPress provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

Advertise

Contact Vernene Medcalf at +64 21 628 200 to advertise in StopPress.

View Media Kit