Being able to adapt to consumer behavior and new technologies while maintaining a strong customer focus is essential to great marketing. Creating an incredible customer experience means giving consumers what they may not even yet realize they want. How do IKEA, Virgin America, Instagram, Netflix, and L’Oréal use innovation in their marketing campaigns?
What is the defining quality of your brand’s marketing strategy?
Perhaps, as in the case of GoPro, it’s synergy. With a content strategy that perfectly complements their product, GoPro executes one of the most impressive marketing strategies in the world today.
Or perhaps, as for many brands from SAP to Harley Davidson, it’s the strength of your brand community, defined on the three pillars of feedback, advocacy, and support.
For Taco Bell, it’s their explorer mentality which enables them to perform brilliantly when marketing on new platforms, focusing on how and where their audiences are seeking and consuming content.
One quality that unites the marketing strategies of all of these brands is innovation. Effective digital marketing requires that brands have the ability to adapt to change, and to grasp new opportunities. Being able to innovate allows brands to conceptualize new ideas and put them into practice.
While innovation has been acknowledged as a fundamental quality for product and tech teams for some time now, innovative practices are also increasingly being applied to marketing. As HBR analyst Niraj Dawar put it:
“The persistent belief that innovation is primarily about building better products and technologies leads managers to an overreliance on upstream activities and tools. But downstream reasoning suggests that managers should focus on marketplace activities and tools. Competitive battles are won by offering innovations that reduce customers’ costs and risks over the entire purchase, consumption, and disposal cycle.”
Even in the purest of scenarios, the benefits of innovation for brand marketing efforts can be clear. Volvo, for example, established a reputation for being an innovator of automobile safety, a message that has been effectively reiterated in their marketing campaigns for decades.
Dawar also cites the example of how Hyundai, having received feedback indicating that recession-hit consumers in the depths of the financial crisis were refraining from purchasing new automobiles due to job insecurity, offered an assurance program that enabled consumers to return a vehicle with no financial penalties if they lost their job or income within a year of buying a Hyundai vehicle – a practice that was still running in 2013 for federal employees experiencing job insecurity.
Innovative marketing is undoubtedly an exciting proposition. Let’s look at five great examples of brands employing innovative marketing practices today.
IKEA has always had close ties with innovation. Founded in 1943 as a mail-order sales business, the company has grown into a global multinational spanning 46 countries, built on the unique USP, and the momentous commerciality, of ready-to-assemble furniture.
IKEA’s products are renowned for the level of detail that is put into their design – enabling their furniture to be easily assembled, often without tools – and equally it’s in the detail of IKEA’s marketing where the company is most innovative. The brand has put customer-experience at the heart of their marketing strategy, not just at individual needs and touchpoints, but across the whole buying cycle.
In 2013, for example, they launched the Catalogue app, which not only gave users access to the company’s inventory, but via augmented reality, actually allowed them to view how items would look in their home spaces.
The app is a great resource for customers in the consideration stage of the buying cycle.
Those who visit an IKEA store can look forward to a number of innovations designed to make create excellent shopping experiences.
Parents of young families can benefit from babysitting for 60 minutes completely free of charge. Customers can also enjoy the in-store restaurants and bistros, for a taste of Swedish cuisine, and with breakfast available for as little as $1, and family-friendly offers such as buy-one-get-one-free frozen yogurt, it’s little wonder that IKEA’s family memberships increased from 4.3 million to 6.9 million in 2014/2015.
Perhaps most impressively of all, IKEA also make efforts to cater for customers’ post-purchase needs, even though it may have no direct revenue return for the brand. In previous years, for example, they introduced a platform that helped customer sell their second-hand furniture, even going as far as helping users take photos and opening up the brand’s Facebook page to act as an online marketplace.
These are just a few examples. It’s the collaborative impact of all of IKEA’s efforts that makes their marketing so innovative.
Initiatives have been staunchly focused on improving the complete buying experiences of their customers, without falling into established paradigms or typical processes. While many brands appreciate that customer experience is key to successful strategy, IKEA has managed to execute on a level of detail where numerous others fall short.
Virgin America operate in a competitive industry, where brand loyalty and customer service are key. Naturally, feedback plays a crucial part, which is why Virgin introduced a focus group program, VX Next, a group of 30 frequent flyers and entrepreneurs who generate ideas for the airline in return for flyer rewards.
As a direct result of their feedback, Virgin America introduced an in-flight social network enabling passengers to connect during the duration of a flight.
The airline recently produced an incredible six-hour video detailing an entire in-flight experience on fictional Blah Airlines. The (incredibly) long-form content was supported by a website, and accounts on social media channels including Twitter and Instagram.
Creating a campaign around a fictitious company may have been unorthodox, but it gave the brand reach in a highly competitive market, and the campaign certainly made its mark digitally, winning coverage for being one of the longest ads ever created.
Instagram has a fantastic affinity with highly visceral industries such as fashion, where the brand has already forged a great number of strong partnerships. The platform has provided the industry with the ability to increase the depth of their storytelling and narratives, showing backstage photos for example, or images of industry on the other side of the lens such as that of the photographers, make-up artists, and bloggers.
The platform has implemented innovative practices to improve user experiences within this niche. The “Explore” function displays personalized results of channels users are likely to be interested in, and the app’s Hyperlapse video recording features are perfect for creating time-lapsed videos of hair of make-up routines.
Recently, Instagram have massively ramped up the advertising provisions within the app with new app APIs. It’s been a highly positive development and brands in the fashion as well as wider industries are beginning to enjoy the ability to share content, which users are engaging with just as they would with other content.
Today, 86 percent of the top global brands are active on the platform, which is a powerful endorsement for the validity of the platform as a marketing and advertising channel.
Netflix has become a household name – no easy feat and one achieved largely because of the incredible quality of content produced by the brand. After all, Netflix isn’t just a streaming service and distribution delivery platform. Netflix has also produced some of the most popular television series of recent years.
Among the keys to Netflix’s success has been the implementation of data and analytics of consumer viewing behavior and demand.
An article in The Atlantic gives some insight on the huge commitment the brand made to “reverse engineer Hollywood”, and the stunning insights they were able to gain. In short Netflix “meticulously analyzed and tagged every movie and TV show imaginable. They possess a stockpile of data about Hollywood entertainment that is absolutely unprecedented.”
It’s no mystery that Netflix takes its data extremely seriously. Data informs their content and production endeavors, as well as their marketing. But analyzing their incredible data resources was just the first step. Netflix invested in organizing this data into ideas that can inform their content with a level of detail that is incredibly innovative.
L’Oréal understands that providing for digital-era consumers pre-purchase, is just as important as allowing them to sample products at makeup stands and counters. For this reason they designed an app.
L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius app allowed users to use their phones to do a digital makeover. The brand recruited the same team behind the makeup of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” to provide the realistic visual effects needed. Consumers responded positively; the app was downloaded 7 million times.
The brand has also displayed boldness in other digital channels, creating a unique line “Em-Cosmetics” for hugely influential makeup blogger Michelle Phan. As Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal’s chief digital officer, stated in an interview with Ad Age: “What consumers really want is a consistent experience with the brand and product at all touch points.” Video-sharing platforms such as YouTube are recognized as being hugely influential in modern purchase journeys, and L’Oréal clearly recognizes this.
Judging by the above examples, it’s clear that innovation is an incredibly valuable commodity for digital-era brands. All of the brands explored above display a clear focus on customer-centric experiences, and innovative marketing practices enables them to design and provide for consumers in ways that enhance those experiences, in ways consumers may not yet even expect.
Ultimately, innovation is crucial for great marketing because there will always be room to improve brand relationships and experience with consumers. Ensuring that innovative practices are able to exert their influence on a brand’s marketing efforts allows brands to be consumer-centric and challenge for the future.