Today I am going to try and give you a closer look at Innovation and whether it should be branded. I will possibly try and outline where innovations tend to be over branded and how branding a technological innovation may ultimately lead to leadership.
I noticed something peculiar with Google Gears – it is probably one of the few Google Brands that does not have a completely generic brand name. You have GMail, GTalk, Google Reader, etc. True there are benefits of generic names and Google is probably not that great an example because its core brand has immense equity. But I think Gears is an attempt by Google to brand innovation.
Consider the iPod, iTunes, The Kindle by Amazon. All of them were technological innovations in their own right. Consider how they would have sounded if they were called Apple MP3 Player, Apple Music Software, and Amazon Electric Book Reader. Branding an innovation is central to the longevity of an innovation.
I also think that Branding an innovation is part of the ‘Generic Benefit’ that can be offered to the consumer in terms of the way he or she ‘feels’ and the way others look at and perceive him or her.
There are however, dangers of over branding – putting brands on innovations that do not warrant them in the 1st place. What ultimately happens then is that the brands are created but later not supported.
Branding too can thus create a Shakespearean dilemma and make Brand Managers and CEO’s modern day Hamlets.
Branding an innovation or rather over branding an innovation can happen when there is a marketing or technical person who has brought up his or her baby through all kinds of meetings, budget reviews and then ultimately wants the innovation to have a name so that customers can identify with the innovation the way he or she does. So more often than not, brands are provided to innovations and the result if a large variety of brands, with a lot of underfunding, confusion, and lack of prioritization.
So ultimately the goal of branding an innovation should not be an excuse to slap a name on anything and everything.
I should probably provide an example from WAT here. We have WATConsult, WATBlog, WATShow, and WATJob. Now WATShow was our latest brand and it deserves to be branded solely because it is a property that is not easily available at other similar websites. I had an idea for another WAT brand – probably WATLabs or WATIntelligence – where we can do surveys, features, analysis and have series basically like the one you are reading right now. Something that’s a step up from WATBlog.
In hindsight, WATIntelligence was correctly NOT pursued because it did not have any obvious benefits that currently distinguished it from WATBlog. WATBlog looks at numbers, WATBlog does analysis etc. Again because this is content oriented differentiation, it would be difficult to have a brand that claims that it is intellectually superior but does not really live up to it. This obviously would occour as the same people managing WATBlog would manage WATIntelligence (or at least some of the numbers would overlap).
That is not to say that there may never be a WATIntelligence – in the future you may have a WATIntelligence but there will have to be differentiation in terms of processes, mind power, possibly even the work space.
While there may be a tendency to over brand innovations, there are also dangers in not branding and not identifying innovations, working on a family of brands and working on their tactical and strategic roles.
While branding an innovation, the 3 key questions that need to be asked are:
1) Is it a significant advance?
2) Do customers care?
3) Will it merit investment over time by bringing in sales and profit, market leadership, and other me too products?
Tommorow I will try and dwell deeper into these 3 questions that Brand managers and marketers need to ask.
If you have any similar examples of branded innovations that did work or branded innovations that were not branded (like WATIntelligence), please do share them – I’d love to have the opportunity to learn and fine-tune my thoughts!