Why Your Brand is Stimulating Innovation.

“Disruptive innovation” and “brand-driven-innovation” are buzz-words spreading into every corner of business today. In order to stay ahead and adapting to rapid changes in the market, successful innovation is key. In order to achieve this, organisations - big and small - struggle to align fundamental strategic and creative factors. One important factor is the brand itself. Today, for all successful brands like Apple, Google or Mercedes, the brand is founded on the power of a coherent set of values which are embodied in the products but not the least reflect on the organisation itself as a hub for innovation. The ultimate idea is that values, combined with a consequent strategy, can enhance and differentiate the user experience.


However, while the values are embodied in the products, it is the more abstract phenomenon of the brand itself which carries the genome for the values that are to be communicated and brought to the customers. This means that the brand can also fuel innovation and allow the organisation the means to stay ahead with its products and services in increasingly competitive and volatile markets. This is because innovation driven by a brand presents a strategic vision and working method. By adopting this approach, one merges the domains of branding and innovation to create meaning and economic benefit for the organisation and its customers as well as other stakeholders. 

The ensuing questions are obvious: How are brand characteristics and values able to infuse innovation with meaning and consistency? Or, put differently, how can a brand charge innovation and vice versa? 

Generally, innovation is driven by an organisation’s need to adapt and respond to change. The capability to innovate is imperative in a corporate world and market that are characterised by frequent and rapid changes. These changes stem from increased market competition; frequently shifting consumer needs and behaviours; frequent corporate change through mergers and take-overs; legislative changes as well as intense technological developments. 

However, these factors are external to the organisation itself. This means, any response to these types of changes only happens after the change is a fact and presents itself from the outside. It is post hoc. When external factors alone drive strategies for development and innovation, you find yourself always running to catch up. 

So, what can your organisation do to stay ahead? 

You can use the powers that lie in your brand. First of all, brands bridge your organisation to its external environment. This capacity of the brand reflects its cultural dimension and its essential capability to embody rooted values and aspirations while connecting these to the customers. Brands are no longer only trademarks but essentially a means of bridging the core of your business - that is, its values - to the people you want to reach in the market. 

The challenge herein lies in identifying and using the inherent values of your brand so that this can contribute to strategies for innovation. However, by so doing, responses to change are no longer driven by things outside but rooted in intrinsic factors in your organisation. This means that the brand contributes to strategies and initiatives for innovation, and this innovation is already rooted in your organisation and its inherent values, ambitions and aspirations. In turn, your organisation can take charge of fundamental processes to meet with change and competition in a proactive fashion and not as a post hoc reflex to things that have already taken place and which as such present a substantial liability in volatile markets with frequent changes. 

Innovation through brands becomes the key for corporations to meet with the future. This type of innovation entails taking control and making things happen rather than merely adjusting to the already given.




The text is a revised section from the article ,The Difficult Softness of Design Management' written and presented by the author at the 20th DMI Academic Design Management Conference: "Inflection Point: Design Research Meets Design Practice", Boston, USA, 22-29 July 2016.