The pipe dream of innovation…

Reach out to your clients and succeed.

Reach out to your clients and succeed.

Real innovation is rarer than a countryside virgin. Sure, many brands bleat about their “innovative techniques” and “innovative products” but they’re not really innovative. They’re just more of the same painted in a different colour.

Why is real innovation so hard to find? It’s the paradox of fear. Innovation requires experimentation and that means a chance of failure. When things are going good, companies are scared of losing their momentum, so they choose not to experiment. When things are going badly, companies are scared of doing more damage, so they choose not to experiment.

It was innovation that marked the difference between Obama’s victory and the defeat of the Republican Party. Real innovation not only spotlights the brave but also drags the cowards to centre stage.

Top ranked among the corporate cowards are the financial institutions. The big banks and investment houses who are so convinced that their clients will always and forever do business with them that they’ve set up these little hamster wheel marketing strategies where they fool themselves into thinking they’re growing when in fact all they’re doing is what they did last time. Try getting one them to do something new. You’d swear you were asking them to give money to charity.

The fact is that the paradox of fear keeps brands and companies (like banks) from doing anything really remarkable, which discourages their clients from spending more with them. After some time clients will pick up that they’re not really going to get more for their money than they already are. This means that eventually these clients will grow weary of doing business exclusively with these brands and they will go looking for something different (not something new). They may not stop doing business with the banks altogether but they will spend money elsewhere. In turn, the brands and companies spend even more money trying to lure new clients in to replace the clients (and money) they’ve lost. That’s all it is. Finding people to continually fill a continually emptying funnel in order to stay in business.

Worse than that all their silly little “innovations” are simply thinly-disguised ways for them to make more money out of you…unless you’re already doing business with them. In that case, you’re excluded. Look around: how many bank competitions are aimed at new clients where opening a new account is a prerequisite to entry? Need to get those new clients in!

All it takes to break the back of your competition and raise the bar beyond their reach is innovate in the direction of your existing consumers. It’s the knockout punch that can’t be blocked.

Let’s look at the example of banks again. The first bank to change its working hours will win the game. They won’t have to change their logo, their products or even their fees. All they’ll have to do is be open when their consumers would want them to be open. Innovate in the direction of their existing clients. Make your existing clients happy and you can fire your sales and marketing team; your clients will market for you, unpaid.

Of course, the banks won’t do it because everyone else is playing by the same rules…for now.

But as Barack Obama proved, there are no rules that won’t be broken eventually. And the banks are infinitely more assailable than the White House ever was.


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