Accelerating growth through brand innovation … Airbnb to Burberry, RedBull and Tesla

June 5, 2018

Brands are the most powerful platforms to accelerate growth.

A great example of this is Ferrari, which launched itself on the NYSE two years ago with an $11 billion IPO. Whilst the business certainly has a great heritage, founded by motor racing driver Enzo Ferrari in 1929, it is not fast cars that investors are interested in. It is the brand.

Ferrari only sold 1699 cars last year, generating $600m revenue and $70m profit.  Therefore a business valuation 150 times larger than annual profits must have an incredibly powerful asset, that can unlock future growth. Yes the brand, and in particular the opportunity to shift its meaning from fast cars, to luxury lifestyle.

However most business leaders don’t really understand brands, dismissing them as superficial or fixed assets. And most brand marketers don’t focus on the strategic opportunities for brand-centred business growth. Yet be it the innovation of new products and services around in an existing market, or through brand extensions into adjacent categories and geographies, either directly or through licensing-type models, the brand can take your business further and faster, at less risk and less cost.

“Brand innovation” is therefore about rethinking brands and marketing in fast-changing environments. It is about innovating the brand concept – what it stands for, like in the Ferrari case, where redefining it around lifestyle rather than cars gives it a much broader and emotional platform to grow – and also the innovation of brand-related products, services, channels, business models, experiences and more.

The best ideas for brand innovation typically come from customer insights and inspirations from other brands. It is about learning from the best ideas of the world’s leading brands – developing new insights and ideas to rethink, refocus and reenergise your brand in today’s markets.

What can you learn from Airbnb to Burberry, RedBull and Tesla to innovate your own brand’s future? 

Here are 12 steps to brand innovation, grouped into three parts – the first about the ambition (Dare to Dream), the second about the solution (Innovate and Inspire), and the third about the experience (Engage and Enable).  We chose one leading brand to illustrate each of the 12 steps, together creating a roadmap for accelerated growth:

Part 1: Dare to Dream

Brands with purpose and ambition, shaping markets in your own vision

Step 1: Disruptive vision … The Tesla Way 

  • New insights and inspiration … The vision of Elon Musk, making electric cars sexy, direct retail to the Supercharger network, Hyperloops and Powerwalls.
  • Practical ideas and applications … How to develop a more disruptive vision of your changing markets, and to win by designing the future on your terms.

Step 2: Obsessive focus … The Apple Way

  • New insights and inspiration … We all know the story of Apple, but how does it continue to innovate after Steve Jobs, and build its brand?
  • Practical ideas and applications … How to apply ruthless focus and simplicity to your best ideas, in a way that shapes markets and inspires humanity.

Step 3: Deeper insight … The Airbnb Way 

  • New insights and inspiration … From renting out air beds, to more rooms than Hilton Hotels, how to build a trusted platform that brings people together.
  • Practical ideas and applications … How to make sense of changing consumer behaviours, connect people in new ways, and win in the sharing economy.

Step 4: Iconic meaning … The Red Bull Way

  • New insights and inspiration … adrenalin-fuelled Red Bull is much more than a drink – it became a media company, building its brand beyond mere products.
  • Practical ideas and applications … How to make develop practical ways to build brands beyond products, to engage people in bigger ideas.

Part 2: Innovate and Inspire

Brands harnessing tech and humanity to innovate business models and experiences.

Step 5: Parallel worlds … The Umpqua Way

  • New insights and inspiration … the bank inspired by Starbucks and Gap, redesigning everything from products to service, language and interiors.
  • Practical ideas and applications … How to learn from the experiences of your own consumers in parallel sectors, to find new ideas that already work.

Step 6: Experiential design … The Burberry Way

  • New insights and inspiration … from classic logo to iconic experience, engaging audiences more deeply by fusing digital and physical across multi-channels.
  • Practical ideas and applications … rethink your physical and digital brand experience to be more participative and personal.

 Step 7: Crowd participation… The Threadless Way

  • New insights and inspiration … Crowdsourcing, co-creation and competitions to create the coolest t-shorts in the world, and sell more every month.
  • Practical ideas and applications … Embracing collaboration to build your brand with your consumers, by them and about them, building loyalty and advocacy.

Step 8: Building communities … The Nike Way 

  • New insights and inspiration … from a waffle-inspired vision, to doing more for everyone with Nike Considered to Nike+, Rockstar Workouts and Fitness Club
  • Practical ideas and applications … how to build communities that go beyond social media, enabling people to do more together.

Part 3: Engage and Enable

Brands engaging people in the best stories, and delivering experiences that do more.

Step 9: Creative storytelling … The Mercedes Benz Way 

  • New insights and inspiration … Mercedes Benz set up an in-house agency, to drive better stories faster and further.
  • Practical ideas and applications … How to rethink brand communication in an always-on, real-time world of distracted and discerning consumers.

Step 10: Liquid content … The Coca Cola Way

  • New insights and inspiration … Learn from Coke’s “liquid and linked” brand communications, staying fresh with and Ekocycle.
  • Practical ideas and applications … How redefine brands as stories, that are relevant, flexible and evolving – and the role of marketers as storytellers

Step 11: Empathetic delivery … The Starbucks Way 

  • New insights and inspiration … Learn from Starbucks Reserve, and how big brand keep innovating – pouring one cup at a time, Moby Dick lives on
  • Practical ideas and applications … exploreing how brands stay connected to the world – caring, responsible and doing more.

 Step 12: Fast growth … The Rapha Way

  • New insights and inspiration … Cycling Clubs for lycra-clad enthusiasts, drinking coffee and talking about tours, with Paul Smith and Team Sky.
  • Practical ideas and applications … Building brand experiences and communities around real people, to drive and sustain fast growth.

12 steps to innovating your brand, and innovating your business through your brand. 12 examples of great brands who have reached sought to innovate in different ways. And even more powerfully, an illustration of how you could start to connect the innovations of different brands together.

Brand innovation is available now as a three-day executive workshop, and also as a depth facilitated innovation project to develop your brand in new ways that accelerate profitability and growth. Recent clients include Cartier and Coty, RedBull and P&G


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