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How to partner with startups

Or why you need a research and development approach to marketing innovation (and how to get one)

Brands can only solve a problem if they recognise they have one. But for many companies, the problem is not recognising that their core business has changed due to digital disruption. It’s not even investing in research and development solutions at a product level.

The problem is recognising that marketing, creative and media – the tools through which they persuade and enable consumers to buy their products and services – are all facing the same level of disruption and that they all need to innovate.

Jeremiah Owyang’s report “The Corporate Innovation Imperative” found that 78.9% of companies have a dedicated innovation team, but marketing rarely forms part of the remit. This creates a gap in innovation that is business critical and needs to be solved.

For marketers, innovation has often been rooted in the 80/20 rule or the 70/20/10 approach. This is where the majority of activity plays safe by focussing on whatever is known to work, while 20% or 10% of the investment is used to experiment.

As a media agency, we work across clients and brands across multiple verticals, many of whom have different expectations of what it means to experiment. For some, marketing innovation means trialling new things that have never been done before. For others, it means making minor variations to what they are already doing.

Unfortunately, most companies tend to play it safe. They are happy to be ‘fast followers’, not primary risk takers. And that’s understandable because real innovation is daunting and comes with a risk of failure.

In new businesses built on technology, failure is encouraged, but only so long as it enables the company to transition quickly and pivot in a new direction. In established companies, adopting this culture of ‘failure as learning’ is often harder to overcome.

For many brands, it’s no longer sufficient to plan for minor variations. But they can overcome such concerns about innovation by putting as much rigour into the research and development of new marketing solutions as they do the research and development of core goods and services.

Many companies have also recognised that they don’t need to have all the answers alone. The way forward is a model where open innovation becomes culturally accepted. One where they engage startups, scaleups and the established internet giants in new and divergent ways.

This white paper offers a guide to the ecosystem of innovation and outlines some practical steps you can take to establish an innovation programme that works. It’s about building an approach rooted in real business problems and tangible outcomes, not just lots of nice trips to Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv for employee personal development.

Find out how your brand can navigate the startup ecosystem.

Download ‘How to partner with startups’ now

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