Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Leeds TEDx event; am I glad I made the effort. If you have never heard of TED then it’s well worth a look – Ideas Worth Spreading. Fascinating presentations on a very diverse range of subjects from all kinds of backgrounds. Every year TED host a national conference in the UK and they attract high profile speakers. In addition, the TED organistion authorises satellite events (TEDx) such as the one in Leeds.
At TEDx Leeds they arranged for three live speakers and showed three of their favourite TED talks. (I’ve started a page of my favourite TED talks in my Favourites section.)
The first live speaker just blew the whole audience away. Dr Norman Lewis shared his thoughts about our lack of innovation at present in his presentation Yes We Can: Innovating out of a Recession. Embeded below.)
This presentation was the most popular download on Slideshare when it went live this week, and based on how it had the whole audience buzzing in the break, it really struck a chord.
Dr Lewis started by discussing the term innovation and how it has become dumbed down. He quoted the example of the number of books on Amazon containing the word ‘innovation’ in the title and examples of how vacuous some of these are.
Having provided his definition of what true innovation is he contended that it was sorely lacking today. His feeling was that we have created a culture that is now so risk averse, financially and through health and safety, that we are stiffling innovation.
He discussed the United States’ decision to go forward with the space programme, tipified by JFK’s statement “We choose the moon”. There was no business plan about what would come out of such an endeavour and yet I understand it spawned such technical innovation as the transistor and the micro-processor to name but two. These were the unintended consequences. There can be little doubt about their value to society.
Dr Lewis then went on to point out that without an attempt to innovate we wouldn’t have defined DNA and had its immense value, and that Health and Safety would have had something to say about the untidy way that Alexander Fleming left his lab when he went on vacation. Lucky nobody decided to tidy it up!
Dr Lewis didn’t advocate recklessness, but contended that our society no longer allows people to innovate and this is storing up trouble for the near future and financial consequences as others in the world do seek to push the envelope.
NOTE: I’ve probably done him a dis-service in the summary of his presentation but I hope you get the general drift!
What struck me was that there are examples in marketing of this. Recent examples where the unintended consequences have been significant and massivley beneficial to those that have been brave enough to innovate.
The two examples that immediately spring to mind are Compare the Market and T-Mobile. I’m not going to try and define the whole scope of both, but I’m sure you are all aware of the campaigns I mean. Interestingly I think both of these campaigns have used Web 2.0 and social platforms to a great degree and these have added a massive amount to the success of these campaigns. Social media is another discussion – something I will cover over the next few weeks with a series of posts.) I merely make observations for each.
Compare the Market / Compare the Meerkat
Prior to this campaign Compare the Market was an also-ran of the price comparison sites to me. The first name on everyone’s lips was Money Supermarket. Money Supermarket have built a brand, and awareness of their service, through consistent and sustained advertising. A job well done.
However, in my opinion Compare the Market have used Sergei and Alexander to propel themselves right to front of mind. In one fell swoop they have been able to cut through and stand out. How much of that was design, how much luck and how much innovation? Are they now the first name on your lips?
When T-Mobile commissioned the integrated “Life’s for Sharing” campaign, I’m sure that they had an inkling that there were lots of opportunities for them in social media. But when I checked earlier today their video on YouTube of their flash mob dance in Liverpool St Station had been watched over 14 millon times. That number has to be beyond their wildest dreams.
My point of this very long blog post (for me anyway) is that these companies have innovated, they haven’t just looked at the bottom line and predictable response. The unintended consequences have been a real upside and they should be commended.
As you know I’m all about results and often when clients have a finite budget they understandably want to put it where the results are most predictable. Sometimes however, we have to look for the opportunity to innovate. How many times do you feel that you have done that in your marketing work? For me, not as often as I might.
I’m going to try to innovate more often… I choose the moon!
I’d be interested in your comments
To see the reaction to the TEDx event in Leeds search Twitter for #TEDxLeeds or see the Twitter search results for the hashtag.