I bumped into an old friend last week at La Guardia. Found that he now heads an innovation team at a leading marketing services company. We ended up talking about some of their innovations and what other companies (he benchmarks) have been doing.

I found his perspective very interesting. According to his analysis, most innovation is incremental and is fundamentally developed to attract new customers to their franchise. It’s based on fulfilling unmet needs of their most likely prospects. Normally a large group (non-category or competitive users) to make the investment worthwhile. A lot of time is spent blue-skying concepts and hoping they survive the ideation through validation process.

That’s where I believe we have an opportunity. What if we developed new products and services, not just to attract new prospects to the franchise, but to primarily keep our existing customers loyal and grow their business with us?

Would this lead us to new areas for innovation? I believe it would.

Consumers are no longer homogeneous. They no longer fit into our pre-defined, selective segments. They no longer watch the shows that everyone does. They want products and services that serve their very individual and unique needs. Each of these consumers sincerely believe in their own specialness.

To serve their needs, brands need to understand and internalize this insight and create an environment to allow them to get what they need.

That is the new approach to innovation.

Allow your customers to customize the product or service in the way that’s best for them. Give them what you offer as discrete ingredients and let them make their own meal, their way. This could be the value proposition of your brand.

By allowing them to define how the brand fulfills their need, their satisfaction with the brand increases dramatically and they feel more bonded in their relationship with it. This allows them to consider this brand as a partner in their life.

The behavioral and transactional data that you have on your customers forms the basis of the insights into the brand’s actions.

A strong position to be.

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