The Art of Being Perceived as an Innovative Mind in Marketing

In many organizations you will find employees that are perceived as “innovative minds”. They are generally the ones who come with the brilliant ideas and trendy cool concepts that no one else in the organization have thought about. The first time you met these employees, you generally wonder how they do to be so innovative. However, when you become more acquainted with these individuals and you learn how they have become innovative, sometimes you realize that you can be perceived as an innovative mind too. So, what makes these employees so innovative? Personally I would limit my thinking to three simple hierarchically-related mantras. So here they are:

1. Get out of your comfort zone;
2. Explore what is done elsewhere in the world;
3. Adapt already existing so-called “new concepts” to your targeted audience.

The art of being perceived as innovative in Marketing
The art of being perceived as innovative in Marketing

1. Get out of your comfort zone

So let’s start with the first mantra: “Get out of your comfort zone”. This may seems obvious to many, but getting out of your comfort zone takes a huge amount of courage and discipline. Most well-known businessmen or artists had to use this quality at least once to meet their (career) objectives. This doesn’t mean being completely irrational, this means to take calculated risks that could generate strong outcomes. Imagine you are a media planner and an employee of yours proposed a media campaign targeted to youth that uses “old salty clichés” from the hip hop world. You think this concept can reach your targeted audience but you barely hate hip-hop music and you’re around 40 years old. What about buying some tickets for the next hip hop concert in your area? Find the “ethnographer” in you, just get out of your comfort zone!

2. Explore what is done elsewhere in the world

When you’re travelling a lot, you realize that some new campaigns on your national television are simply insignificant copies of successful campaigns that are launched elsewhere in the world. Imagine how much innovative ideas you can have if you have recently seen some of these campaigns when traveling or via the Internet. Personally, my lucky “13” cities list to find some cool concepts would include from West to East the following cities:

1. San Francisco
2. New York
3. Rio de Janeiro
4. Amsterdam
5. Stockholm
6. Paris
7. Johannesburg
8. Tel Aviv
9. Mumbai
10. Singapore
11. Melbourne
12. Beijing
13. Tokyo

3. Adapt already existing so-called “new concepts” to your targeted audience

Imagine you get out of your comfort zone, you pick the best “new concepts” from around the world and you adapt them to your targeted audience. What will your colleague think you are? Quite innovative, no? To be perceived as an innovative mind, the important is not to be the first to launch a concept in the world. What is most important is to be the first to launch that concept to your targeted population. Complete your mix with qualities such as (1) intelligence, (2) strong observational skills and (3) well-developed communication skills, and you got the perfect package. A good example of this is the popular lipdub by UQÀM students launched on YouTube during summer 2009. What did the UQÀM students do. Well, in summary they:

(1) Took the same concept HEC Montréal students have done months before,
(2) Choose one of the most popular song of the summer (Black Eyed Peas song) instead of an old Bryan Adams song,
(3) They communicate their creation to local Medias.

Was the concept really innovative? No way. Was it perceived as innovative? For sure. Final outcome: Around 4.5 million YouTube views and coverage at least all across North America. My verdict: Brilliant.


Briefly, remember that you don’t need to be the first one that has a real new concept in mind to be perceived as innovative, you only need to know where to find the information that no one else in your organization knows and adapt it to your targeted audience. What do you think about these three points?

Jean-Francois Belisle

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5 thoughts on “The Art of Being Perceived as an Innovative Mind in Marketing”

  1. I am with what you are saying here. I actually think that it is a must to be able to get out of our comfort zone in order to stand out and/or get what we want or need, whether we are looking for a job, developing a media plan or basically anything else. So, it is definitely required for innovative thinking. It is quite a difficult task to achieve, but totally worth it. Your example of an 40-year-old going to a hip hop concert is excellent. Let’s imagine the worst case. Chances are the young crowd will look, point and may even laugh at you, which could be very embarassing. But when you think about it, what do you have to lose? You probably won’t meet those people again in your life, unless they precisely remember your face, but odds are that they won’t. In the end, your goals will be achieved and that’s all that matters.

    As for the second point, there is indeed a lot to learn from campaigns that are designed and presented in other countries. Each corner of the world has its own culture and identity and there is nothing more enriching than to explore those differences. Yet you are right regarding our national television! When I think of corny ads like ShamWow, it makes me wonder: is there a lack of marketing innovation in our country or is it Canadian consumers who aren’t ready for real marketing innovation?

    You also made a good point when you talk about targeting the audience. Sometimes, being the first isn’t as glorious as being the second if we don’t target the audience correctly. The best example: Swiffer wasn’t the first to come out with the idea of the ‘Swiffer’, it was actually Rubbermaid, but they failed in targeting the consumers. Swiffer is yet considered very innovative.

  2. Hey Diana, thanks for your nice and detailed comment. I like your argument that it is way much easier to put ourselves out of our comfort zone when we know that we’re dealing with people we won’t meet again. I also like your use of the word “corny”. However, I have to say that sometimes “corny” ads are a good fit between “corny” brands which target “corny” consumers, even though I’m pretty sure that no ad agency would benefit, in terms of reputation, from being linked to those ads. Finally, your Swiffer example is interesting, since it illustrated a situation where the first-mover advantage can be largely reduced by bad targeting and also poorer marketing mix expenditures.

  3. I want to comment the following expression : «Was the concept really innovative? No way. Was it perceived as innovative? For sure.» You touch a really important point I think, cause the importance is not who was the first, but who the customer think it was. Also, even if you’re second, if you improve the idea, it can be considered as innovative.

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