Before There’s Communication There’s Innovation.


Innovation was the key theme of the day at the 2017 Food, Retail and Hospitality Expo, in Citywest last Wednesday.

Some 130+ speakers across 10 seminar stages including food and drink, food retail and service, tourism and hospitality, retail, craft beer and spirits, artisan and fine foods, free from and organic foods and much more, all spoke about the importance of innovation. Or at least the 20 or so speakers I got to did.

And innovation came in all shapes, sizes and forms from product and packaging to new service delivery ideas and new market opportunities.

Here's just a taster of the views and ideas on innovation put forward by the magnetic entrepreneurs and business leaders who took to the stage;

Make it easy for people to do themselves some good.

Innocent - Innovate or Evaporate.

“Innovate or Evaporate" was the opening soundbite to Innocent's Country Manager Tim Casey's presentation. He shared one of his favourite quotes from Walt Disney “If you can dream it, you can do it" and how this summed up how the entrepreneur's brain works, the ability to keep pushing, to keep saying yes when everyone around you is saying no. It's this spirit that has driven innovation at Innocent and taken them from the simple single serve fruit smoothie and a vision to be London's favourite little food and drink company to nearly 50 SKUs across smoothies, juices and refreshments and a vision to be The Earth's favourite little food and drink company. Casey said that past performance is no indicator of future performance and encouraged the audience to be bold and push the boundaries of all products even the success stories. Casey also emphasised the need to have a guiding compass for innovation and at Innocent it's, “Make it easy for people to do themselves some good".

[Image Credit - Innocent Drinks]

Deliveroo - Ending “postcode food envy".

Adrian Young of Deliveroo excited us with some service delivery innovation set to end “postcode food envy". Deliveroo is setting up “dark kitchens", cooking spaces with just enough room for chefs and kitchen workers focused on making the ultimate at home dining experience. New chefs with exciting ideas or old high street favourites can take up residency and reach fans in new places without the cost and risk of setting up a restaurant. An innovative win-win for food services and hungry consumers.

[Image Credit - Deliveroo]

Rebel Kitchen - Free-from must self-reflect.

Some speakers such as Rosy Temple of Rebel Kitchen spoke about the need for category innovation. Rebel Kitchen is a brand with 'Bold Taste. Big Ethics. No Preaching.' Temple spoke passionately about the need for the free-from category to self-reflect, warning the growing synonymy between free-from and health could lead to misleading practices or a category resting on its laurels. She predicted that the next wave of innovation would be around clean labelling that gives people the whole picture.

[Image Credit - Rebel Kitchen]

Olytico - “If only there was a way to…"

Other speakers offered sources of innovation inspiration. Olytico, a social listening service, gave some great tips around listening out for phrases such as “If only there was a way to…", “I wish someone invented…", “Will someone please create a …" or “Will someone please build…"

[Image Credit - Olytico]

Making Stuff People Want and Making People Want Stuff - a connected process.

All this inspiring talk of innovation got me thinking about the role of creative agencies. Nine times out of ten, my clients pick up the phone when they want to communicate. They've already done a lot of hard work and worked through the innovation process. They've found a source of innovation and now need an exciting, big idea through which to tell the world about it.

But what if the phone rang earlier? What if client's involved the creative agency in creating innovation rather than just communicating it? Would the innovative product, service or business model look different, taste different, be served a different way or even be more successful?

I believe that there's lot to be gained by involving the creative agency early on in the innovation process. After all, many agency folk worship at the altar of originality, because invention is in our blood and is our business's bloodline.

Agency folk can also bring a helicopter view of literally hundreds of categories. And borrowing the rules of engagement from one category and applying them to a seemingly unrelated category is a great recipe for disruptive innovation. We also spend most of our time playing in the intersect between culture, consumer and commerce, searching for new synergies.

So inspired by the innovating entrepreneurs of the 2017 Food, Retail and Hospitality Expo, I'd like to pose a 'what if' question to marketers and business leaders.

What if you used your creative agency not just to make people want stuff but to make stuff people want?

Susan Kelly is Strategic Director at McCannBlue and ready for your “What if we …" call.