Marketing chiefs advocate innovation on the board agenda

First in the new series of AANA's Marketing Dividends program sees CommBank CMO and Virgin Mobile's local chief debating what innovation actually looks like

From left: David Scribner, Vittoria Shortt, James Hier and Nadine Blayney
From left: David Scribner, Vittoria Shortt, James Hier and Nadine Blayney

Innovation must be on the board’s agenda and a driving force behind the work of the CMO, according to two of Australia’s leading marketers.

In the first in a fresh season of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA)’s Marketing Dividends program on Sky News Business, Virgin Mobile’s local chief, David Scribner, and Commonwealth Bank group executive of marketing and strategy, Vittoria Shortt, championed the role of innovation in their organisations as well as what it actually looks like.

At Commbank, Shortt said marketing is playing a vital role in its innovation labs by bringing together teams across the business, along with customers to work on ways of improving customer experiences.

“The emphasis is to create a culture of innovation across everyone in the organisation,” Shortt said, adding it’s the purvey of everyone, not just a few in the business or a dedicated R&D team.

For Shortt, innovation is a key component of planning for the long term, and something organisations must do if they’re going to be around for the long term.

“You also need to innovate for the short term as that’s important as well,” she said.

Scribner said innovation had to be on the board agenda in order to ensure adequate investment for the future. He positioned innovation as activity that still needs to move the needle commercially.

“Innovation has to be part of the growth plan, because companies have to be trying to be there for the long term,” he said. “But there has to be two sides to that story: One is making sure you get the right results, and one is getting adequate investment for that future orientation.”

Shott advocated a test-and-learn approach to innovation, saying it’s important to put innovations out to market to find out what works and doesn’t work. As an example, she pointed to CommBank’s ‘Kaching app’, which launched in 2011. Some aspects of the mobile app were quickly adopted on a mass scale, while others didn’t, she said.

“The simple learning for us was to take the pieces that worked very well and put them into our main app experience, and not the pieces that didn’t,” Shortt said. “It’s about getting the team to learn, pivot take what works and keep pursuing the innovation agenda.”

She also believed innovation sat on a spectrum, ranging from small steps to disruptive initiatives. “It’s not just about trademarks and patents, it’s about the accumulation of small iterations that sometimes make the difference,” she said. “We can get carried away with words... If you’re really trying to foster a culture of innovation, then accepting improvements as innovations big or small is an important part of the cultural piece.”

Scribner added getting an innovation mindset required brands to look beyond old rivals and their industries and striving to learn from other verticals and sectors to see what you can learn. Telcos, for instance, often look to the finance industry to take heed of things that do and don’t work with customers and what can be applied.

The latest AANA Marketing Dividends series will run for 10 episodes and is hosted by MEC’s James Hier and Sky Business News deputy business editor, Nadine Blayney, and kicked off on 9 June.

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