Marketing must take charge of innovation, says TBWA chairman

But marketing leaders are being too cautious when it comes to innovating, the agency leader and author of the book on disruptive thinking, Jean-Marie Dru, says

TBWA chairman, Jean-Marie Dru (right), with Suncorp CMO, Mark Reinke
TBWA chairman, Jean-Marie Dru (right), with Suncorp CMO, Mark Reinke

Marketers can and must be at the core of innovation if they hope to continue fostering growth in their organisations. The problem is, most are being too cautious about how they innovate.

Opening the AANA Reset conference in Sydney, TBWA Worldwide chairman, Jean-Marie Dru, called on marketing leaders to take a more disruptive approach to how they tackle innovation within their companies.

“It is part of your job to ensure innovation levels at your organisation are getting bigger and brighter,” Dru told attendees. “They need you more than you think.

“Statistically it’s a fact that the level of innovation is not high enough, nor the pace of innovation, and for many companies globally, their organic growth is not high enough.”

But Dru admitted too many marketers are still not getting out of their comfort zone when endeavouring to embrace innovation.

“When we go through the process of trying to understand why clients are not getting the pace they want or need to around innovation, we often find clients are very conservative in the way they approach innovation and are too repetitive,” he said. “It comes down to two phrases: Marketing brief and R&D. That’s it.

“But there are so many ways to get to innovation, that you should be inspired by what other people have done.”

Related: Obsession with digital in marketing inhibits innovation, says SapientNitro chief
Marketing innovation depends on cultural transformation: Cadbury, Oreo media chief

Dru, who penned the book Disruption: Overturning conventions and shaking up the marketplace, 25 years ago, used his presentation to outline the reasons why disruption has become a major ingredient for driving brand innovation, as well as examples of brands that have utilised clear vision, big thinking and customer insight – core ingredients of disruption – to innovate their marketing approach and drive growth.

Those highlighted included Gatorade’s ‘Win from within’, Apple’s ‘think different’, and Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ programs.

As a starting point towards innovation, Dru said TBWA looks to find the overarching conventions and ideas behind the brand. The agency has also devised a roadmap classifying the different ways of potentially innovating, extending or challenging these conventions and ideas.

“We innovate against the things we’d like to change, or we innovate for the things we want to bring to the world,” he explained.

Examples from this roadmap of innovation include anticipation, brand- or asset-led thinking, price-led innovation, data insights, crowdsourcing, partnerships and added services. About 90 per cent of innovation is being driven by digital transformation, he added.

In response to a question about the biggest challenges to innovation within an organisation, Dru highlighted the fear of failure as at the top of the list.

“People should embrace failure but it’s not so true in real life. You need to try many things and fail many times before you succeed; you have to have 10, 20 ideas to get one good one,” he said.

Dru also pointed to the ‘silo effect’ in organisations as another challenge.

“Everyone is suggesting companies should be horizontal, but in everyday life it’s not that easy,” he continued. “It’s not easy for marketing to come to R&D and tell them what to do.

“But marketing is very important – it can grow companies and accelerate growth. It’s a fact: Marketing is in charge of the growth of the company as it is responsible for growing existing products, as well as helping R&D to find new products.”

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