If you don’t innovate you have the most to lose



When I think of brand innovation I think of companies who can afford to get it wrong.

Companies who have the resources and cash to invest in ‘trying’ – still accountable by what they’re spending but not accountable for immediate success.

Elon Musk said, “failure is an option here [at Tesla]. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough”.

So when I think of brand innovation I think of Tesla, I think of Spotify, Google and Nike too – Nike especially so since their beautifully created Breaking2 marketing campaign.

Breaking2 marketing campaign image

What doesn’t immediately spring to mind is the innovation that goes unnoticed, often adopted quickly and silently – surely innovation that becomes part of our culture and instinctively “blends in” is the most innovative of all?

Having spent the past two years immersed in the charity sector I’ve been lucky enough to interact with trustees, exec teams, digital and marketing professionals, volunteers, fundraisers and the general public for a number of well-known and lesser-known charities. Most articulate their agendas differently but it’s all relatively similar.

I hear something a lot, a common misconception that “charities are behind the curve” coming from inside and outside the sector (mostly inside). I struggle with this because I never quite understand who the benchmark is.

Because innovation and innovative thinking, and therefore the opportunity to lead the way, is rife in the charity sector and the opportunities for small, medium and large charities are relatively similar, and achievable.

Below I’ve highlighted three innovations in the charity sector that are ahead of “the curve”.

1. Respect the Water, the latest iteration of the RNLI’s flagship awareness campaign.

Built around the insight that young guys are most likely to get themselves in trouble A.K.A, they have a higher chance of finding themselves unexpectedly in water. The recently launched 2017 campaign will be promoted this summer in cinemas and on billboards, driving traffic to a new site that features safety messaging in an informative, and easy to understand manner. Importantly, the interactivity will encourage people to learn and remember what to do in an emergency situation.

rtw 2017 image

This digital campaign, created by Yoyo is built entirely around insight and adopts a mobile first approach. It builds upon previous campaigns because repetition is effective and it builds upon previous campaigns because repetition is effective.

It also shows how a 193 year old organisation is embracing new technologies to drive engagement.

Explore the 2016 RNLI campaign for a different angle on innovation.

2. Innovation doesn’t always have to be led by technology

This D&AD wooden pencil winner shows how habits and attitudes can be affected and lead to change. The Asiri Hospital Group in Sri Lanka, wanted a way to decrease frequency of illnesses by bringing hygiene to the forefront. Of course, their medium wasn’t a mobile site, a touch-screen game or watch app. It was a bus ticket (impregnated with soap.)

The bus is the primary method of transport in the country and an ideal incubator for germs. Washing hands can eliminate the potential health risk, however most public toilets do not have soap. So a ‘soap bus ticket’ was conceived. Passengers would not just receive a piece of paper they got a ticket that acted as a disinfectant when used with water. Spreading a positive message, and encouraging a shift to good daily hygiene habits.

3. Although technology doesn’t equal innovation, when it does it can be incredibly effective.

Since the start of the year we’ve been hearing lots from Oxfam and their new app, My Oxfam. Designed to increases transparency by providing updates on its work, it also enables supporters to understand the way funds are spent. The app features video diaries from Oxfam staff on the ground, stories about the people the charity is supporting, and live updates on emergencies. Essentially bringing people closer to the cause at the same time.

oxfam image

The app aims to build trust among supporters by giving them an insight into their world. Oxfam’s head of fundraising, Paul Vanags, was quoted in The Guardian and stated “My Oxfam provides a window in to the lives changed by our supporters’ generosity and allows users to control their giving from the palm of their hand.” Find out more

So what does it all mean? It means innovators are the curve, so by de facto those who fail to innovate are behind the curve, regardless of industry.

Some may fail fast, Elon probably does, and they would be right. Innovation isn’t about getting it right immediately, it’s about bringing something new to the table and giving people something they need, or didn’t realise they needed. And the most efficient way to test and learn in the leanest way is to understand what your MVP is, then get something to market, undertake user testing and iterate accordingly.

Charities need innovation because there are over 161,000 registered charities in the UK alone, with tonnes of crossover.

We’re seeing the remedy to decreased cash donations in contactless and Apple Pay but we also know there’s a whole generation of potential supporters just around the corner who are more likely to donate time over money.

The important thing any charity can do is to think about the challenges they face and work out short and long-term strategies to remedy these, and experiment where innovation fits in. And you’d be amazed what you can uncover by encouraging innovation and creative thinking culturally, just as Ordnance Survey have done.

Throughout the summer we’re going to be working on our next ‘Yoyo Presents:’ live event.

We want charities to be a part of the conversation and if you’d like us to explore this subject further or if you have any ideas or suggestions on topics you’re interested in please email me at [email protected].

Thanks for reading.