Being up against it drives innovation

Recently we caught up with Luke Southern, Managing Director at Drum the creative arm of Omnicom Media Group. Drum are a content and creative business that helps ambitious brands, including McDonald’s, Virgin Media, Warner Brothers and Hasbro to create and influence popular culture.

Luke told us that innovation is vital for Drum. “Because the world is moving so quickly success for our clients is dependent on doing things differently, and creatively – and being up against it drives innovation.”

It’s harder than ever before to get young people’s attention – they have so much on the go all the time

Drums’ starting point for innovation is an unmet need or a problem. Recent research has shown that 18-24 year olds (a core audience for the brands that Drum works with) have an 8 second attention span. This means that companies have a tiny amount of time to make what they are saying relevant to their audience, something their audience wants to engage with and then share with their friends and social networks.

One of the ways that Drum seeks to make their innovation successful is to place brands within the existing pop culture. Drum refers to this as creating “cultural signals” for brands.

People care about popular culture; TV, music, films, comedy, sport as well as films about sport and music. When great branded content fuses the brands’ ambitions, with entertainment and popular culture we remember, we talk about it and we are interested.

A couple of years ago Drum made the Lego ad break. They reconstructed an entire ad break out of Lego, remaking popular ads of the time piece by piece. It was an effective piece of communication driving opening weekend box office takings of the The Lego Movie beyond expectations and it was also a great piece of entertainment in its own right that has been watched millions of times.

Drum have just used this approach again to promote the Lego Batman film. Lego Batman took over the continuity announcements on Channel 4 which meant that their target audience heard about the campaign from the media that they usually consume – they didn’t have to seek it out.  It made Batman as relevant to film lovers in their 30s and 40s as it is to kids. 40% of the population saw Batman continuity announcements in just 4 days and 1 in 6 booked to see the movie as a result.

Check it out here. http://drum.co.uk/archives/work/continuity-bat

Luke acknowledges that Drum has the advantage of being part of a larger organisation and therefore has access to large data sets. “For example, if we know that someone has just bought a pair of shoes then they are unlikely to buy another pair of shoes, so advertising more shoes to the shoe buyer isn’t a good idea. However, they might well be in the market for a leather cleaner, so advertising that is a much better idea! Data can show us all sorts of things now and using the data available to understand your customers unmet needs, identify trends and solve problems can be a competitive advantage.”

Innovation is bloody hardpeople are addicted to certainty but certainty kills creativity

For Luke and his colleagues the biggest barrier to making innovation happen is budget restraints versus creative ideas that you can’t prove are going to work. Certainty kills creativity because you can never guarantee that something new is going to work.

Another challenge is bringing people alongside the changes that are needed in a business to enable the idea or innovation happen.

This means that for successful innovation getting the right mix of talent is really key. If you only recruit in your own image you won’t achieve the breakthroughs that you need to achieve. Innovation requires a democracy of ideas to enable excellence. There is a requirement for different experiences, backgrounds and skills to be able to create something really creative. Opening minds to take risks with different people and not always traveling the known road is vital for both Drum and their clients.

Innovation is not straightforward and requires leadership and Luke believes that an innovation leader must have the following qualities.

  • Avoid using the “I’m the Boss and we’re doing it my way” card.
  • Acknowledging problems – because pretending they aren’t there creates an atmosphere where people feel they can’t talk about difficulties.
  • Being able to steer people and encourage them to solve their own problems without stifling their views.
  • Listening and focusing on saying less, yet knowing where to intervene
  • Humility, being aware of your own weaknesses and not being afraid of saying when you have made a mistake

Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should

Luke’s other innovation advice is just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. Companies create clever widgets and gadgets that people just aren’t ready for or don’t need. There is a balance. Innovation needs to be something that people want. It needs to benefit people’s lives or to solve a problem. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s automatically something that people are excited about.

Luke’s advice to anyone wanting to improve their creativity and innovation skills is to read Creativity Inc. We agree – we wrote a blog inspired by it a while ago.

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