Innovation is a crucial part of most life science companies’ success. Management often uses the claim of innovation as a message in marketing and advertising campaigns for products, however, this practice can promote mixed results at best and may have long-term negative consequences for a company’s brand. This issue ofLinus Report discusses the importance of situating innovation as a brand attribute and provides a framework for employing innovation within marketing messages.
The life science industry is enamored by the notion of innovation. Everyone wants to be known as an innovator of something. From multi-million-dollar mass spectrometers to multi-well plates, life science suppliers know that in order to gain an edge on the competition, they need a constant flow of innovations to help them beat out the competition.
While innovation is of utmost importance to the success and longevity of almost any life science company, using it as a marketing message is often counterproductive. Being innovative, and claiming to be innovative are two different strategies. The terminnovationi is so widely used and misused that it has lost its true meaning. Scientists view innovation as an empty term used only as “marketing fluff”, and place little value on such a claim from manufacturers. In survey after survey, when asked to rank the importance of innovation in their decision to purchase a scientific product, scientists rank it as one of the least important.ii
Not only will the use of innovation as a message render a marketing program less effective, it may also have adverse effects on a company’s long-term brand building.
In this issue of Linus Report, the importance of situating the message of innovation within the company’s brand and product marketing will be discussed, along with a detailed discussion regarding the use of innovation within each facet of a company’s brand. There are, of course, cases where innovation is absolutely the most appropriate brand attribute for a company. Such exceptions will be considered at the end of this report.
Product Marketing and Brand Building
How does a company’s product marketing impact its overall brand? With perpetually-dwindling marketing and advertising budgets, there’s typically little left over exclusively for long-term brand building. Smart marketers realize the need for branding through their product marketing activities. Thus, the company’s product marketing management needs to take long-term brand building into consideration when developing product-level marketing campaigns.
Innovation as a message does few favors for the company’s long-term brand longevity.
In order to establish and control the brand of a company through product marketing, brand managers should collaborate closely with product marketing managers to classify and categorize the company’s attributes to be used for product marketing messages. As developed by brand guru David Aakeriii and discussed in a recent issue of Linus Report, a strong brand has three facets: The Core Identity, the Extended Identity, and the Value Proposition.iv The remainder of this paper will employ the Aaker model for brand facets to discuss the concept of innovation as a brand attribute.
Innovation Within the Core Identity
The core identity is the timeless essence of a brand. The brand’s soul, so to speak. While innovation runs through the veins of many life science companies, it is not a timeless attribute. An innovative technology today may be viewed as mainstream (best case) or as old (worse case) in the future. “Too often,” says Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, “grand declarations about innovation are followed by mediocre execution that produces anemic results, and innovation groups are quietly disbanded in cost-cutting drives.”v If a company’s core identity is tied to innovation without any new products that are perceived as innovative, the brand’s core identity will suffer. The analytical instrument market experienced this phenomenon in the 1990’s, where several companies that were considered innovative in the 1980’s were slowly overshadowed by newer technologies, sending these companies into expensive and complicated identity crises.