We were recently asked by a potential client to describe Nebo’s approach to innovation. Our answer should sound pretty familiar to anyone familiar with our brand:
We believe in putting the user first. Of course, part of our job is to stay on the cutting edge of trends and technology, but we’ll always be more interested in solving problems and making the world a better place. If pushing the envelope or breaking new ground helps us create a better user experience, we’re all for it, but innovation in and of itself shouldn’t be a goal.
With that said, we spend a lot of time examining some of the world’s biggest brands. We’ve talked about Coke and Tesla and New Belgium and extracted lessons from the decisions they’ve made, both good and bad. But when it comes to innovating in the name of better serving users, it’s important to understand that you don’t need a massive budget. Your brand may not have the R&D funding of Apple or Microsoft, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with simple, effective ways to better your business.
On a recent trip to my vet, I realized how the small, locally-owned practice was the perfect example of how user-first thinking can make a big difference.
By now, we all know that media is converging. We know that the most successful digital marketing strategies combine the power of owned, paid and earned media. These efforts mutually strengthen each other, and they rely on each other. With so much overlap, it can be difficult to determine which efforts fall under which categories, especially at full-service agencies that include teams for PPC, SEO, design, development, PR and social.
Some items fit neatly into the spectrum. Design is owned. PPC is paid. PR is earned. But what about SEO? Is it paid? Nope. Is it owned? Kind of. Is it earned? That, it seems, is the question.
Football in America wasn’t always the colossus it is today. It wasn’t that long ago that baseball dominated the headlines and little boys grew up wanting to play sports like soccer and basketball. In the eyes of many, football was barbaric and violent. It was unrefined. It was American machismo at its worst. In his book Brand NFL: Making & Selling America's Favorite Sport, Michael Oriard writes that things came to a head in the early 90s during a string of incidents involving female reporters being barred from the locker rooms or, worse, harassed by the players once inside.
It became a national conversation—one that went far beyond the chalk outlines of an NFL field. It was an American problem. Sexism, hyper-masculinity, and male superiority were running rampant through our culture. At least that was the narrative. And the NFL found itself in the crosshairs, pegged as the root, or at least the worst offender, of this callous mindset.
The NFL had its life-long supporters, but they were growing older. The opportunity to earn a new generation of die-hards was in front of them, but they'd have to start treating football not as a game, but as a brand. And brands need sculpting. They need PR. They need a story.
First came Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season. Then came Cyber Monday, where consumers finally started embracing online shopping, albeit through their employers high-speed Internet connections. And now, we have the prequel nobody asked for, Grey Thursday.
Many people are slamming retailers for opening their doors on one of the biggest holidays of the year, keeping their employees away from their families. But you also have to wag your finger at consumers who are taking the term “Door Busters” literally, pillaging store shelves in hopes of procuring the last Tickle Me Elmo Doll or FurReal Friends Cuddles My Giggly Monkey Pet (and no, I didn’t make that last one up, folks). There are fights, arrests, vandalism, hospitalizations and other tragedies that lead to a bloody start to the holidays.
In 1999, Jim Barton and Mike Ramsay saw a huge gap in the home entertainment market. People were growing frustrated trying to record their favorite TV shows and rewatch them. They either had to be home to man the VCR, which sort of defeats the purpose, or if they were really brave they could try to set the timer on the device and hope it didn’t cut off the first couple of minutes of their show. We all know the joke about how setting the clock on your VCR is about as intuitive as assembling a hydrogen bomb, so the results of this method were, unsurprisingly, mixed. Barton and Ramsay understood the problem, recognized the opportunity, and would go on to develop TiVo and forever change the home entertainment landscape.
That’s not the end of the TiVo story, but it might as well be. After enjoying a brief run of massive success, so much so that people still refer to recording shows as “TiVo-ing”, TiVo quickly found itself an afterthought in a crowded marketplace. The company that revolutionized television in the early 2000s today is nothing more than a tertiary player in the space. For reference, TiVo stock peaked at about $50 a share and today is worth about $13. Quite a fall for what was, not that long ago, one of the biggest brand names in the world.
So where did TiVo go wrong? It failed where so many companies before it have failed, and so many more since.
It didn’t have purpose.