“Is Marketing blocking innovation?”

4 07 2011

Keith Goffin wrote:

Last week Chris van der Hoven and I were working with a healthcare company. The R&D department were very keen to innovate and wants to employ new methods to identify customers’ hidden needs. However, there was almost an opposite reaction from the marketing function, which said that customer needs were well understood and that they did not have time to become involved. We are seeing this problem at more and more organisations – ironically Marketing seems to be too busy with day to day issues and consequently does not have time to really work on innovation.

We hope that your organisations are not falling into a similar trap because marketing should be with R&D, a powerhouse of innovation. Sadly it seems that marketing is often more of an innovation “blocker” than an innovation “enabler”.

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5 responses

8 07 2011
Agalby

My experience working in Marketing has been the total opposite. I’ve had the opportunity to lead many innovation projects with the full support of key stakeholders in the organization (R&D/Supply Chain, Sales and Finance) that has resulted in an effective team-building strategy for all involved.

It is a constant challenge for Marketers (especially in large FMCG’s) to balance the day-to-day management of their brands (addressing demand generation and profitability concerns) with those special Innovation projects (NPD, communication campaigns, etc.) that are required. Both aspects of the business are full-time jobs that practically jeopardize each other, in time and focus. So, there never seems to be enough resources in the Marketing team to address the ‘less-urgent, but still important requirement’ of the moment.

I believe you have been unfortunate in your experience with this Marketing group and should be taken as isolated. It should not be the case with the majority of my peers. I hope in the future you are positively surprised !

10 07 2011
cranovation

I wonder if the sector has an impact – industrial vs consumer / hi-tech vs lo-tech etc?

10 07 2011
Matt Wilkinson

I think it may be a case that the healthcare industry is so bloated and large that focus on individual disease areas gets lost.

I think this is one of the reasons why GSK and others are restructuring so that discovery units are not “just R&D” and sales and marketing just the “how do we push this to customers” department…

Instead I think GSK and other are taking a more joined up approach, trying to link R&D and marketing and sales within specific disease areas (such as diabetes and obesity) so that greater value can be delivered to patients, customers and shareholders

19 07 2011
Murat Ozmen

The word “trap” took my attention in the main post because this is exactly how I define what Rothwell names “first and second generation innovation processes”. As a quick reminder; first generation innovation process is the one based on resource based approach where innovation is driven by the technology and technical capabilities of the firm, in summary a technology push one. On the other hand second generation innovation process is a demand pull one.

In my experience, we should call both of them as innovation traps, as both of them are not complete and faulty in utilizing the full capacity of the company which is corrected by the third generation (Rothwell & Zegveld). Then external interactions lead to fourth generation (Kline and Rosenberg ) by making use of open innovation, innovation networks and feedback mechanisms and ultimately through strategic integrations to fifth generation.
In the first generation trap company is almost deaf whatever the marketing and customer says which may or may not work and the “chance” factor kicks in. But I guess we all agree that today’s innovation budgets are too big to leave to the chance factor. On the other hand as in your example, in the second generation trap, the highest voice would be the marketing one driving the company on a demand pull world where breakthrough products are very rare, instead it is flooded by modifications of the base product.

So far so good, academics is good at defining what to do, but the question as you well spotted in the main post is “how?”. In my opinion there are two main steps to follow in such a situation. I consider this as a language problem. Imagine we invited a Turkish person who can only speak Turkish and a Nigerian one who again speaks only Nigerian. Suppose that we give them the topic “what are the essentials of a traditional Indian wedding?”

The first problem is the communication which is the basic need even more important than the context of discussion. First things first; we have to understand each other. Turkish is by far different from Nigerian so do engineering and marketing languages. So it is critical to either develop a common language (which takes time) or to find someone to translate who can also manage the grey areas between two languages. Once they start speaking the same language, next problem is the facilitator; assuming both of the people are unaware of Indian culture how do we expect them to come up with the essentials of a traditional wedding? Here, I would like the emphasise the value of an innovation leader who in my opinion should be a senior executive and has the ability to understand, speak both of the languages and focus both of the parties to find out an answer for the question “what is essential?”

In the above example; I highlight two structural changes that are vital to stimulate innovation efficiency in a company; first restructuring of innovation teams where there is a good balance and diversity in terms of professional background (which in my view will lead to development of a new innovation language in the long run) and second the value of innovation leadership.

As a final word, I would propose that the intrinsic innovation based organisational restructuring is the key in avoiding the first and second generation innovation process traps and constructing a healthy innovation environment in the company.

23 09 2011
Top 10 innovation and ideas management internet links – weekly round-up 23rd September |

[…] Does the marketing department kill innovation in new products? A nice overview and some great comments below. […]

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