Carat: Innovation should challenge business goals; not help reach them

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 21 July 2015
Sarah Stringer, group innovations director for Carat

When it comes to innovation, it's more about managing expectations than expecting it to drive straight return on investment (ROI), believes Sarah Stringer, group innovations director for Carat.

With innovation well and truly entering the agency lexicon, clients and businesses are focusing on it more than ever, however Stringer believes that in a media sense, the concept of using innovation to drive basic business goals is not the way agencies should look at the process.

“For me it [innovation] shouldn't be about how we traditionally view ROI in a media campaign. if you take on the industry benchmark of [splitting investment] 70-20-10, if that first 90% of the budget isn't achieving that business goal that you want, you have bigger questions to ask your agency,” she said.

“It shouldn't be that last 10% of budget that tips the balance for what you need as a business objective, so for me that 10% should really be used to understand something you don't know about yet.”

Stringer explained that with innovation becoming a buzzword over the last few years, clients are interested in trying to work out what innovation looks like in their business, but they can also be quite hesitant about what it means for them.

It isn't just the fun, entertainment brands that have the ability to make the most of the space. Innovation has the ability to give consumers an affinity for any brand, naming Coke as the perfect example.

“It doesn't matter about the product your sprucing, it's more about your behaviour that can leave the consumer feeling warm and fuzzy about you,” she said.

Stringer will be taking part in the inaugural Isobar Summit Series where the conference will exploring everything from leading a business to success over the next 15 years, the death of the mobile strategy and of course the topic of innovation.

Innovation labs are in vogue but there has been commentary in the marketplace that setting up a dedicated innovation unit creates innovation departments are where innovation goes to die. Stringer agreed on a certain level saying if it's just a businesses innovation department that comes up with ideas then that's not a sustainable business model, but believes it needs someone to drive it.

“You'll find a very burnt out innovation department,” she said. “Having dedicated resources for innovation is important because you've got to train people to start behaving differently. Everyone is talking about how disruption and innovation are important, but unless you have someone driving that business and actually supporting people for when they come up with these ideas you're setting them up to fail.”

At the event series, Stringer will be discussing three separate brands that have worked with Carat and its innovation team and seen results. The conference series is taking place in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. You can find more information here.

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