Communication in Innovation

Ines DartiguenaveForget About Innovation Washing

Focused on the best ways to take advantage of communications to innovate, Inès Dartiguenave‘s expertise stems from her simultaneous work for communications consultancy Opinion Valley and photo start-up Wipplay, and from her graduation at Sorbonne University (CELSA). Given the importance of the international dimension of communications and innovation, she now plans to tour the best places dedicated to innovation around the world.

In this post, she examines 3 steps where communication and innovation can substantially benefit from each other.

Many thanks to Nicolas Bry who offered me the opportunity to express my ideas on his blog! I met him as part of my graduate essay about “the value of communication in innovation: the delicate equilibrium between change management and innovation washing”. Here is the vision I developed after this inspiring meeting.

Communication, marketing and innovation: an explosive cocktail for a powerful brand!


Communication is a big deal in innovation, to foster the project as it takes shape but also to give meaning to the brand’s new value proposition.

A global approach is necessary to accelerate innovation in the targeted market. Therein lies the difference between an invention kept in a laboratory and an innovation adopted by consumers.

Since the process of acceptation and diffusion is essential to any new project, here are three fundamental steps to support rapid innovation:

  • Communication as a way to test the coherence between the brand and the innovation;
  • Communication as an essential asset to develop innovation;
  • Communication as a tool to spread innovation.

Working on key messages for the brand tackles deep questions of DNA and brand positioning. When all the messages make sense with the brand’s core mission, the external communication can responsively be deployed.

1) Communication as a way to test the coherence between the innovation and the brand

The main mission of communication is building a brand identity, strong enough to establish legitimacy on a given territory.

It means the brand has to reconsider its core mission and what their customers are expecting. Innovation must be fundamentally related to the purpose of the brand.

Simon Sinek’s book “Start with why” is very accurate to better explore innovation. To deeply engage its audience and its customers, he insists on the direct presentation of the brand’s core mission, even before exposing the brand identity and its products. When one begins with the core value proposition, the following proposition should directly link to it.

Simon Sinek

If you want to see by yourself the pertinence of this approach for a powerful and meaningful brand, here is the TED talk: “how great leaders inspire action”.

With this special focus on the Why, communication appears as a way to question and validate the accuracy of the new idea for the brand and the market.

Does the brand want to follow their competitors or does it want to be sure its new proposition is answering the market needs and capitalizing on its own expertise?

For instance, this year IKEA Singapore chose to reverse the expectations for its future catalogue. They presented the paper version as an innovative way to develop the user experience, better than with an online application. Here is this funny and instructive advertisement called “The power of the book”.

IKEA detects emerging signals and plays with the implicit rules of innovation to develop new business opportunities, in line with its strong values.

As Nicolas Bry told me: “Never deny your brand. Innovation is not the negation of the past. It develops itself in coherence with the brand and aims at creating a pertinent proposition in a specific territory.”

2) Communication as an essential asset to develop innovation

Coherence is fundamental, because at first, there is just an idea and the project manager. The whole innovation process will depend on the level of engagement and acceptance the project is able to carry out.

When a new idea comes up, the first challenge is related to conviction. The project manager has to find partners to implement its idea. To succeed rapidly in this process, he or she needs strong, clear communication.

For an entrepreneur, this exercise corresponds to the pitch. To build a powerful key message, the idea has to be relevant for a specific market. Is it solving a problem, adding value or filling an empty segment? In a few words, the entrepreneur needs to get support from various stakeholders.

2013_08_17 Esnspiral

It is the same inside a company. Each new idea waiting for implementation reveals questions of organization, time and often money. So, the whole deal is about convincing people, bringing new talents, finding partners and raising funds for the project. Communication helps bringing the project to reality, thanks to a large union around the endorsed problem.

To foster the new project, look quickly for a metaphor to help the immediate comprehension of the innovative project. The more disruptive the project is, the more difficult it is to expose the concept. The metaphor directly facilitates a common comprehension.

Finally, communication constitutes a powerful way to design the innovative idea, and federate the stakeholders required for its implementation.

3) Communication as a tool to spread innovation

Actually, innovation is about consolidation. Idea execution occurs when the new value proposition meets its first customers and finds its market.

The path of innovation is carried out by communication and marketing which foster the adoption of the new product. If at the beginning, the brand wants to interest and engage clients or customers, the big challenge is to find “early adopters” or people who are willing to experiment with the new product or service.

crossing the chasm

There is a real gap between interest and adoption. So it’s good to start with blog reviews, but the success lies in the product use. Although the new product might initially elicit media interest, the innovation accomplishment depends on independent use, and the product qualities, all of which have been developed in coherence with the brand.

Inès Dartiguenave @Ines_drt

Credits: cocktails_withbarristab, Simon Sinek, pitch Esnspiral, crossing-the-chasm G Moore
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    future of TV - Leading by InnovatingNicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge, and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented successfully at Orange, further developed in his writings. He tweets @nicobry

Nicolas Bry

Serial innovator, Nicolas has set up creative units for new business at Orange, Club-Internet, and SFR. Nicolas created crowd platform, Orange Studio for Intrapreneurs, and edits Open Innovation blog International speaker, entrepreneurs & startups coach, innovation teacher at Telecom ParisTech, HEC & CentraleSupélec, and freelance consultant (ECC). Follow him at @nicobry.




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