Innovation: when new just isn’t enough

Are consumers as excited by innovation as creatives? PR boss Richard Edelman isn’t so sure. Based on research the company has done, he thinks consumer scepticism towards disruptive innovation has led to a yearning for fundamental, purpose-driven simplicity.

“There’s great concern about the pace of innovation. Is it becoming all about corporate greed instead of making my life better?” he asked the packed auditorium on the third day of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Edelman’s research shows that 87% of consumers won’t buy innovative products because they’re scared of them or think they’re not good for them, with their main worries being things like privacy, security, over-consumption and the environment.

This obviously means it’s up to marketers and advertisers to persuade people it’s ok to buy things. But we’re doing so too much by focusing on newness, Edelman said. “60% of consumers think we’re pushing too quickly on obsolescence. This need for constant newness is wrong.”

“You have to earn the right to innovate. You can’t assume that because you have a great product it will be accepted,” he continued, urging the audience instead to be brave enough to reassure first, and then inspire.

“Consumers need to be calm. They need to go through the door of reassurance. A brand needs to have proven in some way that it will protect a consumer’s privacy and security.”

This, he argued, requires brands to go against the norm and speak to consumers differently.

“Our traditional playbook is to inspire, to get people turned on to the next thing; but people are rebelling against that. They don’t want to be told constantly they need to upgrade their products.”

Instead, he urged marketers to focus on “discussing with” rather than “talking to” consumers, with Edelman’s research showing that 75% of consumers said conversations with their peers informed their purchase decisions.

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