3 main challenges that keep execs up at night

Fear of irrelevance is what keep execs up at night. Ask Blockbuster or Kodak. Or take Nokia as an example. During the press conference to announce Nokia being acquired by Microsoft, in 2016, their CEO said: “we didn’t do anything wrong but somehow, we lost”.

At WGSN we surveyed 100 fashion leaders in the UK and the US earlier this year to understand their main challenges. “Failure to innovate” ranked as the number one challenge to the longevity of companies, followed by “lack of long-term vision” as described in our recently launched white paper ‘Future-proofing your brand’.

How can an industry like fashion, which tends to be “late adopter” when it comes to new technology and business models, move fast?

When it comes to innovation, we identified three ways brands are winning at it:

Ensure the customer is at the heart of any innovation

First, fashion brands need to be savvy listeners to pick up cues from their customers and implement the changes that make sense for their business. Easier said than done. Businesses are drowning in data, so is crucial for them to stop and understand their consumers’ mindsets. What feelings and emotions drive their decisions? Joy, fear, curiosity, comfort? The future will be about predicting our customers’ emotions, in spaces and in products.

Mood and emotions will shape the proposition of brands and some companies have been experimenting with it. The Singaporean travel board has recently used a new research tool capable of measuring “emotions” to gauge what travelers want in a destination.

COS partnered with Studio Swine to create an experience around calmness at Salone del Mobile in Milan last April. They made a tree that would bloom bubbles, slowly floating to the ground and bursting into a puff of vapour if touched. People left the darkened space with a new sense of calm and respect for the brand.

COS “New Spring” by Studio Swine installation. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Innovate while staying true to your brand DNA

Secondly, how can brands innovate while staying true to their DNA? Lego’s revival is a very good example of how the ‘brick’ brand, around since 1950’s, went from financial collapse in 2003-04 to become the most profitable toy brand in the world growing steadily since 2015. The secret behind this was moving from a wild brand extension (there was even Lego apparel) to a ruthless focus on what the brand stands for, ‘endless play’.

Vans are another good example of this and, at a product level, the evolution of Nike Airmax over time shows how you can stay iconic while keeping evolving technology.


Adopt a start-up mindset, full of ideas

Finally, how can organisations, especially big ones, ensure their innovation pipeline is always full with ideas? It is important to adopt a start-up mindset, if you were a new entrant in your market wanting to beat your company, what would you do? A lot of organisations find it hard to adopt a start-up mindset. Hence what some of them do is to build their own start-ups. “Incubation hubs” can provide a pool of new talent and entrepreneurial sparks for companies among people who might not otherwise “fit” within existing structures.

Adobe internship programme has the primary aim of innovation. Applicants who get hired for the summer are paid a salary equivalent to that of a junior engineer as well as relocation expenses. They work for the Research department and are required to come in with big ideas for future projects. Verizon and digital agency RGA have recently set up an incubation hub to invest in young companies that are poised to disrupt digital entertainment and media.

Check out our whitepaper to learn more about our consultants’ recommendations to future-proof your brand.


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