I'm still reeling from a great few days at SXSW, where I experienced some compelling brand activations from Oreo's Trending Vending Lounge, MasterCard and Mashable (#PricelessSurprises), and more private networking parties and inspirational pop-up discussions than hours in the day would allow.
I had the privilege of joining one such intimate discussion hosted by Expion, which turned into a passionate, all-out, no-BS discussion on the future of all things connected, including a featured panel on the future of packaging. The lively panel included Bonin Bough of Mondelez (@boughb), Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee), David Shing of AOL (@shingy), and Katharine Bell of HBR (@katharineabell).
As a business leader and curator of community and content in the marketing industry, I was most inspired not so much by the "what" or the "who" of the conversation, but more the "how." Specifically, I was inspired by Vaynerchuk's recognition of the "sheer will" behind the recent innovative successes behind legacy brands, with a nod to CPG marketers such as Mondelez and PepsiCo. Indeed, sheer will is the most powerful driver of innovation.
To give context, Bough shared his sentiment that all CPGs in the grocery store will be connected to the internet by 2020. There was no refuting that "smart everything" was going to happen, and Vaynerchuk was quick to offer his foresight that the home will go smart before supermarkets, highlighting that "the milk man is coming back." What prompted an impassioned conversation was the fact that many brands, especially big brands and retailers, are holding themselves back and inhibiting progress. I appreciated Vaynerchuk's sentiment that, "If you are not looking to put yourself out of business, someone else will."
Having worked within and for many Fortune 100 brands, I realize that there are significant barriers to innovation and advancement at big brands. These include decades of infrastructure that is costly to change, legal and privacy concerns, and overall resistance from entrenched leadership. Here are a few questions that brands and marketers should be asking themselves:
- Is your market position holding you back? Start-up CPG brands are not afraid to lose shelf space. Are you?
- Do you have a strong story? Does your team believe it? Do your customers? Will they spread the word for you? You are always competing on price or story. Digital makes it easy to lose on price.
- Has leadership created an opportunity for innovation and disruption? Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) put it well: "Leadership has to create a space and incentivize will -- inspiring individuals to be a better them."
I'll leave you with this: Do you have the "sheer will" to succeed -- to drive the innovation that you know will make a difference? Ask yourself: Are you willing to lose your job for it?
I would love to see comments below regarding other brands and retailers that aren't afraid to disrupt everything that their leaders thought they knew.