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Marketing procurement: Utility and commerciality - drivers of innovation

John Butcher
Dec 9, 2014 4:46:00 PM

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Proxima: Marketing Procurement

I attended the WARC prize for innovation awards yesterday evening, which certainly got me thinking about what innovation means to different people, companies and industries.

Three of the judges from the panel joined the event:

  • Nigel Jones - Global Chief Strategy Officer at Draft FCB + Inferno
  • Daniele Fiandaca - Co-founder at Creative Social
  • Lawrence Weber - Managing Partner Innovation at Karmarama

The judges opened with a discussion of what innovation meant to them. They did seem to align more closely with the Cambridge dictionary definition of innovation as “[the use of] a new idea or method”, and not simply the use of new technology. Daniele Fiandaca reinforced this by stating that one of the requirements for this year’s winners was to showcase the delivery of business results, not just innovation for innovations sake.

Nigel Jones expanded this point further touching on the “utility” of the campaigns. Utility Marketing is a marketing model that “takes into consideration how consumers feel about a product, the convenience of purchasing the product and obtaining the product when they want it”. It consists of four components – Time, Place, Possession and Form – you can read more on Utility Marketing here.

Utility and commerciality were two important themes for this year’s awards, and more surprisingly – themes that many of the 100+ award submissions failed to clearly showcase.

Of the 17 entrants who made it through to the award winning categories, technology often played an important role in supporting utility and commerciality – not the other way around. One of the winners - Lowe & Partners and PHD India / Unilever India – took the Channel Innovation Award for their campaign Kan Khajura Station: From the 'dark' to connectivity – which leveraged technology to engage with a hard to reach target audience, offering a free mobile-phone entertainment radio channel – funded by Unilever – for rural consumers who experience frequent, long power-outages.

The Grand Prix winning campaign/idea “Clever Buoy” (by M&C Saatchi Sydney and Optus Australia) combined all elements of utility, commerciality and technology to create a very practical, useful innovation (a buoy that detects sharks) to promote an idea and drive revenue – it is still early days to know whether the revenue bit has worked, the project has been given the green light to mass manufacture the “Clever Buoys” both across Australia and internationally.

Reflecting on all the award submissions, there was a clear lesson to be learned for procurement too, in pursuit of innovation.

From an external facing perspective, negotiating and managing agency performance should always be aligned with client impact – if the agency cannot articulate how it intends to bring utility and commerciality to the client, some hard questions need to be asked around performance management.

From an internal perspective - utility and commerciality should always be your start and end points when supporting your customers/stakeholders. How do your stakeholders ‘feel’ about what you do for them? Do they see you as a convenience, do you make their lives easier? Are you able to support / advise them in the most timely way possible? How does technology make all of this easier / better, if at all?

I’d welcome thoughts from anyone who might be going through an agency renewal / selection process – and how they are using utility or commercial indicators to connect cost and value/performance (please use the comment box below).

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