Innovation Matters: Five Kernels of Wisdom for Teams to Work Faster & Better

Innovation Matters: Five Kernels of Wisdom for Teams to Work Faster & Better

Study People. Examine Brands. Explore Culture.

Disruption is something we can count on, but are we able to innovate fast enough to keep up – or fast enough to future-proof against the inevitable disruption? The trick is in the teamwork, and building a team where nimble, creative functionality can thrive. Here are five things you can do to bolster your big ideas and ensure continual creativity in your organization:

Look at the Big Picture

If your innovation team is just playing defense and responding to disruption in the marketplace, you are operating in a reactive environment and lacking the space need for creative thought. By being proactive and providing the space for innovation, not only can you future-proof your brand or product – you could even surprise the marketplace by being the one to set the standard for what’s trending and what to anticipate. When innovation is given the space to transform, you can go beyond mere incremental response and move into a space of complete disruption.

Hire Innovators

What kind of people have the ability to zoom out, look at the big picture and apply creativity for trend- setting innovation? Passionate people with diverse viewpoints! When your team is comprised of individuals with a wide range of experience and multiple points of view – who are all deeply engaged with your company offerings – you create an environment ripe for innovation to flourish. Allow these passion-powered people to play a role in setting the pulse for your company. Give space to make this creativity part of the company culture. Make participation in constant innovation the norm, so you can keep a finger on the pulse – both current and future – of your key audiences and targets.

Create Innovation Structures

Structured innovation sounds counter-intuitive, but structure can help us measure against our goals. Having an innovation structure in place can also give teams the time and space they need to innovate and the information they need to change course if progress is lagging. One effective way to structure team innovation is through agile “work sprints”. Teams identify a problem to solve, break it down and assign responsibilities. They then set a very limited time frame to accomplish a specific goal. The team members then gather to present their solutions and share ideas. All stakeholders evaluate progress, suggest refinements and develop the next goal. Using a structured approach to innovation can drive creativity, ownership and boost innovation success rates.

Look at Leadership

Effective innovation leadership has the ability to unite multiple teams across diverse company departments. They create alignment in company vision, goals and responses to disruption across various groups – investment to R&D to marketing – so workflows can be streamlined and visions are paralleled. Hire and promote great innovation leaders that allow space for creativity — including mistakes, as this is sometimes the genesis of the most forward-thinking ideas.

Look at Individuals

Individuals need space to flourish, and they also need incentive and support to continue innovating. Because creativity can make people vulnerable, you must make your team members feel protected and supported. One great way to achieve this is with a “no idea is a bad idea” mindset. Structuring formal incentive programs also never hurts to motivate individuals. These incentives could be anything from new, exciting spaces to work, internal company awards, trips, etc. Any recognition for innovative thinking will be a good motivator to keep the ideas coming.

Check out our Field Guide to Innovative Thinkingto help your team crack the nut!

Case Study: Ice Cream Meets Art

How does one craft ice cream company stand out?
Download the case study to find out how we worked with a brand to relaunch and encourage consumers to #cravetheunexpected!

Marketing to the Generations: Answering Unique Wants and Needs

Marketing to the Generations: Answering Unique Wants and Needs

Study People. Examine Brands. Explore Culture.

Marketing to generational wants and needs is an ever-changing process, with trends emerging around every corner. Regardless of age, technology is no longer thought of as being a separate part of life—it IS life, so brands need to offer experiences that are seamlessly integrated between platforms, content and product offerings. How this is done varies across life stages, as attitudes towards retail vary. 

Generation Alpha (2012-now)

Probably the least talked about generation is comprised of those who aren’t “consuming” anything on their own quite yet, but we can be sure of one thing: they will. These young children, many just now entering school, are anticipated to be the most digitally immersed and the most wealthy of all the generations. Technology will be a way of life for them in a way that even Millennials and Gen Z won’t understand, and brands will need to adapt to both the spending power and the technologically driven mindset of those growing up in a fully “connected” world.
Brand Tip: Plan now for the spending power of this group as they approach more autonomy.

Centennials or Generation Z (Born 2000-2012)

The ethnically and racially diverse Gen Z has grown up with social media and have never lived a minute without mobile devices and technological connectivity. Like their Gen X parents, they care deeply about social responsibility and how brands meet their commitments to doing good in the world. Also known as “digital natives”, they are completely comfortable with digital interfaces in physical storefronts
Brand Tip: Begin to develop the highly personalized and targeted experiences this generation expects.

Millennials or Generation Y (Born 1980-1999)

Want to use emerging technologies to support and promote your brand? This approach will resonate with the millennial crowd. Their openness to technology—and lack of need for human interaction—is a trend that is driving change across the entire shopping landscape. Like no generation before them, the Millennials have overturned the way brands do business. And like predictions surrounding their Generation Alpha children, they will embrace new technology right as it emerges.
Brand Tip: Have your eye on the trends and future of tech at all times.

Generation X (Born 1965-1979)

There was a significant time in the lives of most Generation Xers when they weren’t bombarded with all things digital, but it’s been around long enough to be part of everyday activities for them. This means this powerful generation responds to both digital and traditional marketing. Currently at their maximum money-earning potential, this group exhibits an extremely high level of brand loyalty, while also valuing authentic interactions and looking for brands that can speak their language.
Brand Tip: Focus on uncovering what resonates and will resonate with this generation to maintain loyalty for the future.

Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)

Boomers are entering retirement age at a rapid rate, in fact, each day 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 in the United States alone. Their lifestyle and spending habits are changing so quickly that brands need to be nimble to keep up with this market segment. The industry must meet this large generation where they are headed in order to keep them spending. Marketing that addresses challenges like increased health concerns and fixed income requirements should be deftly balanced with the group’s overall desire to stay active and engaged. 
Brand Tip: Be nimble as you anticipate the needs of this generation, and changing spending habits.

Trends & Predictions for the Female Shopper

Trends & Predictions for the Female Shopper

Study People. Examine Brands. Explore Culture.

What women want matters to your brand, no matter the arena or category. Through our brand research work we’ve found this premise rings true, year after year, and 2019 is no different. Join us as we delve into the power of the female retail shopper, tracking trends and making predictions that matter for your business. Here is a quick look at some of the top areas we think will be influenced by your target audience in the coming year.

Impact of the Trust Economy

With so much mistrust in the world today (fake news!), consumers are demanding transparency. This means when they make a purchase, they want to understand where it came from and how it was made. We will continue to see this demand grow in 2019, especially among female shoppers who have been shown to value trustworthiness in brands. Their decision-making input is coming more and more from online reviews, social media, and online “experts” and advocates, as distrust of governmental, traditional and large corporate institutions grows. Some smart brands have embraced transparency, making sure they have publicity surrounding sourcing, manufacturing and all other details of getting their product ready to sale.

Emphasis on Social Responsibility

According to the 2018 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Premium Index, Americans prioritize companies that are responsible (86%), caring (85%), advocate for issues (81%), protect the environment (79%) and give back to important causes (73%). Companies trying to reach women, a population shown to have more affinity for social responsibility themes, will continue to align with initiatives that reflect women’s values and that positively impact their brand reputation.

Focus on Product Sustainability

In the face of increased global climate change, rising populations and dwindling resources, many shoppers are choosing social responsibility and are interested in buying products that show environmental commitment. It’s clear that brands are taking note of this trend with more and more business trying to attain B Corp designation and the rise in brands taking a stand for environmental causes (think Patagonia). A shift toward sustainability, and the marketing surrounding this shift, could be the key factor that lures a buyer into the realm of elusive brand loyalty.

Increased Demand for Personalization

Consumers expect their needs to be met instantly in highly relevant ways. Personalized experiences, both online and in store, will become more important. Studies continue to show that thoughtful personalization builds trust and loyalty among consumers. This can mean everything from pertinent products being offered based on specific, individual shopping behavior to a seamless payment and shipping experience.

Seeking the Human Connection

Many people, including women shoppers, are starting to see the price of digital connectivity: lack of human contact. With all the ways that technology connects us and makes the shopping experience more convenient, fast and efficient, many still seek meaningful human interaction on some level. Brands would do well to note this need and create ways to spark real conversation and connection that doesn’t rely solely on technology.

The Rise of the Urban Baby

The Rise of the Urban Baby

Study People. Examine Brands. Explore Culture.

We’ve all seen it, dogs—and sometimes even other furry kinds of companions—in strollers, carseats, at the salon, dressed to impress… the rise of the “urban baby” is real! Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Here is a quick look at some of the trends we’ve seen in retail and services as we continue to “humanize” our fuzziest family members.

Keeping Healthy

In a recent study, nearly 70% of dog owners said they would maintain spending on pet health regardless economic downturn. To put this statistic in perspective, spending on Mother’s Day declined by 10% when the economy slowed. Leading to the question: “is pet health more recession-proof than mothers?” And it’s true, we’ve seen more specialized healthcare services for pets, and hey – if you like your FitBit, now you can get one for your dog too, called a FitBark. Pet parents are also downloading nutrition and vet telemedicine apps to help maintain their best friends’ health.

Tech and the Pet

Speaking of apps, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of pet-related apps hit the downloads lately. Dig is a dog-person dating app, SpotOn is a Lyft-type service that enables safe travel with your fur baby including onboard comforts, Petchatz is a video skype app to let you connect with your home alone pet, among others. More than 40% of you pet owners are interested in installing pet monitoring cameras in your homes, or even a digital tracking device for your dog or cat to see where your best friend is headed at all times.

Getting Spoiled

Professional dog walking, professional pet photographers, professional pet bloggers… things that used to be hobbies or chores have gone mainstream to become careers, with high standards. Since we view our pets as family members, we hire professionals to make their lives better especially with our increasingly busy lives. Grooming is also a growing industry, with mobile spas, salons, all-natural products—and celebrities jumping on the bandwagon like Real Housewives’ Lisa Vanderpump’s dog spa and line of organic pet spa products.

The Furry Foodie

All-natural isn’t just about grooming products, with the rise of the “free-from” food movement traditional pet foods are slowly declining in sales, while pet parents start to opt for raw, fresh and organic, even vegan, diets for their fur children. In fact, 70 percent of us who follow a special diet put our pet on a special diet too, such as organic. Pet food is big business, with the global pet food market expected to be worth $98.81 billion by 2022. 

Brand Research v. Competitive Intelligence: How Well Do You Know Your Own Brand?

Brand Research v. Competitive Intelligence: How Well Do You Know Your Own Brand?

Intelligence is always far more valuable than assumptions. There’s a line between brand research and competitor intelligence, and it’s not a very thin one. Let’s take a look at the difference between brand research (also known as market research) and competitor research (also known as competitive intelligence) and how insights from these valuable sources can help your company advance.

What is Market Research?

Market research is information your company acquires in hopes of beating your competition. Research data helps you learn the behaviors and attitudes of your customers. Past behaviors are analyzed to predict how customers will behave in the future. Once a solid prediction is made of how customers will behave, you can draft a marketing plan to entice customers to make a purchase.

There are multiple measurement tools that you can use. Some of these include:

  • Discriminant analysis
  • Cluster analysis
  • Conjoint analysis
  • Factor analysis
  • Multidimensional scaling


The Importance of Deeper Research

When it comes to research, deeper is always better. In-depth research clarifies the picture of how your business should operate in the future. Utilizing the above measurement tools to inform your market research is a good starting place, but you’re wise to take it further. A detailed, actionable plan based on your research helps limit casualties and gives your company an edge over other industry competitors. That’s where competitive intelligence comes in.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

While market research is tactical, competitive intelligence takes “tactical” to a whole new level. Highly strategic in nature, competitive intelligence assembles information in a fashion that provides in-depth insight regarding your firm’s stakeholders and influencers. Competitive intelligence research studies draw on supplier performance, financial data, investment plans, expansion documents and plans, and more. These insights help you develop tailor-made competitor profiles that you can use to create effective operational strategies for winning customers and increasing revenue.

Effective competitive intelligence provides an elaborate landscape of the competition, enabling your organization to look ahead to determine which marketing rollouts will be most effective at winning over customers. All of this translates into the ability to create an accurate prediction of the future market in which your company will operate.

How to Draft a Useful Competitive Landscape

Generating a competitive landscape overview can be daunting, and it does require a lot of work. However, applying a disciplined methodology to your work will pay off by enabling you to compare apples-to-apples offerings in products, pricing and brand communications. Here’s how to get started:

  • Study the websites of your competitors
  • Follow competitors on their social media profiles
  • Subscribe to the mailing lists of your competitors
  • Conduct keyword searches on relevant industry keywords
  • Distribute online surveys
  • Use Google Alerts
  • Obtain regular reports from the sales force
  • Purchase competitive products
  • Discuss business challenges with distribution partners

When you have assembled the information, begin dividing it into silos based on theme or findings. A picture will soon begin to emerge: who is selling what to whom–and how your business can move into the white space.

Where to Start?

Your first step should be to form a strategy team to implement competitive intelligence research, which should include senior executives. This team will identify the business and financial aspects of industry competitors, including what they are investing in and what their margins are. These processes can help decision-makers better understand their operations and reflect on changes that support a more competitive position in the marketplace.

At a product level, a competitive intelligence team will use research findings within product development operations and product testing. On a market level, your research will deliver relevant insight relating to the price, product, placement, and promotion of the products/services your firm is selling.

Not comfortable conducting market research or competitive intelligence on your own?
Big Squirrel can help you gain an edge.
We’re experts in obtaining relevant, targeted insights by studying people and competitorsexamining your brand and exploring  culture.

Real Brand Insights From Real People: Why Big Brands Trust Big Squirrel

Real Brand Insights From Real People: Why Big Brands Trust Big Squirrel

On-point branding doesn’t just give your company a competitive edge – it’s an absolute requirement if you want your business to succeed in today’s market. Being on-point means creating authentic resonance with the consumer. It’s a tall order for advertising alone, but when you craft a brand story that spans your entire set of customer touch points, you create an opportunity for greater connection to your brand.

Big Squirrel Accomplishes Big Things

At Big Squirrel, establishing real connections between brands and their customers is exactly what we do. Throughout our years in the business, we’ve cracked some seriously tough nuts for major clients like Nike, PepsiCo, Zales, Maidenform, ABC FamilyHanes and others. These brands understand the value of getting to the heart of what really matters to their consumer.

Big brands come to us with major challenges and trust that we’ll glean real insights from real customers to help them create an authentic, impactful brand strategy.

We gather meaningful, influential and authentic brand insights through ethnographic research techniques.

Here are a few of the specific ways we help big brands expose exactly what their customers want:

  • Cultural Immersion
    Customers don’t rush to discuss their unmet needs. They’re too busy living their lives. Cursory research techniques fall short because customers lose interest quickly or deliver the answers they think the researcher wants to hear. We counteract this challenge by embedding ourselves into customers’ lives. We take the time to experience the world as they do and see your brand through their eyes. Instead of limiting ourselves to simply asking questions, direct observation and experience generates personalized feedback that leads to true insight.
  • Personal Interviews
    Consumer decision-making is a complex journey. By visiting consumers where they live, work, play and shop, we discover firsthand the thought processes that inform their decision to commit to–or reject–a product. We emerge with authentic, unscripted information that reveals more intimate details than a focus group ever could. Understanding these step-by-step nuances helps big brands discover exactly how to deliver an experience that resonates more deeply with their customer.
  • Virtual Communities
    Catch them in the right environment, and people love to talk. Social media is an invaluable platform to expose consumers’ true sentiments about people, products, brands and culture. By providing a comfortable environment where consumers can express themselves freely, you’ll gain access to a trove of unbiased truths. Using social media as a tool, we facilitate unique, cross-cultural conversations. This outlet encourages deeper exchanges between real people and reveals dynamic thinking, ideas, opinions, intentions and attitudes.
  • Attentive Observation
    At Big Squirrel, we’re expert observers. We gather important information about a brand’s health and status beyond the board room; we reveal what’s happening in the real world. These stories deliver deeper insights for marketing teams to use as their springboard.

Big brands know how critical it is to unearth the unseen realities of consumers. Are you ready to optimize your marketing and branding strategy around real stories and real truths? Whether you’re a Fortune 500 leader or an emerging startup, the first step is to start thinking big.