Collaborate To Innovate – Don’t Just Cannibalise

A very interesting article in HBR, Vicki Gardner highlights recent research from Nielsen showing that most of what is deemed marketing innovation actually just cannibalized existing products and market shares – and that genuine innovation should come from collaboration. As Gardner says; ” Regarding innovation, the numbers indicate that the vast majority of innovation also results in splitting the pie vs. growing the pie — and in some cases, innovation inadvertently shrinks the pie”.

The research is focused upon FMCG but does the same logic apply to other areas of marketing innovation too? How many technology and website releases are genuine innovations? How much of them, just pushed forward by fast processes to prove that the business is doing stuff? Gardner suggests that genuine collaboration is the key to ensuring marketing innovations lead to business growth. Collaboration between the brand and the retailer, exploring how new categories can be built, with new products, that do not damage existing lines and listings. Likewise, inside the business, collaboration between the marketing and sales departments too is a critical step in genuine innovation. Over the last decade, innovation has been the holy grail of marketing and I have not been to a marketing presentation where Apple, Google and Dyson are held up as the ideal. And indeed, these are truly innovative companies – who collaborate. Yet as this article points out many changes, tweaks and supposed innovations that are promoted by marketers and brands, are not really genuine, well thought through, consumer focused innovations – but merely more product tweaks and noise made to create supposed ‘we have news’ sales packs, presentations and media releases. Genuine innovation extends from collaboration – and that takes more patience, new creative thinking and time. This is the essence of what Gardener and the Nielsen report is suggesting. This is also a topic that I explored earlier in Partnerships Are The Key To Innovation and Feeling The Squeeze – Get Out More And the views of Stephen Johnson; Chance Favours The Connected Mind. For more information on partnership marketing and collaboration visit For the full article by Gardener see HBR’s  Collaborate to Grow the Pie, Not Just Split It.

Author: Andrew Armour

Andrew Armour is a marketing and media professional, a specialist in business partnerships and the Founder of the consulting business - Benchstone Limited. His career spans from the UK music industry to the America's Cup, from winning agency pitches to securing key digital content deals. He is married to Viv, lives in Hampshire and works in London.

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