‘Innovation,’ particularly in the workplace, has become both a byword for success, and a business buzzword. But what does it actually mean to be innovative?
“Innovation is seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought”.
Albert Szent-Györgyi, Nobel prize-winning biochemist
This word often inspires ideas of ground-breaking technology and generation-defining inventions, this is far from the only route to bringing innovation to market. It’s problem-solving at its highest, most effective level – and according to the innovation matrix, there are four ways to do this; through incremental, disruptive, architectural, or radical means. Audio is a common feature in each of these categories, with breakthroughs in sound occurring across the entire spectrum. And as we’ll discover, audio branding is a powerful way for every business to fuel their own incremental innovation.
From space travel to the iPod, radical innovations are the showstoppers that – as Steve Jobs phrased it – ‘put a ding in the universe.’ They’re rare and revolutionary, addressing longstanding, global issues, and sometimes solving challenges had never even been considered. Most importantly, these innovations are transformative – often changing the way we communicate, how the world functions, and even leading to accelerated economic growth. The phonograph, invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison, did all three and more; establishing the music industry as we know it today. And we don’t have to go that far for more radical innovations in audio – just look to Spotify. Founded less than 15 years ago, the streaming giant has made an inexhaustible catalogue of artists, songs, and genres accessible to all, completely re-conceptualizing the way we listen to and collect music in a relatively short space of time.
When a new technology or business enters an established market with an attempt to create a new value network, we get disruptive innovation. It’s about finding a gap in an existing, lucrative product or service, and adding a new component that taps into what the mainstream wants – and while it can be risky, it promises a huge payoff when executed successfully. Netflix is a prime example – initially, it was a mail-in movie subscription service envisioned to rival Blockbuster. Now arguably the biggest media outlet in the world, we might never have heard of it had it not utilised technology that already existed in the iPod to bring streaming to the mainstream. And following the iPhone’s irreversible disruption of the mobile phone market, it put a listening device in the palm of everyone’s hand – leading to the current boom in audio and podcast consumption.
Architectural innovation is about working with existing product technologies, taking the most successful components, and reconfiguring them into an improved end result. The prime example is memory foam – developed by Nasa in the 1970s to improve crash protection, then going on to gain global commercial appeal in the mattress industry. The growing use of voice recognition tech is perhaps more topical– and something we’re particularly interested in at PHMG. Smart speakers are only getting smarter, and are now being widely incorporated into all manner of technologies like the Echo Auto. Connecting Alexa to your car, this device allows you to play music, listen to the news, make calls, set reminders, and more, all from behind the wheel.
While these other more dramatic forms of innovation can be rare, incremental is the more common, gradual, and short-term improvement of existing products or services. Vitally, it increases value to a company’s most important customers… their current ones. And an incremental innovation available to every business is audio branding. Utilising the existing platform of the telephone, productions like these introduce audio content when callers are greeted, being connected, or when a call can’t be answered. And by combing inspiring copy, voice artistry and music, they do this in the most emotive and memorable way. This adds value for the caller by keeping them engaged and informed, strengthening communication. And for the business, it builds brand identity, and increases sales inquiries by informing callers of additional services. Just like some of the examples above, it’s an ideal way to differentiate yourself from the competition, marking yourself as a business that sees… thinks… and does.
If there’s one final takeaway from this exploration, it’s that however far we’ve come, there are always exciting developments on the horizon. Clubhouse could be the next disruptor in the app market… and there’s so much scope for Alexa to evolve into something new. Yet in the meantime, every company can fuel their own incremental innovation by embracing audio branding as part of the caller experience.