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The 5 Simple Secrets of Innovative Ideas that Get Results

The 5 Simple Secrets of Innovative Ideas that Get Results

Have you have ever wondered why some innovative ideas are hugely successful while others are not?

Well… if you haven’t, you should.

Depending upon the source, statistics show that the failure rate for new, innovative ideas
(products, services, business models etc..) is an absolutely staggering 80% to 90%.

And although there are those who would have us believe (which I don’t) that the reports of innovation’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, where does that leave us?

With an innovation mortality rate of 70%?

Of 60%?

It’s shocking… even depressing. But think I know what’s going on…

The Simple Reason Why Most Innovative Ideas Fail

Why Most Innovative Ideas Fail

There is no doubt that there is an innovation crises afoot.

After all, even if we want to be extremely generous with the numbers, well over half of all innovation initiatives fail miserably. Which in turn means that well over half of the resources that organizations are investing in innovation is being flushed down the proverbial toilet.

Therefore, it may come as no surprise that although leaders all over the world are convinced that innovation is no longer a matter of choice but a matter of survival, most of us are also aware that 94% of global leaders surveyed are dissatisfied with their innovation performance (McKinsey).

And what makes performance dissatisfying? Lack of results. Lack of return on investment. Lack of positive payoff for the masses of time, money and resources that leaders all over the world have been pouring into the innovation bandwagon.

And what I find particularly frustrating is that the reason for this epidemic of ineptitude is not nearly as complicated as everyone might think.

Simply put, the reason why most innovative ideas fail is that they’re simply not innovative enough. #dare2bdifferent

Okay. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, so let me rephrase …

The reason why so many ideas that people think are innovative fail is that they’re simply not innovative enough. (The ideas… not the people… although that does beg a question for another time.)

For the purposes of the work we do here at the Innovation Advantage – and at the risk of over-simplifying what I admit is a complex concept – we believe that truly innovative ideas drive results. Big results. And if an idea doesn’t drive big results, that means the idea just wasn’t innovative enough. (And yes… although you can’t be just a little bit pregnant, you can be just a little bit innovative. We’ll stake our brand on it. Read on!)

And after 20 years of studying thousands of innovative ideas – including the successful, the semi-successful and the downright disastrous – we have reached the conclusion that there are 5 simple secrets to innovative ideas that get BIG results.

Five critical criteria that we call The Five ‘S’ SolutionTM


Diamond or Square

The year is 2006.

Hunter Somerville, a young intern with the Oglivy & Mather advertising agency, is sitting in his cubicle trying to come up with a fun, customer centric idea for the back of a box of cereal called Shreddies. (Shreddies is a Post brand sold mostly in Canada, the UK and New Zealand.)

In another room – probably a much larger room with lots of natural sunlight, way down the hall from Hunter’s cramped cubicle– senior execs are grappling with the ‘real’ Shreddies challenge: how to get more customers to buy more Shreddies more often given that sales volumes for the iconic 67-year old cereal had been declining 2% year over year for the last 8 years.

It was Hunter, however, with his photo of Stephen Colbert staring down at him from his wall, who was destined to discover the big, innovative idea that would turn Shreddies around – or at least turn them on their sides.

Diamond Shreddies.

Innovative Ideas

Now, perhaps you find yourself thinking, ‘Wait a minute. That’s the same cereal.’ And you would be right.

Diamond Shreddies were simply Square Shreddies turned on their sides.

But from the initial TV spot explaining that an accident at the plant had resulted in the extinction of Square Shreddies, to taste tests, viral videos and commentary on YouTube – not to mention hundreds of thousands of Canadians who registered their preference for Diamond over Square Shreddies on a brilliant and hysterical microsite, this campaign is a perfect example of an innovative, customer-centric idea that was destined to get great results right from the start. (Results like 18% increase in market share in the first month, sustained baseline increases for the following year and numerous awards for Ogilvy including the coveted Grand Prix Cassie award which recognizes the success of ad campaigns to increased business for the client. I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.)

And the reason that Diamond Shreddies was destined for success is that it met each of the 5 critical criteria that make up The Five ‘S’ SolutionTM. Five simple secrets that you can use in your organization to create innovative, customer-centric ideas that are destined to get BIG results.


The Five ‘S’ Solution

customer experience innovation

Think The Five ‘S’ SolutionTM as a customer-centric innovation checklist for success.

Imagine that they are the pillars that make up the foundation of any innovative strategy or idea. Plant all 5 firmly in the ground and your idea is sound and secure, ready to stand strong against the elements. Remove any one of them – or any number of them – and your BIG idea is left teetering in the wind, swaying precariously, and prone to collapse.


The first ‘S’ is…. Surprising: Because first you need them to stop.

surprise customers

In today’s noisy marketplace, a brand’s biggest challenge can be getting and keeping their customers’ attention. That means the first thing your innovative idea needs to do is to distract your customers from all distractions. To get them to stop and pay attention long enough to actually notice you.

Because if you can’t get noticed, you can’t get heard. And if you can’t get heard, you can’t get the job done.

I like to say that most of our clients and customers are in default mode when dealing with vendors –their brains using minimal amounts of attention like a computer that has been set to sleep. Their neurons are napping to preserve power and although there may be enough electro-chemical activity to process minimal information, their brain cells are basically on cerebral stand-by.

(No – I’m not a scientist but that’s my take on the situation and I’m sticking to it!)

And the only way to snap your customers out of their nap is to surprise them. To do something so totally unexpected that it will reboot their brains and call their cerebral cortex back to attention. Simply put, your customers’ brains crave surprises. And if you can’t step out of the ordinary and move past the predictable, your innovative ideas run the risk of remaining invisible to the very audience that you created them for.

The makers of Shreddies initially reacted to the decline in sales by holding focus groups to find out if shoppers had simply lost the taste for their product. As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with the taste of Shreddies. With the inevitable influx of so many new cereals appearing on the market every day, Shreddies had simply become invisible on the grocery store shelves.

In the same situation, many brands would have done the expected and launched a new brand extension to create a little excitement and drag shoppers’ attention back to their brand.

However, Shreddies had the courage to take the market completely by surprise, turning their cereal into a fake line extension and rewarding their customers with the pleasure of the unexpected.

Some people loved it. Some people hated it. It didn’t matter. It got noticed. Because whether people loved it or hated it, Shreddies had created a story that people felt compelled to share and share it they did.


Over and over and over again – making it no surprise that this innovative idea got such great results.


The second ‘S’ is … Strategic: Because being different for the sake of being different is irrelevant.

strategic customer innovation

So now that you have your target audience’s attention, what is it that you want them to do next?

You see, innovation isn’t about being different for the sake of being different. It’s about being strategically different. Different in the ways that you create, demonstrate and deliver value so that you can stand out in the marketplace and drive more customers, more revenue and more growth in your business. (That would be the whole results thing I was talking about.)

A Strategic idea is fanatically focused on driving results. It is an idea that has been deliberately designed to influence what your customers will think, feel and do NEXT so that not only will your message get noticed, it will also get retained and acted upon in a manner that is congruent with a specific and strategic business objective.

The specific and strategic business objective at the heart of Diamond Shreddies was to substantially increase brand awareness in ways that would not only halt the persistent decline in market share but would also turn the tide and increase sales by 4%.

The experience was strategically designed to jump off the shelves, demand the attention of shoppers, rekindle a warm connection with an old favorite and influence customers to buy more Shreddies!

18% increase in market share in the first month? I’d say that this innovative idea hit the Strategic bullseye.


The third ‘S’ is … Seductive: Because the why is always more important than the what.

seductive customer experiences

So, you have your customers’ attention… and you’ve made it abundantly clear what you want them to do. You’re good to go, right?

Well… not so fast.

Next you need to convince your customers to actually do what you want them to do… and this is where your powers of seduction must come into play.
When it comes to innovation, organizations are often perennially pre-occupied with WIFU (what’s in it for us) instead of being fanatically focused on WIFT (what’s in it for them.) And although you may be smitten with the what of your own ideas, your customers may not be smitten with the why of playing along.

Innovative ideas that get results have been deliberately designed to trigger the specific, seductive emotions required to influence your customers to ‘play along’.

Diamond Shreddies was deliberately designed to trigger a whole host of seductive emotions. Customers found themselves intrigued, involved, engaged, amused and in some cases, downright doubtful but most of all, Diamond Shreddies was just fun. (Do I hear Ice Bucket Challenge?)

The viral nature of the comments and the videos that flooded the marketplace were proof that endless numbers of consumers were seduced by the spoof. Even those who at first protested ‘They can’t be serious’, were quickly hooked by the staying power of the campaign proving that Diamond Shreddies and the art of seduction were indeed a match made in heaven.


The fourth ‘S’ is … Sustainable : Because even the best ideas need a built-in expiry date.

sustainable customer experience

You know that tub of yoghurt in your fridge that is way past its best before date and you really should have thrown it out but either you have completely forgotten about it or you have actually convinced yourself that expiry dates are a gimmick and it’s probably still ok to eat? (Okay… maybe it’s not yoghurt… but it’s something else. C’mon … fess up.)

Well… that is what often happens to even the most innovative of ideas.

Sustainable speaks to anticipating how long you have before your idea will be past its best-before date. Before it becomes so over-exposed that it ceases to be Surprising, Strategic or Seductive to its target audience.

Although Diamond Shreddies had more longevity that anyone expected at the start, the team behind the BIG idea was smart enough to know that even the most innovative idea couldn’t sustain those kinds of results forever and after 18 months, it was pulled. And I mean pulled. The cereal disappeared from grocery store shelves and empty boxes of Diamond Shreddies were selling for hundreds of dollars on Ebay – keeping the idea alive long after the results were in!


The fifth ‘S’ is … Simple : Because keeping it simple is simply the key to success

simple customer experience

Need I say more? The simplest ideas are always the best. Simple for you – the innovator. And simply for them – the customer.

Complexity kills engagement.

Every extra step in your idea is an exit ramp – an opportunity for your customer to disconnect and for their attention to be stolen away by the competition (even if that competition is an incoming text). No follow through? No results. It’s as simple as that.

It doesn’t get much simpler than Diamond Shreddies! A fun, slightly controversial campaign launched with a budget of about 1/3 of what it would have cost to do a legitimate line extension. A simple idea that was so contagious that once it was introduced to the marketplace, the media and the consumers did the rest of the work themselves. Simply brilliant!


No More Secrets

Innovative customer experience


Diamond Shreddies got BIG results because it met each of the critical criteria from The Five ‘S’ SolutionTM. It was Surprising, Strategic, Seductive, Sustainable and Simple.

According to a recent study, top innovators around the world are predicting growth of 62.2% and increased revenues of US$250 billion dollars over the next 5 years (PWC)

And now you know what they know.  (See? No more secrets!)

The only thing that remains is to ask yourself what you are prepared to do to ensure that your business is part of that trend.

Imagine the Possibilities!


2 Responses to “The 5 Simple Secrets of Innovative Ideas that Get Results”

  1. Toni, you make brilliant marketing seem so simple. Thank-you for your five S steps.Love the examples of the pizza magnets and the diamond Shreddies.In our world of quick fixes perhaps so many of us avoid the creative thinking and planning that innovation requires. You have provided nutritious food for thought as always. Thank-you.

    • Toni Newman says:

      Thank you so much Pauline. Yes… creating innovative experiences take times and forethought. But isn’t that the way with most things that drive results? It’s great to be able to react on the fly and have it pay off. But the greatest value usually occurs when we take the time to deliberately design these experiences. Thanks once again for the great and insightful comment. Keep them coming my friend. T!

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