Several years ago, I worked with a brand whose core ethos and product line was grounded in creating lasting bonds between pets and pet parents through treating. Everything they did promoted that caring, playful bond between owner and pet.

Except when it didn’t.

The brand had one line of vet-approved, clinically tested products for dogs that they sold under their core brand name. And so, as they went through portfolio reviews, they constantly had to justify this outlier product line as part of the brand, creating a force-fit. Yes, it helped pet parents care for their dogs, but in a “eat your vegetables” kind of way, not a “here’s a cookie” kind of way.

Should they have continued this line? Perhaps, if it’s a strategic play. If the brand wanted to expand how pet parents think about care to include science-based/vet-approved options, and evolve the role the brand plays in that exchange, adding a clinical line could be a good way to shift brand perception. In this case, the brand could leverage the technology, so they did, without deep thinking into the brand implications.

Brands have to walk that fine line, particularly as they think about innovation. How should the brand think about innovation? What does the brand represent today, and what is the vision for the future? How can brands stay aligned with their purpose and position while continually growing?

As brands look to innovate while keeping true to their brand purpose and promise, they need to ask themselves 5 questions.

  1. Do I understand the vison for the brand and what it should represent in the future? Is there a destination for the brand that innovation can help achieve?
  2. Is innovation a way to build brand value, or is innovation a signal of a shift in strategy? Is there a roadmap in place to help guide the year over year innovation pipeline?
  3. Is each new product/service/feature/experience in alignment with the brand, and does it move the brand forward on a strategic path?
  4. What strategic role does this specific innovation play? Sometimes innovation is required to fulfill a customer request. Just be clear about the purpose, and about the expected value. (And consider whether some customer-driven innovation is simply brand maintenance).
  5. Do the brand have permission to make a shift today? Or does the innovation roadmap need to provide a path to build credibility in a new territory?

Strategic planning is the place to start, with regular portfolio views, and ruthless culling of those innovations, features and ideas that do not support brand strategy.

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