Prioritizing Innovation: A Q & A with Melissa Tischler of Lippincott

By Richard Larsson, SVP AW360 at Advertising Week

Melissa Tischler is Senior Partner of Innovation at global creative consultancy, Lippincott. As an entrepreneur-turned-innovation strategist, Melissa’s experience spans industries, geographies and scale. From creating a global food and beverage incubator for Marriott to developing a product pipeline for ShopRite’s new private label brands, she specializes in transformational innovation strategies that unlock potential.

We spoke with Melissa about her Principles for Driving Innovation-Led Growth, why brand is an essential input to innovation and how prioritizing innovation today can unlock growth for tomorrow.

Q: From what I understand, your focus at Lippincott is to help clients create new experiences, businesses, and products, and help businesses unlock the potential of their brands. What has the process been like throughout the past year, taking recent events into consideration?

To me, the innovation challenges clients are bringing to us to solve are consistent with those we saw pre-pandemic, but the aperture of our response to those challenges has widened.

Now, in a post-COVID world, it’s more important than ever to build truly omnichannel experiences that can be rich, enjoyable, and intuitive across platforms. That includes digital, in-person engagements, modified in-person engagements, or modified in-person spaces, and more. For example, when it comes to retail, the in-store experience is only one piece of a larger puzzle. What’s the experience when an item is picked up curbside or delivered to a customers’ home? How does the in-store experience change, but stay fulfilling, when customers are avoiding crowded spaces?

This past year has also led us to pretty dramatically alter the way we’re working with clients. Being 100 percent remote has given us the opportunity to build out and pilot new digital tools to allow remote ideation and collaboration. It’s great to say that we now feel as comfortable working on a project fully remote as we did in person.

Q: Tell me about your recent article, “Principles for Driving Innovation-Led Growth.” What led you to write about the common pitfalls’ innovators face?

I look at this in two ways. Because I observe and work with clients spanning various industries, I’m in a unique position to identify commonalities in the things they get right, but also their pain points when it comes to innovation.

Innovation as a discipline has matured and advanced over the last decade, yet innovation failure rates continue to hover around 90 percent. That’s a really high number, and my hope is to help companies beat the odds by shedding light on common pitfalls that can be avoided.

Q: How important is it to link your brand’s purpose with your innovation process?

Our view of innovation is a bit different at Lippincott. It requires consideration of where a brand exists today and where it might go in the future. We view innovation and brand as inextricably linked and find that the best results come from a collaboration between the two disciplines. Innovation is as much a brand challenge as it is a challenge to drive revenue. The most successful solutions ultimately do both.

Q: It’s apparent that brands are having a harder time now than ever before in creating meaningful innovations. What are your tips for brands feeling constant pressures to come up with “what’s next”?

It’s tempting to focus on “what’s next”, but the more helpful questions to explore are what progress people are looking to make in their lives and what is the purpose your brand is looking to fulfill. Our model of Go-to Brands helps break this down.

This model says that the best brands, those that become our ‘go-to’ partners as we conduct our lives, strike a powerful balance in offering connection and progress. While it is easy to assume innovation teams should be focused on delivering progress and brand teams should be focused on delivering connection, we would argue that both need to deliver on both. The separation of these two responsibilities is the trap that sends innovators off to try to out-feature one another and leaves brand owners thinking their job begins and ends with marketing. Innovation needs to create connection while enabling progress.

When done well, innovation resets customer expectations. Customers have a fundamentally new view of how things should work and a new understanding of a brand and why it is right for them. Anything new we’re creating needs to be deeply resonant in the way it understands and reflects the values of the end users, but also needs to be designed to offer a better way of doing things. This dual ambition of creating progress as well as connection leads brands to solve the same challenge in dramatically different ways, each reflecting their individual brand purposes and the unique needs of their customers.

Q: Should brands attempt to innovate now even when the future is unknown? What advice would you provide?

Absolutely. I would say it’s even more important to innovate now, particularly in times of rapid change. The brands that are not looking to evolve how they go to market, how they connect with people, or how they respond to the changing needs of consumers are going to be left behind, offering something that is no longer relevant.

Q: Lippincott’s innovation practice has worked with some iconic brands in its history – what’s the key to developing a brand that will have longstanding appeal with consumers across generations?

Our model of Go-to Brands is especially applicable here. For most people, only a few brands have real meaning. These are brands we love for how they connect to us, and how they help us do what we previously couldn’t. We call them Go-to Brands, and by creating connection and delivering progress, they earn the permission to innovate beyond category boundaries and also build the goodwill needed to withstand changing markets. These are the brands that stand the test of time.

Q: What has been your favorite brand project and why?

Working with Wakefern has been a fantastic challenge and a satisfying opportunity to see quick impact. It’s the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the U.S., with 350+ independently owned and operated ShopRite supermarkets. They tapped us to help them drive growth in an increasingly competitive market, knowing they needed to give more attention to innovation across their product lines and in-store experience. They really gave us room to shake things up; this included creating a new set of owned brands, building a full pipeline of new products and piloting a new in-store experience. It’s one of those projects where we were able to touch so many aspects of the customer experience, take them to market in record time, and produce some amazing results.

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