By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
In today’s highly competitive economic environment, it seems companies are increasingly under pressure to ``innovate or die.’’
Trendwatching.com, a leading independent consumer trends firm, said that innovation is the only way to survive.
In its latest briefing report, Trendwatching shows how companies from all over the world are introducing ``on trend’’ innovations, such as brands, goods and services that cater to consumers’ wants and needs.
Innovation is not just about creating new products, but also about marketing; and it does not have to cost a lot.
``Marketing innovation is equally important, and often trumps technical innovation... Doing or starting something new doesn't have to cost the world. Many of the innovations featured in this briefing thrive on nimbleness and creativity, not huge budgets,’’ Trendwatching added.
One growing trend is that hotels and restaurants are offering events that help customers upgrade their skills. In the U.S., the Seattle Sorrento Hotel offers cultural ``night school’’ where it invites artists, writers and other experts, and hotel guests for an evening of intellectually stimulating discussions. Spanish restaurant chain Fresc Co. has started giving free English language lessons.
Consumers are also being encouraged to show their charitable and generous side, with the help of companies. Choose Change ATM allows users to donate $1 of every $2 transaction fee to a charity that champions disaster aid, poverty eradication and human rights. In Brazil, the Favela Painting project hopes to transform the slums of Rio de Janeiro by recruiting local residents to paint their homes in bright colors, including training and payment.
Localization of products and services is also becoming important for multinational companies. This is seen as a way of fostering brand loyalty in the country where they operate.
Nestle launched 19 new KitKat flavors in Japan, but each flavor is sold exclusively in a particular region. There’s cherry KitKat in Yamagata Prefecture, baked corn KitKat on Hokkaido island, as well as green tea, wasabi, apple and miso flavors in other regions.
Innovations are also trying to make life simpler and easier for consumers. Beauty chain Sephora has introduced vending machines selling special portable sizes of Calvin Klein’s CK One perfume in subway stations in Paris. In London, an iPhone application called ``Tube Refund’’ allows subway riders to easily get compensated for delays on the London Underground.
Customized and personalized products don’t seem to ever go out of style. Japanese company Otete & Anyo makes personalized stamps of babies’ hand and footprints. Anyone obsessed with Twitter and Facebook can now have a notebook customized with their tweets and status updates through BookofFame and TweetNotebook.
Companies are also trying to answer consumers’ demand for timely and relevant information. DailyRoads Voyager, a free application for Android-powered smartphones, allows continuous video recording for cars and vehicles. Otarian’s restaurants in New York and London give diners information about their carbon footprint for every menu item.
Crowds are increasingly influencing the way online companies are doing business. SyncFu is a widget that any online retailer can set up, allowing bargain-hunting customers a chance to join forces to get a volume discount.
Innovative eco-friendly products and services are also a continuing trend. Ford developed a ``MyFord Touch’’ technology that gives drivers real-time advice on optimizing their fuel economy performance. U.K.’s Orange partnered with renewable energy experts GotWind to create Wellington boots for Glastonbury rock festival goers. The boots have a power-generating sole that converts heat from the wearer’s feet into electrical current to charge a mobile phone.
Companies are increasingly aware of the value of ``tryvertising,’’ wherein consumers are allowed to try products before it hits the shelves. In Brazil, Clube Amostra Gratis offers an assortment of new products that registered customers can try before it is sold in stores.
New ideas are helping consumers earn money instead of spending it. Israel’s Fiverr created an online marketplace where anyone can sell a service for $5. British chocolate retailer Hotel Chocolat invited customers to buy bonds, which will give chocolate as its returns.