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Five strategies for creating successful brand innovation centres

04 January 2021
Customer innovation centre

Changes in customer experience design and technology over the past few years has led us to re-think the function and opportunity of physical brand spaces, in particular of brand innovation centres.

It has allowed us to move past linear, single function brand experiences and do more; a space can be multifunctional, with the physical and digital elements combined to tell a range of stories.

Earlier this year, we set out to explore how marketers view and utilise innovation centres, whether that may change given the challenging market conditions and what impact this has on innovation centres in the future.

Combining our detailed research with our expertise in designing and delivering these centres across the globe, here are five considerations when beginning your journey to create a world class innovation centre that can adapt and thrive, even in challenging circumstances.

1. Communication and company change go hand-in-hand

Changes to a company's positioning or brand perception drives the need for a new or reimagined innovation centre. The centre is then on the frontline of that change so it can, inpart, redefine your brand for both your customer and your employees.

Our research shows the key objectives for marketers are to build customer relations with facetime (ranked in the top 3 objectives by 49% of those surveyed); and Idea generation (38%). Interestingly, less about introducing the brand (27%) and creating sales leads (28%)*.

Brand innovation centres are no longer simply about communicating a company's history and capabilities. Today's cutting edge centres take the scale and capability of major organisations, and promote co creation with a large range of audiences.

2. Tell the right stories

In a large organisation every voice wants to be heard, but telling every company story and showing every product isn’t possible. Prioritise by thinking about what your customers are interested in first and foremost, then curate your content accordingly.

Storytelling and ideation are considered the second and third most impactful activities during visits to innovation centres*.

Having a great host is so important to tell your story in a compelling way. Our research shows host interaction has the highest customer impact. They guide the conversation so it is relevant and memorable for the guests and we can enable their success by creating the tools to help them do this.

3. Don’t use new technology for the sake of it

Currently only 30% of Innovation Centres use emerging technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence and projection mapping. By 2025 that is expected to rise to 85%*.

Hero activations using emerging technology, when done well, are highly engaging and memorable. However, remember all the activations in your experience centre need to be maintained and updated. On a practical level, ongoing support and maintenance costs should be factored in from the outset. It is better to have a small number of amazing technological activations that you can maintain in the long term, so when 2025 arrives you are not the one left behind.

4. Future proof and scalable is by design not by chance

Think ahead in your approach.

Most organisations operate up to 5 innovation centres globally and four fifths think this is likely to increase by 2025*.

Design not only for now, but what is next, in terms of locations and scale. All of this needs to be thought of ahead of time and you should work with your partner so they understand your short and long term ambitions and help you become future proof.

5. You are just as important as the partners you use

Have a vision, commit to it and be brave in doing so. The partner you work with will need someone to offer clear objectives and direction. They will need support in navigating multiple internal stakeholders across the business. Your understanding of customers will be pivotal as your partner agency builds out the customer journey and identifies innovation storytelling opportunities. Working together we can keep the experience human focused.

If you’re interested in hearing more about how we work with the world’s biggest businesses to create market-leading innovation centres, please get in touch with your local office.

*Imagination’s Innovation Centres research was conducted globally in 2019-2020. Please contact us to find out more.