The value of having close agency partnerships is unquestionable, but does this make them the best choice for innovation? Can the relationship be too close to really do something different and get your NPD to where it needs to be?
Great NPD is ground breaking, identifies new opportunities, and meets new consumer needs. Anything less will fail. But as innovation agencies or research agencies become closer to a business do they lose some of their ability to deliver this? Some of their impartiality? Some of their subversive thinking?
A partner innovation agency understands the limits within which your business operates, and so consistently works within them. In contrast, a new innovation agency is more likely to challenge those limits, push the boundaries and ask why those restrictions are there.
Knowledge of your consumers is fundamental and a partner innovation agency or research agency will certainly have that. But will they ask new questions, in a different way and challenge the existing consumer beliefs? Exploding consumer myths, which may have been in the business for years, can have a huge impact. We have seen entire business strategies change as consumer “truths” have been debunked and new insights identified and validated. An innovation agency with fresh ideas and different approaches is arguably in a better position to achieve this.
Familiarity with your category can be beneficial for a lot of research, but for innovation, questioning why the category behaves as it does, where it could stretch to next, where the product norms can be shifted to, can open up huge untapped opportunities.
So either you need to make sure that your current innovation agency is continuing to challenge your thinking and push the business’s boundaries, or look to commission a new innovation agency with no preconceived ideas and which will bring new perspectives and methodologies.