Innovation for us is all about the brand. This is a huge advantages for businesses.

Florian Franik und Heike Schmidt
August 26, 2021

For us, innovation is an important part of brand development and brand strategy as a whole. Former Stan Hema partner Heike Schmidt discusses what this means with our Product and Innovation Strategist, Florian Franik.

Heike: Manufacturing companies, institutions, cultural and art projects are all driven by the same question: which benefits can our new product or service offer our target customers? And of course, this new offer also has to fit with the brand and become a part of it, isn’t that right Florian?

Florian: Yes, absolutely. User-centred thinking is at the heart of our work with innovation processes. Our way of bringing innovation into the brand context represents a huge advantage for our clients. Just as we think strategically and develop design, we are already working on the foundations for the further development of existing products or the creation of new ones. Rather than fishing around in a vast ocean of ideas, we concentrate on following one specific track.

Heike: I am convinced that concentrating on the key part of the innovation process helps a company make rapid decisions.

Florian: And the users are absolutely essential. That’s why we start with an innovation process driven by design, with the focus on the users. The two main questions here are always: What is happening outside the box? And what can the company or institution hope to “achieve”? Here is an example: many companies are overwhelmed by the question of what digitisation means for them. But when we look at this issue in combination with brand strategy and build on this as a basis, the options become clearer. Our innovation work is therefore in keeping with brand strategy and design. Ideally, both of these come from us and are therefore based on the same research. As an agency that focusses on the brand, this is the major advantage we can offer in the context of innovation.

Heike: Productive innovation processes must be in keeping with a brand’s mission statement and vision. If this is not the case, sooner or later it will become apparent that the process is not running smoothly from start to finish. If the brand is not coherent with its offer and communications, it will lose credibility with its target group.

Florian: As far as the process is concerned, there are two different approaches. Sometimes we start with a brand process and establish that there is potential for new products in this company or institution, in which case we support this process through to product development. We also offer support and advice to companies that want to change the way they work in order to make innovation possible in the first place. Then it's about methodology and ways of thinking – the mediation aspect.

Heike: So, a process is successful when a company accepts that markets and sectors are constantly changing and when the company is open to further developing itself and its offer.

Florian: A critical mass in the company must be willing to deal with this, to face this challenge, and even to say, “OK, this is the point at which we need help.”

Heike: One of our clients has put together a team with the concept: “We are responsible for innovation.” They work with us on questions like: “What kind of innovations do we want to come up with? And how can we do this without a huge cost outlay?” Prototyping, for example, is an important part of this process. As an agency, we help the team to make the right decisions and to get the right stakeholders or the right people from the team involved to allow the next steps to be taken. This is what classic innovation management is all about. Later on, it becomes more specific: What does a product actually need to provide? What are the tiny adjustments that need to be made? Does it need a special feature?

Florian: Timing is another important aspect. Is the market ready for what we are doing here? Research, participant observation and interviews help us to gain a better understanding of people’s needs.

Heike: As a design and brand agency we can then also close the loop. After all, in the end it is also about bringing the new product to the people. We need to find the right way to communicate this to the target group.

Florian: It's always about what people need. People, not users! That’s why I prefer to use the term human-centred design rather than user-centred design. Taken to the next level, we talk about xenodesign, or design that incorporates the world. How can we, as stakeholders, take nature into account? Or put more simply and controversially: you can’t make money while the world burns.

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Florian Franik
Product and innovation strategy


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