Video – in praise of innovation constraints

In Switzerland a tiny village of 80 people spent just CHF10,000 and gained over CHF2.4million of media exposure from a very simple marketing campaign.  I love this story as it shows that you don’t need to spend the bank in order to get great results – often it’s the reverse.  Limited resources force you to think more creatively and the results can far exceed what you’d create if you had an unlimited budget.  Enjoy the video…

Jung von Matt/Limmat: Obermutten. A little village goes global. – YouTube.

The game of saving

On a trip to London a while back I had a coffee with Matt Webb. One of the things I mentally bookmarked was a reference he made to a Nintendo game which featured paying off the mortgage. He was referring to Animal Crossing. I’ve finally had the time to do some research on this and it’s fascinating. You start the game by getting a house – and have to pay off the debt before you can move on. It’s set in a cartoon style setting and apparently is very addictive.

Save me!

There’s a good overview here.

If you look around, financial education ‘games’ are appearing in some interesting places. For example, how about a game on a piggy bank to encourage saving? Look no further than Japan for this little gem :

The Jinsei Ginko is a white cube-shaped bank that accepts only ¥500 coins. It can save up to 200 coins, or ¥100,000 ($830 at ¥120 to the dollar). On the front is a black-and-white LCD screen like that of a handheld game device, which depicts the life of a stick-like character.

Health insurance innovation

While in India a couple of weeks ago I noticed a billboard which advertised discounted health insurance for diabetics. It’s an interesting development in an industry which is not widely seen as being innovative.

By offering health insurance for specific illnesses, the company no doubt adjusts it’s premiums and cover. However it’s a clever approach and targets the niche other companies would penalise.

I’ve not seen this type of offering before, and I’m wondering if health insurers in other parts of the world also target specific illnesses?

Here’s the link.

This is NOT innovation

The overuse of the word ‘innovation’ is still annoying me. So much so that I’m going to start the thread – “This is NOT innovation.”

Contestant one – step right up.

This is NOT innovation

I’m happy to be informed why the ‘i’ word has been added to this product (if you cannot see it, it’s just above the large Garnier brandname on a white background).

This is not innovation

For a while now I have been toying with the idea of starting coverage of advertisements which use the word “innovation” in them, and running a critique. As you might anticipate, this was going to fall under the category of “This is not innovation.”

Why do this?

It’s linked to the innovation backlash that BusinessWeek has covered. Maybe it’s because I’m sensitive to it, but I feel that the word ‘innovation’ has crept into ad agencies default vocab. I can picture a couple of uber-creatives in black polo necks staring at some copy about 2am in preparation for an early morning pitch. The conversation goes like this :

Uber #1 : “It doesn’t really….errr…do it for me.”
Uber #2 : “Yeees. It doesn’t grab me either.”
Uber #1 : “Haaaang on!”
Uber #2 : “What???”
Uber #1 : “We haven’t used the word ‘innovation’ in there anywhere”
Uber #2 : “Damn. You’re soooo good.”

But I digress. “This is not innovation” is on hold because over at Endless Innovation Dominic has looked at three “innovation” ads in a recent copy of Fortune. He looks at how the ads project the innovation story. Take a look…

Penguin books feature DIY covers

The excellent trend watching site PSFK points out that Penguin books in the UK is now leaving some of it’s book covers blank so that people can create their own. This is an interesting extension of crowd sourcing, and has parallels with the Japanese trend for unique book covers I wrote about previously.

It also is a perfect example of type of thing that this HBS article refers to :

For user innovation to be a force, the cost of creating a new design must be within the reach of a single user, whose reward is solely the improvement of his or her own experience.

Have a look at the gallery that Penguin has created so that people can upload their own cover art. I’ve copied an example below :

Budding artists eat your heart out

Banking First Class at the airport

While in transit at Singapore’s Changi airport I noticed what looked like a private art exhibition hosted by the Singaporean bank DBS. Being partial to modern art, I dropped in only to find it was not a gallery, but a private lounge for invited customers of DBS. While it has a full range of very personal banking services, it also had a relaxation lounge complete with massage chairs, an orchid garden, iMacs and iPods for use while in the facility and a private meeting room.

Oh, and let’s not forget the artwork.

After a quick tour it was apparent that the facilites were well above the Singapore Air Business Class lounge. And for the mere sum of SIN$5000/year membership they should be.

The other way to become a member is by invitation from the bank – i.e. to have a lot of business with DBS.

It’s an interesting way of reaching out to your most valuable customers in a way that would be valued. High net worth individuals tend to fly a lot, and when you are at an airport inevitably there’s some unavoidable waiting time. By providing this facility DBS has the potential to further cement the relationship with a very profitable customer group.

There’s a very dry press release here. I’d have liked to post some photos but they weren’t very keen on the idea of me taking pictures.

Frequent flyer innovation

After recently making a frequent flyer booking with Air New Zealand it occurred to me how much thinking the company had put into its processes to make it user friendly. I also belong to a couple of other frequent flyer programme, but rarely use these airlines now as the system they use for redeeming points is purposely murky.

Air New Zealand

So how has Air New Zealand developed innovation around a fairly standard set of automated processes?

1. You do not get points for your flights, you get Airpoints ‘dollars.’ You can easily find out how many dollars you get for each flight.
2. The balance of your frequent flyer account is in these Airpoints dollars.
3. You can redeem these dollars for seats on any flight at any time. There are no obscure rules about the number of seats allocated to frequent flyers, the classes of seats or when you can fly. It’s very simple – if there is a seat available on the flight you can book it with your Airpoints dollars.
4. When you book online you can choose to pay with ‘real’ dollars, or your Airpoints dollars.

When you think about it the innovation seems quite minor. However it makes for a great user experience, and its very easy to understand.

A friend in the airline industry tells me that airlines prefer to have frequent flyers using their points in a downturn, but when business is booming – like right now – they’d rather have fee paying customers. Because of this any system that helps people make use of their points is generally shunned by airlines, and that also means that other airlines will probably not adopt similar systems.

In the meantime however I’ll be making as many international flights as possible on Air New Zealand.