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In an article about innovation and taking risks, Author Amelia Duggan examines how companies are developing unique strategies to encourage innovation in a supportive corporate culture.

In this article, the author examines how HP, Hallmark, Reese’s, and USPS are tackling innovation in a fiercely competitive business environment. Here’s the original article from ANA’s site:

Original Article below from ANA (link): 


Stare Down Fear

Companies are developing unique strategies to overcome marketing inertia and spur innovation

By Amelia Duggan



In a fiercely competitive business environment, innovation is regarded as the most effective way for a brand to maintain its edge and grow market share. But fear of failure often gets in the way, inhibiting creativity, limiting risk taking, and stifling innovation from the get-go.

To quell the fear of failure and encourage innovation, many marketers are integrating four key tenets of innovation into their day-to-day operation: creating a corporate culture that supports risk taking, building creative interdisciplinary teams to share in the process, testing and learning from both success and failure, and recognizing the work of professionals involved in marketing innovation.


Here are four companies that are doing it right, along with advice from Steve Liguori, CEO of Liguori Innovation and former executive director of global innovation at GE.


For Carmen True, global head of digital experience and marketing innovation, innovation is a core value at HP. “We are an innovation company,” she says, adding that innovation doesn’t come intuitively and must be fostered throughout the business. “Creating a culture around innovation is of paramount importance and how we work to inspire our marketing teams. Open and authentic conversations about how we can innovate and how we can best leverage the talents of our teams to test cutting-edge approaches is at the center of what we do.”

Take HP’s Reinventor Award, given to marketing employees who push boundaries and take risks. The award recognizes what can be learned from such risks and how to apply that knowledge to HP.

“It’s important to understand the connection between celebrating innovation and employee morale,” True says. “Being part of something bigger pushes our teams to do more.”


Hallmark takes a collegial approach to encouraging innovation. “People are put on interdisciplinary teams based on skill, not on title or degree,” says Jennifer Garbos, Hallmark’s greetings innovation future strategy director. “Courage, persistence, adaptability, ability to navigate — that’s how they are chosen.

“Embedded in our corporate DNA is a respect for people’s skills and their abilities,” she adds. “This carries through to their assignments and responsibilities and how they may be placed in exciting and challenging roles. It could be the marketing person who is the risk taker or it could be the product developer.”

At Hallmark’s informal “Learning Forward” event, groups and presenters are invited to review a program that went badly and find out ways to prevent similar problems from happening in the future.

“Internally, it’s hard to celebrate successes if you don’t understand what doesn’t work,” Garbos says. “People do want to see how to avoid failure because it perpetuates a value of lessons learned and alleviates the fear. It demonstrates that the corporation values learning.”


When it comes to combining innovation with a product launch, Ryan Riess, senior manager for the Reese’s brand at Hershey, offers three lessons for marketers: look for opportunity where others see risk, embody the brand, and have fun.

This philosophy is based on the notion that overcoming fears in a work setting stems from building trust between employees and senior management. To that effect, Hershey encourages open and transparent relationships at all levels of the organization, including the C-suite. The approach was put to the test when plans to launch a Reese’s Pieces Cup — a mash-up of Reese’s Pieces with the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup — leaked online.

“We decided to go forward and play off the leak,” Riess says. “We had a strategy with our hashtag, #cupfusion, one that could live in the worlds of truth and fiction and add the notion of mystery.”

That decision led to more exposure for the brand online. “We would read all of the comments and see what consumers wanted to know,” Riess says. “From the jump, we involved PR to see what kind of arms and legs the product might have. We brought together a team and it was the world’s easiest sell.”

As the above example indicates, Riess stresses that innovation must be contagious among employees if managers want to see tangible returns. “When you do exciting, innovative projects, people from all departments want to follow,” he says. “And sometimes you fail and that’s OK, as you can move and adapt. You must be smart, not reckless with innovation.”


Gary Reblin, VP of product innovation at the U.S. Postal Service, sees his industry changing faster than ever before. As the lead driver for innovation, the engineer-turned-marketing executive has his eyes on what comes next at one of the nation’s oldest service businesses. His job is to build a progressive brand to prevent USPS from going the way of Kodak or Blockbuster.

Informed Delivery, for example, which launched last March, provides daily emails to subscribers showing them what mail they can expect. It also allows customers to input needs such as specific delivery instructions and package tracking. With a 74 percent open rate, the program has taken off.

“Even a failure can give us a lot of learning, more capabilities, and a quicker response rate to new opportunities.”
— Gary Reblin, VP of product innovation at USPS

USPS is also partnering with other industries to enhance the customer experience. For instance, the company is aligning with tech companies to enable consumers to hold their smartphones over a bar code on a piece of mail and go directly to the related website.

Another key to innovation is realizing that a failed or less-than-fully completed pilot program can lead to other opportunities to grow the business. USPS’ same-day delivery, which launched in 2015, hasn’t yet taken off with consumers. But building dynamic routing for that program enabled USPS to provide other services, such as Sunday package delivery. Reblin says the work USPS did to prepare for same-day delivery will position the postal service well when consumers and competitors are ready to pay the premium for it.

Reblin affirms that buy-in from the top is important. Support from the Postmaster General and CEO, Megan Brennan, who recognizes that not all programs will be successful, has been crucial.

“Even a failure can give us a lot of learning, more capabilities, and a quicker response rate to new opportunities,” Reblin says. “Doing nothing or missing an opportunity can be a much bigger failure than doing something that doesn’t work.”

Recognition is an important part of the marketing innovation at USPS, too. For example, the National Postal Forum, which is held annually, brings the industry together to celebrate new programs.

“We talk about what we’ve done and our leadership recognizes the successes,” Reblin says. “We give credit and thank people for the work they’ve done, which spurs them to do more.”

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Liguori, with GE innovation in his background, echoes the perspectives of HP and Reese’s on instilling a companywide approach to marketing innovation. “Marketers have to be 360 in their scope and need to be discussing innovation with senior leadership,” he says. “Businesses need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and must be in a constant state of experimentation. This is the only way to truly innovate.”

Companies also need to appreciate that the business landscape will become even more disruptive and transformative, Liguori says. “In a few years, what’s happening today will all seem calm in comparison,” he adds.

While Liguori recognizes that companies must run their businesses with industry standards, they must also be willing to devote some of the budget to experimentation. “Run the business day to day, but blow it up at the same time,” he counsels. “Understand a new set of standards for testing and learning. Think horizontal but act vertical, and don’t be intimidated by the scale of the innovation.”

While changing the corporate culture is key to innovation, large companies are often paralyzed by corporate inertia. Liguori recommends companies create “innovation councils” to promote risk-taking.

“If leaders are willing to create some new models of governance, they will encourage people to come in with out-of-the-box, risk-taking ideas and create a safe haven where they will be encouraged to explore these ideas without fear of failing,” he says.

Credits: Original Article from ANA (link).