Thinking inside the box, not outside it, is the key to growth

Thinking inside the box, not outside it, is the key to growth, according to Helen Edwards in another of her excellent columns in Marketing. She quotes as an example the low cost airline easyJet, who recently announced a recession defying 28% jump in profits. This success was achieved not by big, breakthrough innovation, but rather through what Helen calls "hard-won improvement in the basics customers come to the category for."

Here are some of the key points from Helen's excellent article.

1. Focus on the core

Helen suggests a need to re-focus creativity on the core business. This is music to my ears, as its the theme of our new brandgym book, out in Feb 2013 ("Grow the Core: How to Focus on Your Core Business for Brand Success"). I love her practical suggestion : "Next time the team meets for one of those innovation brainstorms, lay down this rule: for every idea we generate at the fringe, we will create two at the core."

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 10.48.372. Be "Simply Better"

Helen quotes as inspiration the brilliant book "Simply Better" (more on the book here, from a post back in 2008). The central idea is that priority should be put on improving performance on the things often dismissed as "tables stakes" or "hygiene factors." In the case of easyJet, the company worked hard to improve on-time efficiency, led by CEO Carolyn McCall, as I posted on here. They also invested in a new system to allow pre-booking of seats. Finally, communication has focused on why flying easyJet for business is a smart and savvier way to fly. None of these initiatives seem radical, because they are not. But they all create real customer value.

3. Be distinctive, not different

Regular readers will recognise this a one of our bug brandgym themes of 2012. Helen recommends ignoring the call of agencies who preach the gospel of differentiation, and "zagging while others zig". Instead, a better approach is to "Zig better in markets where consumers still queue, are let down by product failures and pay too much for too little."

4. Relentless renovation

Being "simply better" is an ongoing process, because companies can never achieve 100% customer satisfaction on the basic benefits of a market. The answer is what I call "relentless renovation" to create wave after wave of improvements on the core, as covered in this recent post on Apple.

In conclusion, being brilliant on the basics of your core business might not be as sexy as "blue sky thinking" to transform your brand with radical innovation. However, it's more likely to create profitable and sustainable growth.