Innovation is a tricky thing. When companies are new and agile, they often don't have the funds to invest in anything that won't lead to a profit. When companies are established, they often don't have the leeway to risk what they've built on an uncertain idea. Who has the bandwidth to actually be innovative?

These four established companies have turned that thinking on its head, making it their focus to incorporate innovation. While it's important to stay in their wheelhouse and keep their high-demand products, it's also important to these companies that they realize that what works today won't necessarily work tomorrow.

The most innovative part, perhaps, is that they don't take the same approach. Here's how these established businesses pushed their boundaries and can inspire your company to do the same.

Duracell

Duracell has been in the battery business for decades, and while batteries themselves have changed quite a bit during that time, so has Duracell's approach to talking about them. After Berkshire Hathaway purchased the brand from P&G in 2016, Duracell gained more flexibility to innovate both the creative and media aspects of the brand -- and with an ever-changing media landscape, this helps Duracell position itself to win with consumers.  

"We were the first brand, of any category, to air a six-second ad on broadcast TV," said Ramón Velutini, Duracell's vice president of marketing. "Our six-second ad aired as a double-box format ad during the 2017 MLB World Series, the 2017 NFL Divisional Championships, and 2018 NASCAR's Daytona 500." Velutini said it "drove efficiency by combining creative effectiveness with media innovation." Wieden+Kennedy New York is Duracell's North American agency of record, working with the brand to develop more of these types of assets to be leveraged across platforms.

Konica Minolta

Konica Minolta's technology focus has spanned quite a few industries over the past few years, including everything from smart office technology to diagnostic ultrasound machines to textile printers. The brand has embraced innovation, establishing a Business Innovation Center and pushing itself to move into areas beyond the office space.

Konica Minolta's emphasis on robotics is generating enthusiasm from many sectors. They also partnered with TechCrunch to sponsor a robotics event, which discussed how robots may become part of the workforce without displacing humans.

L'Oréal

L'Oréal has long been known as a makeup brand, providing skincare, hair dye, and cosmetics; the brand has also purchased other well-known brands, such as Lancôme, Maybelline, and Matrix Essentials, to expand its beauty empire. The company developed an interest in not only enhancing natural beauty, but also maintaining it, and found itself in the wearable space.

The brand's most intriguing innovations lie with its UV protection wearables. L'Oréal's My UV Patch is a skin sensor that both tracks sun exposure and nudges users to take action through education; the newest version has color-changing photosensitive dyes that alert wearers when they're being exposed to UV light. The brand's UV Sense is a wearable sensor -- ideally placed on a thumbnail -- that monitors sun exposure for around two weeks, pushing its data to users through a mobile app.

LEGO

LEGO's blocks have been a big part of toy history, and the company's scope has expanded to include films, TV shows, amusement parks, and specialty merchandise. Its manufacturing processes have changed over the years, with the brand investing hundreds of millions of dollars in implementing sustainable materials. LEGO didn't let its product design innovations stop there.

In a cool move, LEGO turned to its customer base to find new ideas and empower users to create the LEGO products they wanted most. Its LEGO Ideas dashboard allows visitors to submit designs and ideas for future products; once 10,000 people have expressed support for a specific design, the brand reviews the design to determine whether it might become part of the LEGO Ideas label. The effort has resulted in ideas like a mini-Big Bang Theory LEGO set and a "Yellow Submarine"-themed tribute to The Beatles.

While big brands may feel handcuffed in seeking innovation, these four established businesses prove that doesn't have to be the case. By realizing that trying new things or adopting new perspectives is an investment in the long term, these enterprises have found both success and a roadmap to build the future.

Published on: Mar 28, 2018