I remember being sat in the offices of a Reading based telephone directory firm, receiving our fortnightly "we must stop Google" briefing, when I piped up - "You should stop pumping so much money into the book and redirect it into the online product". Much to my surprise, I was informed, "We are a paper based company." At that time, the business was worth £5bn. By July 2013, that value had reportedly become a debt of more than £2.6bn. So how did the crown of this national institution slip so spectacularly?
Along with Blockbusters and Kodak, these once high and mighty brands have allowed themselves to slip into obscurity and eventually, total demise, through their steadfast attitude of sticking to what they do well. But innovation is the lifeblood of any brand and failure to innovate only leads to failing as a business. Google could quite easily take their foot off the gas and simply boss the internet for a decade or two before bowing out to a new upstart, but they will never rest on their laurels - and that's the key. Never sit still. You're never too big to fail. The moment you become a success is the moment you become the target of a hundred competitors.
Amazon's greatest threat at the moment is distribution. Spiraling shipping costs are putting their entire business at the mercy of the mailmen, so they're frantically trying to find new ways to get stock from warehouse to consumer as efficiently as possible. And look at Barclays. A bank, by all accounts, taking the lead to educate the luddites among us and drag the nation kicking and screaming in to the (post)digital age with their Digital Eagles initiative. McLaren is another example of a brand with a culture built on innovation. Not content with being leaders in both automotive design and F1, they apply their capabilities to fields as far from home as the NHS, using their Formula 1 know-how to optimise the treatment journey for patients with serious injuries.
There are no sectors any more. No dividers. No limitations. The gloves are off and it's an open playing field. Innovation inspires. It encourages play. It eats away at a culture that is built on a fear of failure and leads to new and exciting places.
In a time when an emerging platform can be bought for $2 billion before actually bringing a finished product to market, and a mobile video streaming company can be valued at $40 million dollars in just two months, we see the speed of change dramatically increasing. The importance of keeping up and innovating is integral to securing the future of a business.
So brands that will continue to thrive are brands that harness a culture of innovation. Companies that put marketing money and resources into making meaningful tools and services, and play a relevant role in their customers' lives. As marketing folk, we not only have the capabilities and the resources, but the responsibility to ensure innovation is on the agenda of those we work for and with - as history has proven time and again that the fear of failing is in itself, the fastest way to fail.