By Meredith Kinsey, senior VP and COO, FUEL
“Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical components to the success of our economy. We want to enable and support a stronger innovation ecosystem in South Carolina and help the state become a top place in the nation to start and build high-growth businesses.”
–Bobby Hitt, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce
Innovation drives South Carolina’s economy. This former “Textile Capital of the World” is now a hotbed for knowledge-based research and advanced manufacturing. The last decade has proved to be quite a boon for the state’s economy, which has enjoyed unprecedented growth, primarily through the foreign investment of major international corporations committed to technological innovation. According to the S.C. Department of Commerce, “more than 1,200 operations of international firms (and growing) call South Carolina home.” Booming industries include automotive, aerospace, health care, technology, medical device makers, and home appliances, to name but a few. In fact, from 2011 to 2016, advanced manufacturing job growth increased 16 percent, accounting for 11 percent of the state’s total employment.
Commitment to Innovation
The point of all these numbers is to demonstrate how big a part innovation plays in South Carolina’s economy. Clemson University, located in Upstate South Carolina, recently announced its creation of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, which is dedicated to education, research, and innovation. The University of South Carolina, in partnership with Boeing, has established a permanent $2 million aerospace research endowment to support practice-based innovative research in material architecture and integrated intelligent manufacturing systems. In addition, the South Carolina Department of Commerce has awarded $2.6 million in funding to 19 organizations across the state to further innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology-based economic development.
However, with organizations and brands so dedicated to innovation, it presupposes that there will be a consumer need and desire for new breakthrough products and services created in this milieu. The mistake or miscalculation that businesses often make is assuming that consumer demand will keep pace with manufacturing innovation. So, companies think, “If I create a brand new innovative widget or car or cleaning product, consumers will be falling over themselves to buy it.” But as we know, that’s not always the case. Companies often focus so heavily and intently on product innovation that they forget about marketing that product to the right audiences in the right way. And if you don’t do that, you end up with a great, innovative product that no one knows about.
HARD TRUTH: Having the most innovative product or service in the world does you no good if people aren’t aware, or, worse, if they don’t believe you.
Marketing Innovation Must Keep Pace With Product Innovation
With the global economy and so many brands and businesses clamoring for attention, marketing is more important than ever. Innovation may be the name of the game, but finding your audience(s) and getting your messages heard or seen using the proper channels and platforms is critical to success. To create, design, and build a breakthrough product takes tremendous vision, planning, and execution. Brands owe it to their new product to market it effectively to maximize exposure and encourage adoption in the marketplace.
Of course, the advent and continuing evolution of digital marketing, mobile technology, and myriad social platforms have changed the face of advertising and marketing and how people consume information. Merely being present online is not enough. Marketers must be more savvy and innovative in their tactics, as most customers — across all industries, B2B as well as B2C — are receiving information through various interactive media sources and social outlets. So in order for brands and businesses to successfully introduce their new, innovative products to market, it often requires equally innovative and preemptive marketing tactics.
The good news is, marketing presents more opportunities than ever before. Thanks to digital technology, brands are able to reach audiences when and where they consume information, while they’re on the go, in real time. And it’s all “trackable.” Marketers are able to retrieve and analyze data like never before to determine precisely what’s working and what’s not, and adjust accordingly. This enables businesses to be in step with consumers, which is particularly relevant when launching a new product or innovative service.
Instead of reacting, brands can deliver highly relevant, customer-centric messaging — an ongoing, fluid stream of messages that is both anticipatory and responsive to ever-changing customer needs. And that, of course, builds consumer adoption, trust, and loyalty over the long haul, which ultimately is the end goal for any kind of innovation in the marketplace.
MARKETING BENEFITS OF THE DIGITAL ERA
•Immediate, real-time communication
•More precise, targeted solutions
•Flexible, expansive reach
•More efficient and cost-effective
•Responsive, or adaptive, to multiple devices
•More engaging, two-way communication (with an audience)
•Helpful and educational, customer-benefit focused