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How should brands tackle Innovation? Start with good ideas say Disney, Unilever & IBM execs

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By Benjamin Cher | Reporter

May 5, 2017 | 4 min read

How do brands take on innovation? Is it through acqui-hires of a small nimble start-up or a structured corporate program to nurture it? That was an issue tackled during a panel session “Transforming Brands” at Innovfest Unbound 2017 in Singapore.

innovation light bulb

Brands give their take on innovation

For Disney, where innovation is at the heart of the business, that is built around storytelling according to Robert Gilby, managing director, The Walt Disney Company, South East Asia. There it centralises innovation into small groups within the company.

“The way we go about it is to look for hubs or clusters of innovation and in the process create smaller groups who can get together and focus on different facets of innovation,” said Gilby

As for Dell EMC, Paul Henaghan, president, South Asia & Korean, Dell EMC, innovation is about listening to people outside of the industry.

“Listening to people outside of your world is what really drives innovation,” said Henaghan.

While big established brands can’t follow Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s early motto to “move fast, break things,” there has to be a balance between taking risks and maintaining status quo according to Disney’s Gilby.

“We don’t always think of it as fail fast, we talk about learning fast, and as part of learning, we fail sometimes, we have to accept that, learn really quickly, move on and try something else,” said Gilby.

Good ideas then aren’t confined to the west, as Tanay Misra, global brand director (Lifebuoy), Unilever proclaims Singapore’s innovation hub status for Unilever.

“Singapore is a big hub for Unilever, it is one of our global centres with diversity, talent, brand control and R&D processes. Globally as well Singapore is one of the top 10 innovative places,” said Tanay.

Indeed, some brands have Asia lead the way for the rest of the world, as Disney Gilby noted that there’s "no monopoly on good ideas."

He added: "The idea of getting smart people together and getting them to dream big is key."

Susan Jain, chief marketing officer, IBM APAC, concurred, especially in the areas of fintech (financial technology) and blockchain.

“IBM invested in opening its first fintech hub in the world, here in Singapore. We’re very proud of that and we believe in the potential that’s here,” said Jain.

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