Why practicality should be at the heart of any innovation
When the world has become ubiquitous and commoditized, what does innovation even mean? Kika Douglas, chief creative officer at 180 Amsterdam, explores.
The official definition of innovation is the ‘practical implementation of ideas that result in the introduction of new goods or services, or improvement in offering goods or services.’
‘Practical’ feels like the operative word, the one we’ve lost sight of in and among the shiny newness of where ‘innovation’ can take us.
The reality is the nature of the concept of innovation is that it is more attached to the new than the old, to the ‘modern’ rather than the traditional, and the unexpected rather than expected.
But the fact that around half of all Grand Prixs awarded at Cannes Lions this year went to well-established brands proves the importance, and power, of continually being open to innovation. To the wild idea, to the idea tucked into slide 47 after an afternoon spent around a table, with the notion that a few years ago you might never have thought of. Because even despite, or indeed perhaps because of, their longevity, these brands continue to innovate. And are rewarded accordingly for it.
Indeed, Apple, arguably one of the world’s best innovators, picked up three Grand Prixs for three different campaigns this year and was named the festival’s Creative Brand of the Year. They push the needle, technologically and creatively, every year, innovating both on products and how they market themselves to consumers.
The same could be said for the music industry, whether it be Madonna’s constant reinvention over the last 30 years or Elton John taking to the stage at Glastonbury this year. Their ability to retain their core DNA while innovating in new ways has kept them relevant and interesting for multiple generations.
Take Dior, a brand with an eighty-year heritage that continues to innovate across every digital and physical platform. It continually finds spaces and places to push the boundaries across customer experience and engagement.
Our 180 LUXE team has worked with Dior to help it on this journey from more traditional luxury behaviors to a more digital-first way of engaging with customers. But the hard part is doing that without compromising the ‘exclusivity’ that any luxury brand should project. We innovated in WhatsApp, creating a first-of-its-kind experience featuring brand ambassador and global icon Blackpink’s Jisoo. It gave Dior Beauty’s Instagram followers access to four days of exclusive content and conversation over the app. We collaborated with global communications platform Infobip to release this innovative omnichannel experience, the first time a brand has used WhatsApp to empower conversations with a brand ambassador.
It represented a new frontier of brand and customer experience at the crossroads of customer service, community management, and brand content - just the next step in Dior’s innovation journey.
And then there’s the Shellmet, created out of TBWA\Hakuhodo Tokyo for Koushi Chemical Industry Co, which took scallop shells discarded as waste in Japan and turned them into a helmet that cleans the ocean the more it’s produced. The problem of shell waste isn’t widely known, but the team saw an opportunity to take the waste and turn it into something useful and sustainable.
The company recorded 1,397% ($37,000+) of its sales target in the first two months. Projects are underway with more than 16 global brands, including Shell, and the Shellmet has been adopted as the official disaster prevention helmet for the sustainability-themed 2025 Osaka Expo. It has also been exhibited overseas at MAAT in Portugal. It not only helped Sarufutsu Village with its environmental problem but has also become a new source of income. Innovation for the community and the wider world.
So, innovation for innovation’s sake, we need no more of it. Age-old ideas are masked by an innovative veil. New tech that’s simply old tech repackaged.
But innovation for practicality’s sake, innovation for creativity’s sake, innovation for an idea’s sake, pushing that idea one, two, maybe even five steps further, for building a world that we could only have dreamt of six months ago? This is innovation, as it could be. And that’s the kind of innovation we’re after.