Innovation in communication is the only remedy for all our problems: Guy Hearn

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 12 2014, 07:21am hrs
In a world full of choices, it is not easy for a brand to keep up with a customers constantly changing demands. The brand therefore has to resort to innovative means to get the eyeballs. However, innovative solutions are hard to come by and Guy Hearn, the chief innovation officer at Omnicom Media Group, certainly knows it. Hearn, who is responsible for the marketing and media communications group's research unit and providing new business leads and expanding the group's expertise in consumer understanding and planning, has more than two decades of professional research experience mainly in sectors including the FMCG, finance, travel and leisure and retail. Based in Asia since 1997, Hearn calls himeself an expert in understanding consumer wants, needs, desires and motivations throughout the region, including markets such as China, Japan, Australia and India. In a conversation with FE BrandWagonsAnushreeBhattacharyya, Hearn talks about the relevance of innovation in todays world. Edited excerpts:

How important is innovation

Innovation is very important because the world for consumers is changing very quickly. In todays world, technology has become a key part of the consumer experience. Therefore, for a brand to be successful, it needs to understand the consumer and be part of an experience that consumers want. Also, with consumers experience of brands becoming extremely cluttered, innovation in communication is the only remedy for all our problems. Earlier, communication was all about a brand broadcasting its message to consumers. But now there are so many opportunities that a consumer has in terms of deciding when and how to have a conversation with a brand. Therefore, as agencies our role is to facilitate consumers in starting a conversation with our brands and this is only possible through innovative and interesting ideas, which would break its way into the clutter.

Innovative ideas also mean taking risks. Are clients and agencies ready to take the plunge

All the studies prove that properly directed innovation increases the return on investments of your marketing spends. While clients have a lot of things on their plate, they should be ready to keep aside a little budget for test and learn. With market dynamics changing, clients need people to guide them through this, and it is here that agencies like us are supposed to play a vital role.

Is innovation about the message or the use of a medium

Innovation can be either or both. It is not just about ad tech, that is, how the message is delivered. It is about how we become part of the consumer experience. So sometimes it can be the message and at other times the media. It can be something very simple but it has be something that engages with consumers in a relevant manner.

Could you talk about a few innovative campaigns from within the Omnicom Group as well as outside it

We executed a campaign, See the world at home in Hong Kong for Pfizer Nutrition for its milk formula brand called Wyeth Gold. Infant milk formula brands in Hong Kong are still competing mainly through functional story-telling, as branded content remains a new territory for the category. The idea was go beyond conventional television communications to create branded content of parenting resources using new media to cultivate a brand relationship with parents in Hong Kong. Hence we created a mobile application Learning-on-the-go. With this application, kids in Hong Kong for the first time saw Eiffel tower, Taj Mahal, the Big Ben and many other monuments with a 360-degree view using latest Google Street View images. One has to realise that consumers want communication which is useful but at the same time that does not dictate to them. One such example is the Vodafone ear muffs which were introduced during last years Kumbh Mela. In this case, apart from keeping the ears warm, devotees also a got a chance to listen to devotional music thanks to Vodafone ear muffs. This gave the telecom brand a strong presence amongst an audience that is not easy to reach. Another example was the stamped roti campaign by Hindustan Unilever which the company launched to promote its soap brand Lifebouy. It was a simple idea which worked as it was executed at the moment of truth.

What are the three offerings that make clients reach out to Omnicom Group

First, we try to work with start-ups who have specialist skills to put together interesting solutions for our brands. Second, we try to work slightly in the future. We work keeping next years business goals in mind. Third, we try to solve problems ranging from product related problems to future related consumer problems, or on how we can take the skills from a start-up and then merge it seamlessly with our offerings.

What is the kind of role media agencies are expected to play in the future

The role of media agencies in the future will have to be about augmenting ideas in addition to finding ways of enhancing consumer experience. The spots and dots of media planning will definitely go away in the future. The age of big data helps in understanding consumer motivation and behaviour better, so data will play a big role in the future. It means that as a media agency we will now have to understand behavioural economics. We will have to think about the main motive of our clients and connect it to sales, repeat sales and a lifetime of consumer trust and how to further consolidate these three objectives.