Taking up the challenge of differentiation

Innovation as an opportunity for Made in Italy brands.
19 maggio 2022
Innovation as an opportunity for Made in Italy brands
Matteo Beccarelli

Brand Guidance Domain Leader


Meaning and Salience are two critical components of the Kantar BrandZ framework for measuring brand equity, but Difference has proved to be the most effective asset for growing brand value overall.

Currently, markets are saturated and globalised, and product lifecycles are shrinking as we move from a ‘need’ to a ‘want’ economy. In such an environment, if a brand can build a strong perception of Difference in the eyes of consumers, it will create a crucial lever for growth.

Contrary to what one might think, however, Difference is an opportunity for all brands. They all have it within their reach, not just those that already have innately distinct elements in their DNA. 

In fact, Made in Italy brands have multiple ways to feed consumers' perceptions of being Different: they can assume a leadership role within their category, adopt a distinct style of communication, or learn to effectively leverage innovation. But of these possibilities, perhaps the biggest opportunity is the last. A recent analysis of Kantar BrandZ data, for example, identified two key insights about innovation in Italy:
1. The ability to innovate, or to be perceived as innovative, is a central characteristic of brands that have grown substantially in value.
2. Italian brands, when compared to their peers in other European countries, have not yet fully exploited this growth opportunity.

In view of these two points, it is clear that creating a perception of innovation is now essential for Italian brands. 
Some food for thought may come from the global context of the last decade. An extreme manifestation of the ability to innovate is shown by those brands that are defined as disruptive or that have shaken up the status quo and imposed new standards on a market segment. In some cases, such brands have been able to give life to new product categories, create new needs, and even influence the lifestyles of consumers.

Among the most representative examples in this area are brands that need no introduction — such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Tesla, and AirBnb — all of whom have grown exponentially in the last decade.

Of course, not every brand has the opportunity to be quite so disruptive and innovative, but with a good dose of productivity and creativity, it is possible for all brands to identify ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. The following examples show how brands of all kinds can use innovation to set themselves apart:
Gucci. In recent years, Gucci has proved itself highly creative, not merely by designing iconic, new collections, but also by making its brand experience a core element of its uniqueness. A recent example is its introduction of a digital showroom that makes online shopping an interactive and personalised experience. The brand’s customers can access it via a video call and connect with personal client advisers who serve as guides, enabling them to discover new collections while ensuring a unique experience.
Luxottica. The most traditional way to innovate — though not always the easiest — is to launch new products to keep pace with changing lifestyles. Highlighting one of its most iconic eyewear brands, Luxottica has launched Ray-Ban Stories, a new model of smart glasses that represents the next frontier of wearable technology. Equipped with a camera and audio system, these glasses combine Facebook technology with classic Ray-Ban design to enable consumers to take photos, make videos, listen to music, receive calls, and share content directly on social networks.
Chanel. Some beauty and skincare brands, including Chanel, have introduced new refill options for their products through ecological packaging and in-store services. In this way, they are making good on their promises of sustainability and enhancing the perceived innovation of their brands.
Iliad. Telecom provider Iliad entered the market with a distinctive positioning that emphasised simplicity, transparency, and convenience. In this way, the French brand has imposed new standards on the entire sector and given life to the low-cost segment of telecommunications in Italy, forcing other players to adapt.

These are just a few examples that demonstrate that the ability to innovate — and thus nurture uniqueness — is a recurring characteristic of successful brands. They also prove that innovation is something that is open to all brands, so long as they are able to: 
Fully exploit the potential offered by new technologies
Stay tuned not only to needs, but also to new trends and lifestyles
Move with agility and speed in the market
Be daring and give space to creativity.

Made in Italy companies have been able to build the success of their brands over the years by focusing on products, quality, and leadership. These characteristics continue to be fundamental assets, but today's competitive environment also requires them to explore all possible avenues — and innovation is too precious an opportunity not to be exploited to the fullest.


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