Trendspotting with Whitespace Review by Raymond McStay

Innovate or Die

Review by Raymond McStay, Commercial Director, MadeBrave. 

Innovate or Die – The Next Generation of Customer Experiences and the Need to Adapt Quickly

The packed room was given a warm welcome from Iain Valentine, Managing Partner at Whitespace, who suggested that having “innovate or die” in the title might have encouraged people to attend - it certainly worked for me!

He further set the scene by quoting world renowned business consultant Peter Drucker who believes that “Business has only two functions: marketing and innovation” In a room full of marketeers heads were nodding when asked about the first part of the statement, but when Iain asked for a show of hands on how many people in the room had been innovative in the past 2 weeks, only a few responded - we were all definitely in the right place!

Tim Gallant

On to the first speaker, Tim Gallant, Planner at Whitespace, an American who stayed in Edinburgh for 8 years because of his love of golf. Tim had a box full of insights and stats, but didn’t share his golf handicap - probably just being modest!

He started off by saying that “customers don’t just buy products, they perceive the entire process as an experience and a memory” then immediately backed this up with a bold (and totally fake) statement from Madonna “We are living in an experience world, and I am an experience girl”.

He shared some things that can delay or stop companies from innovating including: 

  • “Relentless speed of change”
  • “The norm is no longer enough”
  • “Innovation can be expensive and may not deliver results immediately”

Similar to the conversations on the value brand building versus short term sales and advertising, Tim suggested that it is far better to invest in the long-term by creating customer experiences that raise the bar. He then referenced a quote from former P&G CEO, Bob McDonald “Promotions may win quarters, innovation wins decades”.

Tim also gave us an overview of what he sees as the “next generation of CX” which is Creative Experience:

  • Gen 1: User Experience- Get from A to B as fast and as efficiently as possible
  • Gen 2: Customer Experience - Experiences that transcend platforms
  • Gen 3: Creative Experience - Taking customer insights and brand differentiators and combining them through creative thinking and innovation to deliver a new type of experience

He then explained the key differentiator between customer experience and creative experience, Tim said  “Creative experience looks at the emotional side of how to connect with customers”.

Tim went on to say that ”By 2040 95% of purchases will be made by ecommerce” This is a statistic that isn’t too shocking given the fast pace that consumer buying habits are changing,  and as Tim pointed out, “your bus is already your shop”, “your couch is your bank” and “your living room is your gym”.

Creative Experience (Example) - Nike Adventure Club

Nike Adventure Club is a great example to demonstrate the power of creative experience and how innovation can provide customers with a lasting and memorable brand engagement. 

Nike knew that kids were going through 2-3 pairs of shoes per year and they wanted to improve the customer experience. This would normally involve looking at the store and online experience but instead they developed a creative experience that includes a subscription based model delivering:

  • Easy access to high quality Nike and Converse kicks whenever and wherever you need them — no more trips to the mall!
  • Support to the wider community, in particular with local activity programs for kids and by transforming worn out shoes to play surfaces.
  • Childhood activity and exploration — in sport and in play, in exercising both our muscles and our minds.

Tim finished up with a few provoking thoughts on how consistency isn’t always the best way to deliver experiences:

  • “Consistency is necessary but it’s boring”
  • “Consistency leads to conformity which leads to disengagement”
  • “People take consistency as standard”

He used Deliveroo as a good example of a company that need to continuously innovate customer experiences in order to set themselves apart from competitors.  

Alex Hamilton

On to the last speaker of the day Alex Hamilton, Head of Innovation at Isobar.

Alex believes that when it comes to creative experiences, ideas should come first, followed by technology. He backed this up by talking us through a creative experience they created for Aston Villa Football Club to launch their new kit for season 2019/2020. 

Aston Villa came with a brief to explore an AR experience, but after a collaborative workshop decided to instead create a brand-new digital platform to launch the club's kit. The platform demonstrated their commitment to digital innovation and sales increased by 750%. You can see more here:    


Next Alex discussed the importance of the use of voice. He stated that, in the future, voice will be used for more than just a search tool and it will become the way customers will expect engage with brands.  

He used a brilliant example that Isobar had worked on with a company who owned the rights of “The Gruffalo”. They were looking for an Alexa feature that would read “The Gruffalo” to children at bedtime. They suggested that this might not be a good idea as it would take away the magic of a parent reading a bedtime story to their child, instead suggesting that they work with the soundtrack to create an enhanced experience for the child and parent - genius!

In conclusion, all the talks had a similar theme and confirmed that customers expect experiences:

  • The norm is not enough! Customers expect experiences that raise the bar.
  • Companies have to invest in innovation and the long game.
  • The creative idea should always come first.
  • Creative experiences are the next generation of CX.

Looking forward to the next Trendspotting event!

Don't forget to check out Trendspotting speaker, Tim Gallant's blog post here.