Firestarters 13: Agencies and Product Innovation

The latest Google Firestarters event, curated by Neil Perkin, tackled the topic of product innovation. The speakers came from three of the most interesting agencies working in this field, ustwo, MadybyMany and BBH Zag. Here’s my notes from the speakers…

Monument Valley by ustwo
Monument Valley by ustwo

ustwo
Brett MacFarlane from product studio ustwo spoke about the company culture needed to allow innovation to happen. The studio works in small, empowered teams with no hierarchy.

Ustwo has an interesting business model which sees the team work across client work, games and other digital ventures. Brett spoke about the principles of value based commercials, experimentation and applied knowledge that exist throughout all three strands of the business.

Made by Many
Andy Whitlock from the always-fasincating MadebyMany discussed the interaction between marketing and product innovation. Whilst marketing is obsessed with strategy and ideas, product innovators understand that strategies are no more than guesswork that must be constantly adjusted.

Andy explained that although there needs to be some thinking (strategy) at the beginning of a project you mustn’t go too far before checking you are on the right track. Whilst marketeers are used to the certainty of (at least) minimum success, those working within product innovation know that total failure is a definite possibility.

Although great products produce great stories, this does not guarantee great storytelling – and that is where marketing is important. Remember – the story must be good, but the product must be better.

BBH Zag
The final presentation of the evening was made by the team from BBH Zag, a part of BBH which functions as a ‘brand consultancy that ventures’. BBH Zag holds an equity stake in each project or product they work on, resulting in a uniquely close relationship with their clients.

The team have worked on innovative products such as the Autographer and Beakle. They helped the Autographer team adapt a product from the world of medical technology to a consumer proposition. The wearable camera records not only images throughout the day but also data points such as temperature and GPS location. Beakle is an exciting new technology that allows people to listen to the audio for content on outdoor screens via their smartphones.

Scriberia at work, Firestarters 13
Scriberia at work, Firestarters 13