“Innovate or Die!”: Challenge for Canadian marketers

November 26th, 2013 | ACA Team,

By Susan Charles, ACA

Bert Dumars
Bert Dumars

Here is an unusual perspective on the future of business: W. Edwards Denning, who was famous for his principles on transforming business effectiveness once said, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory!” Another way to think about this is with this often quoted phrase: “innovate or die”!

This is one of the biggest challenges for marketers today!

On November 5th at the ACA conference in Toronto, Bert DuMars of Forrester Research shared his insights on what it takes to innovate; to transform your organization into one with an innovative marketing culture.

DuMars stressed that marketing innovation must become a priority. It can be the difference between future success and failure for your business. It will become a primary differentiator between you and your competitors, to win the battle for the customers’ mind, wallet and loyalty. The winners will be the companies that best figure out how to transform their organization’s culture toward one of marketing innovation.

DuMars defined marketing innovation as “taking divergent or discontinuous leaps into new technologies, services and business models that create new and unique customer engagement and brand relationships.”

What is your first step to transforming your organization into one with a marketing innovation culture?

The first step is always to understand what your marketing innovation culture is today. The following chart, developed and presented by DuMars, best summarizes four types of marketing innovation cultures.


The ‘risk-averse’ innovates only when forced while the ‘pragmatist’ innovates only when opportunities arise. The ‘experimenter’ has the ability to innovate quickly but lacks the longer term strategy to support an innovation culture. The organization that has an innovation culture that is constantly evolving to become most ‘customer-obsessed’ will win!

Where does your organization fit? Hint: Most of Canadian organizations fall into the ‘pragmatist’ and ‘experimenter’ culture categories as reported in the ACA’s September / October 2013 Marketer’s Pulse Report.

As DuMars pointed out, being customer-obsessed is not an easy route to take. It can be complex within this new world order of digital disruption which enables the perpetually connected consumer to have higher expectations of a company and/or brand experience. To help us manage all of this we need to acquire new skill sets and resources, though finding the right talent can be challenging.
DuMars best summarized his recommendation for the path to successful marketing innovation as being through cultural change. Change the way your think about your customer, then change the way you approach your business. Develop marketing innovation as a core competency. Break down the internal organizational silos and see how marketing innovation ideas can begin to emerge.

This all makes sense. We know we must change our marketing innovation culture to succeed. Now comes the difficult part, as cultural change is never easy. However, change is necessary to survive and thrive well into the future.