It is one of those maxims that works as a guide on what companies should do and one that marketers apply to their day-to-day life and their strategy. Innovation has, in fact, become a kind of obsession and one that is repositioned as prominent every time companies are faced with a crisis situation. It was what happened, for example, on the day after the 2008 crisis and it is what is happening now, when companies must face the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

Innovation is established as a kind of magic word to invoke when trying to save the future of the company and reposition it in a solvent way. It is what we must all work on, it is the lesson to be learned, and it is what should be prioritized in investment.

But all this obsession with innovation has an unexpected B-side that is not so positive and optimistic. Because innovation is very important and valuable, but for it to be truly profitable and for it to contribute something to the company, it must have a solid strategy behind it. If your head of marketing is not able to define what is to innovate and what is the innovation strategy, simply staying in common places, all that investment will not contribute much. And, tragically, this is a fairly common problem in business.

Innovate as an empty word
The latest Gartner study has focused on analyzing what happens to innovation and marketing, using data from surveys of CMOs and marketing leaders in North America, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, which makes the data quite representative for understand the state of things in the western market.

Their conclusions point in this ineffective direction: marketers repeat like a mantra that innovation is important – and they are spending more and more money on it – but they are not very clear about what it is supposed to be or what it is for. Innovation already takes more than 20% of marketing budgets and is increasingly important.

72% of CMOS increased investment in innovation over the last year. “Like ‘agility,’ the term ‘innovation has become ubiquitous in modern business parlance,” said Ewan McIntyre, research co-leader and vice president at Gartner. This ubiquity has not ensured that things are being done superbly well.

“There is a significant disagreement in what innovation really means,” says McIntyre, noting that the issue is not just “debating semantics.” “Not understanding what innovation means has consequences that impact the scope, intention and results of activities” of companies, he warns. Companies and their marketers don’t know what innovation means or what it entails.

91% of those surveyed admit that they have problems when measuring the impact of innovation and 83% say that for now the innovation has not met the expectations of their bosses. As they point out in the Gartner conclusions, all this happens because many companies do not have a clear definition of what innovation means and do not understand what it implies in marketing. Despite this, companies cling like a burning nail to innovation. 93% of those surveyed indicate that their company will finance high-risk innovative initiatives.

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