06 October 2020

Recession-ready tip #2 – Rethink innovation

With ongoing talks of economic collapse and the implications of Brexit looming, here’s the second in our series of go-to remedies for getting your brand recession-ready.

The below are all genuine concerns and questions we’ve been discussing with our clients as we prepare them for the recession: 

  • Is now a time to launch new brands or do people want what they know and trust? Wouldn’t close brand extension be safer?
  • Will there be less scope for innovation with retailers now as categories come under pressure?
  • Can we really support innovation sufficiently through a recession when budgets are under pressure?
  • Will trends dramatically change and therefore should I be thinking of new innovation opportunities?
  • Do we throw out all of our premium innovation ideas for the next 2-3 years? 

Yes, it’s true that innovation slows down during a recession but is that really driven by consumers or down to business-led decisions? 

To try to answer that, here’s what some of our clients are actually doing right now:

“Innovation programmes remain the same although some development with new suppliers is taking longer than originally planned due to current travel restrictions. However, given the growing demand we feel it is an ideal opportunity to expand our product portfolio and we are committed to the delivery of our plan.”

Neil Brownbill – Commercial Director, Napolina Princes Foods

“Short term we’re continuing existing innovation projects which may need to be ‘soft’ launched through DTC. We think it’s really important to keep this progressing so that we don’t lose momentum - and because they are really exciting projects. But it’s also an opportunity to gauge consumer reaction ahead of these snacks hitting store. I would say that the ‘long term’ is off the table at the moment until the shape of the ‘new’ world is a little clearer. So, most of our resource and focus is pivoting towards the medium term (6-18 months) and we have a much broader scope for new product and format innovation than we would have done previously.”

Joe Taylor – Founder, Real Handful

It’s difficult to know how to progress, but we do know that the role of innovation is critical for brand and category reinvention. The key to successful innovation is to have a deep understanding of where your brand sits in the marketplace and what the right opportunities are. 

So here are our five principles to apply when rethinking innovation:  

01. Genuine need or insight-based ideas will always succeed. So even if they are not now right for 2020, or you can’t support them with the investment they might deserve, then revisit the timing, but don’t lose the idea forever. 

02. New opportunities and ideas for products and serviceswill arise in this ‘new world’.In our view, shorter but more regular idea sessions should continue to be diarised even when we are not together. 

03. There will be an acceleration of range rationalisation from retailers.Now might not be the time to suggest launching six more flavours of the same range, unless there is a strong reason to do so. But is there ever?  

04. New brands can still flourish. Providing they have a clear role and are meeting an unmet category need. They need to be nurtured and given time to succeed, by both the retailers and brand management team. 

05. Premium is still relevant.It just depends on the reasons and rationale for being premium and whether or not this still fits. Premium due to convenience may be less relevant, for example, versus premium for in-home treats or ingredients.  

To see how we can help you identify the right opprtunities for your brand, contact us at