‘Innovation’ and ‘storytelling’ are words which have almost entirely lost their meaning through overuse in the last couple of years. But as new, disruptive technologies continue to emerge, it is crucial that brands harness their power. “We need to be evangelists, storytellers, creators and scientists,” says Nicky Szmala, creative partner at innovation agency K1ND.
Rather than focusing on desktops or the mobile web, interconnectivity is at the heart of K1ND; the agency explores how different devices can interact with each other, and how this connected living can provide new services and means of communication to consumers.
And in order to do that, innovation needs a story.
While there is no silver bullet when it comes to overcoming the competition to go viral and reach millions of people, Szmala believes K1ND has hit on a standout formula. Innovation needs to be delivered through an experience, it needs to be made memorable through storytelling, and it has to be easy to share.
Three increasingly popular areas of technology where brands are once again embracing ‘innovation’ are connected devices, virtual reality, and robotics.
- Connected Living
The Internet of Things is often discussed in terms of lifestyle porn, for instance, speakers which activate depending on which room of the house you are in. But the applications of connected devices can make life easier for consumers on a much more practical, prosaic level. Take the Nappy Notifier; conceived for Huggies, it consists of a small sensor which fits into a washable package in a baby’s nappy, and sends an alert via Bluetooth to the parent’s phone when the baby needs changing – before the inevitable wailing.
Similarly, Grush makes dental hygiene less of a boring chore for kids by gamifying the experience, and introducing a mobile game which lasts three minutes and is controlled by the movement of the toothbrush itself. The key to achieving client buy-in to ideas like this is to take a start-up approach and minimise the up-front cost, thus reducing the risk to both sides. This can be achieved by capitalising on existing ecosystems like Apple. “All these development environments provide opportunities to think up ways to connect this to your brand and your customers,” says Szmala.
- Virtual Reality
The possibilities of VR go way, way beyond gaming – as evidenced by the fact that it actually overshadowed smartphone exhibitors at Mobile World Congress this year. This tech gives consumers the opportunity to experience live content wherever they are, from test drives, to product demos, to behind the scenes tours. The first ever virtual test drive was recently conducted via smartphone in honour of the launch of the Volvo XC90.
We recently covered the Robear which heralds a new era in elderly care in Japan. And the potential value of robotic tech is being embraced in the West too. Enter Jibo, the robotic assistant who wants to become indispensable to your family. Jibo raised $25 million USD in its first funding round, and is the first batch of units are expected to ship this summer.
While the ultimate consumer uses of these rapidly evolving technologies are likely to change over the next couple of years, it’s fairly safe to say that robots, connected devices and virtual reality are here to stay.