room44 innovates

As you sit down to write your 2020 budget plan, ask yourself this question: how different will this plan make us look by this time next year?

It’s likely, in many cases, that the answer is, ‘it won’t.’

This is something we can help to change. Here’s why and here’s how.


Today’s marketplace is dominated by brands looking for a cause to align themselves with: a purpose to adopt and work into their brand messaging to show they are sufficiently aware of environmental, societal and technological forces to know where their own values intersect. In most cases, this is nothing more than marketing.

marketing (noun)

  1. the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

The most trusted brands today are those focused on their central beliefs and who present their message most efficiently. This is not something an established brand is going to do successfully in a single budget cycle, but if your brand is to have any chance of growing, it is something to consider.

Don’t confuse growth with doing business as usual.

Planning a 2020 budget without making any changes to what you do only maintains the status quo and, while it may work for a year or two, it won’t work for ever. A well-deigned marketing plan will make it possible to sell more than last year, until the marketing stops working. As we all know, marketing always stops working, and a new plan is always needed.

For evidence of this, look at the size of your marketing budget versus your ‘innovation’ budget. See what I mean?


Having a core purpose to your business is more than, for example, changing from virgin plastic to post-consumer waste in your supply chain, or removing some packaging from a product, or working up a VR social media advert.

Having a core purpose is what new positionings are based on. Without a purpose, you will not be seen as actively engaged in the issues that matter to newly influential consumers: Gens Y, Z and Alpha. Without an embedded and ingrained purpose, you are actually sliding out of relevance, whether you know it yet or not.


Taking a stance inside a business, that doesn’t speak to the norm of what it does today, is hard for anyone. The route of least resistance is to keep your head down and get on with what you are paid to do. If you are doing work that no-one is noticing, you’re running with the crowd and there used to be nothing wrong with that. But we believe that, today, it’s not a sustainable position for anyone to adopt. Workforces need to be mobilised as innovators.

To be the agent of change in your company, you must be the nucleator; the grit in the shell; the person that stands out for suggesting ideas that immediately attract resistance.

You don’t have to be difficult or contrary or deliberately confrontational. But you do need to push against something to know that your idea has made a bump in the road and that, now it’s out there, it has a chance of forcing a change from within.

We’re not suggesting revolution

…only that you take it upon yourself to create an atmosphere within which change can occur.

Being controversial is hard. Happily, today may be the absolute best time to be controversial, because this is where disruption starts. And if you’ve read anything about business in the last five years, disruption is the word of the day, every day.

Some examples

George Soros is controversial. His money supports activities that some people would prefer not to happen. He isn’t always popular but, anyone that has ever read reports about his ventures, knows what he stands for (George Soros interview at The Guardian).

Ben and Jerry’s is an ice cream brand with purpose beyond their product. As long ago as 2009 their Marriage Equality policy was written into their core values and reflects in product marketing.

Patagonia has only ever said what it says. Its uncompromising stance on environmental impact has never changed. This is a core value instilled by Yvon Chouinard when the business was founded and remains firm.

When you realise that these core purposes are so long held and so deeply embedded, it’s easier to understand why they attract such a lot of support from their social media communities. People who know that some brands represent more than making money, making ice cream or making T-shirts reward them with consumer trust.

When you sit down to write your 2020 budget, please have a think on what the right thing to do next year is:

purpose (noun)

noun: purpose; plural noun: purposes

  1. the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
  2. a person’s sense of resolve or determination.

Our answer to starting this process is called 10, 20-30 and you can download the outline here.

Like a great song, a product can have a development trajectory. Here’s how a product can be nurtured over the 2020 – 2030 decade.


When Leonard Cohen released Hallelujah, probably his most recognisable song, in 1984, he did so after a struggle.

If you’re familiar with Cohen, you’ll know that he isn’t the jolliest of singers, even if his poetry is worth a read. 1984 was all about the end of disco, and the start of the New Wave and electronica. It wasn’t about angst-ridden self-reflection. So Leonard had an uphill battle; his record label didn’t want to release Hallelujah at first, apparently telling him: ‘We know you’re great. We just don’t know if you’re any good.’

Cream rises to the top

With enough heat though, cream rises to the top, and Leonard got Hallelujah out – although it didn’t do particularly well. But, like all ideas that start as a minimal viable product, the development of Hallelujah was built by various artists over the following years. It was sung faster – let’s face it, it couldn’t get slower; it was shortened from the original seventeen verses; it was treated to as many styles as there were covers – and then came Jeff Buckley.

1994 – 2007

Buckley got hold of Hallelujah in 1994 and made it his own. Again, it wasn’t an immediate success – in fact, it didn’t meet its moment until almost a decade after Buckley’s death. The version of the song that finally became a hit was true to the original, but with a new vibe that resonated with a contemporary audience in the early noughties.

And what happened as a result? Leonard Cohen himself came to the party with a couple of extra beats per minute, and sped up his own song when in his seventies.


The point is that Cohen conceived a ‘product’ that was almost good when it launched. Over time, the idea got better – until someone came along and packaged it in a different wrapper and it met its moment. It took over twenty years and speaks to the long-term value of ‘evergreen’ content.

The lifecycle of a product is never easy to predict but, if the product is any good, it will find its market position eventually.

I’m not claiming that Hallelujah was an innovation. That would be like saying Cohen invented music. But I am saying that products that don’t make it at first can, with tenacity, belief and maybe even some pivoting, win out.

10, 20-30

To read about our new long-range innovation tool please click here and we’ll send you a synopsis. It’s called 10, 20-30 and it is designed to maximise your opportunities though-out the next decade.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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