Boomerang: New & Improved Is No Longer the Best

The article written by Kathy Oneto,Vice President, Brand Strategy at Anthem Worldwide, San Francisco

More and more there are examples of past “new and improved” innovations, if you will, that are today being turned on their heads. What once was considered to be an improvement is now being proven to not necessarily be the best.

Take, for instance, the convenience of TV dinners and space food heralded in the 1960s. In the past it was novel, but today for many this is viewed as sacrilege that sparked a movement to go back to food basics. What does this mean for marketers? While innovation has traditionally been inspired by looking into the future, we might just find that innovation can be fueled by going back in time.

Consider the fact that travel agents are making a comeback—30 percent of travel agencies are actually hiring right now (source: PhoCusWright, a travel research firm). Consumers don’t have the time and energy to use all the digital devices they have to plan a vacation and supposedly find the best deals. Now busy families and individuals are again turning to human travel agents to help plan vacations, often gaining a better experience and better deals than if they used all our newfangled technology to figure it out on their own.

Another example is playgrounds. Some psychologists are suggesting that today’s playgrounds have become too safe such that kids today are not learning how to be prepared for potential future risks in adulthood. They aren’t challenged to climb steep ladders, play on monkey bars, and jump over tires in an effort to avoid any potential risk, arguably leading to a lack of cognitive and physical skill development. So, perhaps there’s an opportunity for children’s marketers to encourage risk taking to build confidence instead of teaching kids to play it safe.

Photo: Ann Patchett, at the opening of the Parnassus bookstore, a photo from Facebook

And let’s hear it for independent bookstores, which are on the rise while big box bookstores go out of business as their discounts and deep inventory decline in relevance. Ann Patchett, famous author of books such as Bel Canto and State of Wonder, recently opened the successful Parnassus bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee, effectively filling a gap in the city’s offering for books and creating a community for readers and authors alike. The U.K.-based Monocle magazine often features cool, new independent bookstores from around the world, reporting on the revival. And in France, independent bookstores are such an integrated part of the country’s culture, the government has stepped in with price-fixing of French language books (limiting discounts on paper and e-books) and providing grants to those looking to open a shop. The intimacy of small bookstores is definitely coming back into vogue.

Marketers can get inspired by such boomerang-learning. Perhaps companies will find that using past formulations (already developed and investments made) are better than developing something new. Perhaps we’ll see consumer behavior continue to revert back to past behavior, to which marketers can respond with new offerings (e.g., the organic and natural food movement). What we might expect is that beyond flashbacks, innovation can stop looking solely to the future and instead can be inspired by doing a boomerang and looking backward to old solutions that are simply better.

About the Author

Kathy Oneto is an experienced brand marketer with over fifteen years of marketing and general business management experience. At Anthem, Kathy has led strategic engagements with clients such as Avery, Chevron, Diamond Foods, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, PetSmart, Safeway, and Seagate