Says YES to inNOvation: 50 cases for your resolutions 2010

Artist Anna Nordquist Andersson
Artist Anna Nordquist Andersson

First published in MAY 2009 | By now, virtually everyone has chimed in on how innovation is the only way out of the recession. So instead of adding more theory, let’s have a look at actual B2C innovations from recession-defying entrepreneurs and brands around the world.

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Good times or bad times, it’s actually somewhat up to you

Yes, we all agree that innovation is the only way out of the current mess that both mature and not-so-mature consumer societies find themselves in. We’re talking basically anything that will get consumers spending again, and preferably the kind of spending that involves sustainable goods, services and experiences. Since everyone from Seth Godin to the Harvard Business Review is providing you with excellent, inspiring insights and theory on innovation as a mindset, a process, a way of life, we’d like to contribute to the conversation with examples of actual innovations. As we see it:

INNOVATION JUBILATION | There will never be a shortage of smart new ventures, brands, goods and services that deliver on consumers’ wants and needs. And if those wants and needs currently revolve around practicality, efficiency and responsibility, and less about traditional luxury, splurging and upgrading, then that’s what brands should deliver on. Which seems doable, judging from the dozens of recent innovations we’ve rounded up for this briefing, courtesy of our sister-site Springwise.

The link between INNOVATION JUBILATION and trends? As focused as we are on emerging consumer trends, we never tire of pointing out that trends are only good for one thing: inspiring you to innovate, to come up with new goods, services and experiences for (or even better, with) your customers.

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Innovation: not just labs, not always earnest, not necessarily expensive

Three more thoughts on innovation:

  • Innovation is not necessarily about people in white coats puttering about in R&D labs. In an experience economy (which we’re still in, recession or not), marketing innovation is equally important, and often trumps technical innovation.
  • Furthermore, as consumers’ wants are sometimes frilly, new products and services can be, too. Really, innovation doesn’t have to be so earnest all the time! Have fun with it, too!
  • Thirdly, doing or starting something new doesn’t have to cost the world. Many of the innovations featured in this briefing thrive on nimbleness and creativity, not huge budgets.

Springwise New Business Ideas is’s sister site. Do not miss out!

OK, enough preaching, let’s get to practicing: check out these 50+ innovations*, arranged by trends and industries, and all sourced from’s sister site Springwise, which finds and publishes the best innovations from around the world, with the help of 8,000+ Springspotters. Seriously, if you don’t yet subscribe to its weekly newsletter, you’re missing out!

*You may have already seen some of these (hey, we actually hope you have—if all of the below is new to you, you’ve let your business intelligence slide…), but we’ve also added some new trend monikers to add context.

The FREE LOVE trend will continue to do well, with a dash of GENERATION G thrown in now that recession pains are felt by many. Check out the following FREE LOVE innovations:

  • Printing | FedEx Office recently drew attention by extending a helping hand to job seekers, offering free printing (on March 10th) of up to 25 black-and-white copies of their resume at any of the company’s 1,600+ stores across the US. More »
  • Retail | An iPhone application developed for 7-Eleven Sweden combines a store locator with coupons for a free coffee and biscotti. After downloading the app, users plug in their phone number and receive a unique coupon code on their iPhone. To claim their coffee, they just show the code to a 7-Eleven clerk; no purchase necessary. The coupon is only valid once, and free coffee in April will be followed by free ice cream in May. More »
  • Sampling | Created by Belgian marketing and design agency Fosfor, the Boobox is a vending machine designed specifically to dole out freebies. More »Sample U is a product testing site where TRYSUMERS are given lab memberships allowing them to take home products and discuss them with friends, in exchange for providing demographic information for market research purposes. More »

  • Advertising | Washington DC-based FreePaperCups gives away paper cups with advertisements on them to corporate customers across the US. More »
  • Music | No Doubt is giving away free downloads of their entire digital audio catalogue to high-end ticket buyers for the band’s tour, that just kicked off in Atlantic City. More »

The trend towards control-craving consumers who actually enjoy doing the work that brands used to do for them (online check-in, anyone?) is not new, but the innovations that it continues to spawn certainly are:

  • Vending machines | U*tique is an upscale vending machine that dispenses select luxury and personal care products handpicked by specialists with backgrounds in global beauty, trend-hunting and innovation. More »
  • Bars | Amsterdam’s Minibar gives patrons access to a personal minibar and lets them serve themselves. Designed by Dutch design firm Concrete, Minibar offers consumers a way to avoid long lines at the bar without having to spring for pricey bottle service. More »
  • Publishing | An initiative from Lexus, Time and American Express Publishing, called mine, allows consumers to create their own personalized magazines by choosing editorial content from Time, Sports Illustrated, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Money, InStyle, Golf, and Travel + Leisure. More »

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