Gartner Reveals the Top Three Barriers to Innovation in Marketing

Marketing Leaders Report They Struggle With Risk-Averse Corporate Cultures, Measurement and Talent

Despite commanding 16% of marketing budgets and maturing as a core discipline, significant challenges remain for marketing innovation execution and effectiveness, according to Gartner, Inc. The Gartner Brand Strategy and Innovation Survey 2019* report shows the top three barriers to marketing innovation are risk-aversion, an inability to measure impact and limited talent (see Figure 1).

“The nature of true innovation is newness, and this takes people out of their comfort zone,” said Elizabeth Shaw, senior research director in the Gartner for Marketers Practice. “Even though senior executives demand innovation, they are reluctant to move forward when the time comes to act.”

Figure 1. Top Barriers Marketers Face Around Innovation
Figure 1. Top Barriers Marketers Face Around Innovation

Another perennial issue with the newness of innovation is measurement. It is challenging to measure innovation initiatives without first knowing what success looks like. However, measurement is necessary; otherwise, innovation efforts can be deemed of no value to the organization. Marketers managing innovation must be savvy communicators with key stakeholders to manage expectations around innovation programs and outcomes.

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Many marketing leaders also express difficulties in finding the right talent for innovation. While the “chief innovation officer” title and corporate innovation labs have been on the rise, many marketers are still working to upskill themselves for these roles.

“Driving innovation requires a depth and breadth of skills beyond what exists in many marketing organizations,” said Ms. Shaw. “Although many marketers are taking training programs and gaining certifications through online courses to gain an edge in today’s hypercompetitive job market, hiring managers must ensure hiring and upskilling priorities align with their organization’s strategic innovation needs.”

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To overcome these barriers, marketing leaders responsible for leading and supporting innovation should:

  • Crawl, Walk, Run: Combat resistance to risk by using a “crawl, walk, run” approach. In the crawl phase, use tactics such as asking users or customers for ideas, partner with external technology service providers and create a business case for an innovation. This will give momentum and help build the foundation needed to successfully graduate to the maturity and pace of the “walk” and “run” phases.
  • Focus on Three Measurements: Overcome measurement hurdles by measuring in three areas: innovation culture (e.g., pulse surveys, employee participation), innovation process (e.g., agility, efficiency) and innovation outcomes (e.g., number of prototypes and pilots). Always separate the metrics for culture and process from the innovations themselves. When possible, use regular business measures to quantify innovation outcomes.
  • Upskill and Prioritize Training: Actively upskill talent and prioritize innovation skills in new recruits. Team members should be provided opportunities for specific innovation and leadership skills, creating a future-ready culture and the expectation of ongoing professional development.

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