The Human Side of Innovation and Branding with Sue Bevan Baggott

Innovation and Branding-Sue Bevan Baggot

When approaching innovation and branding, understand who you serve first. Don’t focus on the solution first. According to Harvard Business Review, statistics tell us that over 70% of innovation fails. With a background as a global innovator, Sue Bevan Baggot learned this quickly as she looked to begin her career at Proctor and Gamble. She was drawn to the company because of their focus on innovative ways of improving people’s businesses. Sue worked on helping clients uncover the insights they needed to help them set business or innovation strategies. She discovered that the secret to success is motivation, the continual evolution of information and social contact, personal and professional development, and the ability to promote success across all platforms. 

Failure taught her that innovation and creativity alone is not enough to move a product or build a client base. Building trust was crucial and that took time as the company stepped back to ask some important questions. The questions they asked are universal in their scope of application for anyone in business. We will approach four of them here: One: Who are you serving? Two: How can you create value? Three: How can you build trust with uniqueness?  and Four: What does empathy look like?

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The Human Side of Innovation and Branding with Sue Bevan Baggott

One: Who are You Serving?

The first innovation project Sue did at Procter and Gamble was on a haircare project creating a product combining shampoo and conditioner. The new innovative product met all their technical objectives. However, excitement waned when it failed woefully in the market. Market research was necessary to find out why it failed and why it was rejected.

More important than the product’s function was the customer’s failure to experience the emotional and physical signals with the shampoo and rinse. This brought skepticism with the belief that the product would fail to work. It was time to take a step back. The solution was not to pour more energy in additional marketing or even more creativeness in messaging. They needed to ask what the customers were really looking to experience with the product. Sue, with her team completely changed their marketing approach and found they needed to provide samples so people could experience the product, which had not initially been done. They then went one step further providing showers to test and observe their customers shampooing.  It was a creative way to get the immediate emotional response from those they would serve to recreate the experience they would have shampooing. Due to the attention they paid to the human side, they were able to figure out psychologically what people needed, not just functionally, but emotionally, and subsequently addressed those needs.

Two: How Can You Create Value?

As a CEO or entrepreneur, the human side of innovation and branding involves being empathetic toward the consumer’s feelings. Combining a shampoo and rinse together may have seemed like an added value, but if the customer fails to feel it works for them, there is no value in the combination. Additional value can come in many forms. With a garment, it may come with fine workmanship, an upgrade in the quality of fabric or additional lining in a jacket. Most every field can name some way to add extra value.

Creating value is especially relevant with companies looking to hire quality employees. How can we create value to attract new hires? In the past, value may have been communicated with open work spaces, accessible food and drink and bonuses. Currently, according to Forbes, one of the top trends for  hires is providing more flexibility for employees to work odd hours in locations of their choosing even for hybrid work situations. For workers, adding their own professional development and additional soft skills are a value add and will make them more attractive and in demand as a new hire.

Three: How Can You Build Trust with Uniqueness?

Trust is very important. Hence, it’s important to take the time to develop that trust with customers. When broken, trust takes even longer to rebuild. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. In the shampoo scenario, P and G didn’t realize that they were starting with so much skepticism. Words alone could not overcome distrust. Providing a taste of what customers would experience with samples were necessary before building out the complete marketing program. Actual use of the product initiated a trusted relationship with the shampoo and rinse.

This principle applies to most any business or entrepreneur to build trusted relationships. Initially, you may need to demonstrate your ability to give value, then spend the time building trust where customers feel good about the exchange of value they have with you and your business. It’s a mindset shift every entrepreneur should emulate; to stop centering on only designing the product but to center on the person, the human, they are designing it for. Discover how you can maximize the value you create for clients which not only includes functionality, emotional and aspirational needs.  Later comes the process of designing the product or service to fulfill their needs at each of those levels. This will consequently create a stronger bond of loyalty with your consumers.

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Four: What Does Empathy Look Like in Business?

Just as important as trust is creating empathy, both for customers and workers. Empathy plays an important role in leveraging unique skills and talents to respect other’s skills and talents. Empathy that is created within a team has the power to transmit that empathy to the customer. Sue was able lead her team into an environment of trust, psychological safety, and the belief that she as the leader was interested in getting them all to the next level.

In the area of cosmetics and fragrances, Sue’s team was 50% male. She came up with the idea of getting a makeup artist from Max Factor to teach the male members how to apply makeup for the very first time. They went through all the steps and this resulted with the male members developing a lot of empathy for what women go through almost daily. As a bonus, the women in her organization that watched their male teammates go through this process felt encouraged when they saw the development of empathy in their male counterparts. At the end of the day, this resulted the team not only developing empathy for the customer but empathy within the team. From that point forward, the team dynamics changed in a positive way.


Before spending time creating your product, understand that you’re solving a problem that’s really important in people’s lives and you’re doing it in a very unique way. If you are not committed to that process for your customer, you’re going to have a very difficult time creating a sustainable business.

Personal application:

-See the possibilities for the impact that you can have on others with your choices.

-Develop a growth mindset to learn about your team and your customer.

-Surround yourself with people who are going to support your learning and encourage greatness.

-Don’t be limited. There will always be naysayers.


Sue Bevan Baggott is a speaker, strategy and innovation leader, angel impact investor, and board member with a proven track record of uncovering deep human insights that lead to impactful innovations and breakthrough business results. She is the founder of Power Within Consulting, a firm that empowers clients to accelerate business success by delivering human-centered, insight-driven business and innovation strategies. Sue graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and Biology from Lehigh University.

Failure teaches us that innovation and creativity alone is not enough to move a product or build a client base.

Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author

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