I experienced the power of true service innovation (putting "sausage" in your service) when flying with British Airways recently. It reminded me of just how much more effective product and service innovation is compared to any amount of advertising.
I had booked valet parking online, was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by name as I dropped off the car, before I'd even had chance to say hello. Nice start to the day. As I was flying business class, I was then able to avoid the crowd at Heathrow T1 and use the "premium check-in" area. Not 1 or 2 counters, a whole separate wing of the airport. And then, when I went to the lounge they spotted my Gold Card and invited me to use the First lounge.
This is a great example of what I call a true "brand-led business". Applying the concept of superior service to the whole customer experience, not just trying to wrap an "image wrapper" of communication and a new logo around an average product. It requires more investment, but it's a lot harder to copy, and bags more effective than any fancy TV ad.
The only shame was that when we were stuck on the ground in Milan for 2 hours owing to bad weather in London, the on-board crew didn't do more to keep us distracted. I had to ask for a glass of water, rather than being offered one. They could have offered us a newspaper, sang us a song, I don't know, something other than just keep us informed of the bad news about delays.
5 minute workout: what functional innovation could you create to be a truly brand-led business, and not one that relies just on communication to get across the brand idea?