big companies innovation history

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How innovation still drives the world’s oldest brands

October 27, 2017

Innovation Factory

The global consumer goods corporation Procter & Gamble (P&G) is celebrating its 180th anniversary, yet it has managed to keep its innovation pace, alongside a growing number of agile, disruptive startups and hot new companies. One of Forbes’ World’s Most Innovative Companies, P&G  isn’t the only centenarian brand to have kept its edge.

Founded in 1837, P&G began by selling soap and candles in the United States. Thirty years later, it launched its first innovation: an inexpensive soap that floated in water. Global expansion and a diversified product line followed, and products such as Tide and ensured it stayed ahead of the competition for the next century. Innovation has always been at the heart of the business, and today, the company has a revenue of $71 billion.

But there are others. The Coca-Cola company, created more than 130 years ago, develops innovative equipment, distribution models and merchandising every year. Innovations such as mobile vending machines that deliver drinks and smiles, and interactive labels that link Coke Studio fans with their favourite music stars were launched in 2016 alone.

Another highly innovative company, General Electric still focuses on renewable energy, data-driven service and aircraft engines that involve Artificial Intelligence, despite having been founded more than 120 years ago, and was recently named one of the 50 Smartest Companies by MIT. Established in 1964, relative youngster Nike consistently outruns rivals with innovations such as the Flyknit technology and polyester uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles.

These (mostly) centenarian firms understand that in-house innovation is the foundation of continued success, through gauging their consumers’ ever-evolving wants and needs. Whether it is embracing intrapreneurship or leveraging start-ups to innovate, these firms are using their assets, resources and extensive experience to defy the idea that big companies can’t innovate.

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