The bedrock of the new “Creativity Economy” in 2007 will continue to be innovation, according to a new survey by Weber Shandwick and sister company KRC Research, which found 76 percent of senior executives agreeing that innovation will become more important over the next five years. The Changing Face of Marketing and Communications in Today’s Creativity Economy survey also reveals that 78 percent of senior executives agree that innovation is important to their CEO, with most CEOs similarly responding that innovation is important to the company.

According to Weber Shandwick, innovation—which has long been regarded as a buzzword enthusiastically discussed in boardrooms—is now top-of-mind for decision makers, largely as a result of the Web 2.0 movement. As a result, an overwhelming 86 percent of senior executives surveyed believe that the marketing and communications functions are increasingly critical tools for successfully navigating this new operating environment.

And companies are infusing innovation throughout their organizations. Seventy percent of senior business leaders use internal communications to promote innovation among employees, and more than two-thirds believe that driving innovation in their business processes and customer experiences are more important than innovation in product development. 

“The emergence of the empowered consumer means that companies can no longer just talk about innovation as a strategic imperative.  They must seek new ways to live it by involving the consumer and integrating innovation into their corporate DNA,” according to Billee Howard, executive vice president and managing director in the global strategic media group at Weber Shandwick. “Embracing innovation, while driving stronger emphasis on what corporate brands stand for, will be vital to a company’s success in 2007.”

The Weber Shandwick study found a growing emphasis on promoting the company and what it represents (where the company becomes the main brand), and less emphasis on individual products. Nearly 60 percent said that their companies are shifting marketing and advertising expenditures to enhance the way they think and talk about their company, not just the products themselves.

Nearly two-thirds of senior executives have already reported greater emphasis on understanding and incorporating the customer’s viewpoint.  Furthermore, nearly 80 percent of those surveyed expect tighter collaboration between product development and marketing in the innovation leadership race.

The survey also identified the top three tools companies are using to drive innovation, including: better meeting customers’ needs (88 percent); marketing and communications (82 percent); and internal collaboration (82 percent).

These findings further support the important role a company’s internal culture plays in driving innovation.

“The customer has never played a more significant role in helping to direct how business gets done,” says Jennifer Risi, executive vice president in the global strategic media group.  “In the race for innovation leadership, meeting customers’ needs in new and creative ways is charting the course, and finishing in the front of the pack will mean the difference between success and failure. Successful use of communications strategies and techniques, particularly those that carve out leadership and distinction for the corporate brand, will be critical to success in this new era.”

As the role of innovation evolves, marketing and communications will play a greater role in a company’s success more than ever before. Already, 68 percent of senior executives report that they’re expanding their communications strategy thanks to the advent of the Creativity Economy. “As companies’ emphasis on innovation continues to grow, so too will the need for creative, well-articulated communications strategies,” says Risi.