Arcadia Communications Lab is a global collaborative solely focused on helping established businesses get value from communicating about innovation.

Innovation Communicator Tools

Our Approach

It’s tough pretending you’re a startup. So don’t.

Standing out on innovation is harder than ever, especially for established businesses. The word is overused, vague, and most often associated with startups or consumer tech. Since the real innovation that impacts customers and employees is often technical and nuanced, those stories don’t get told.

Worse, when they do get told, they’re often shared in a feedback loop that is as limited as it’s closed. There’s a robust ecosystem dedicated to let big company innovators talk to other innovators about innovation…or generate content on websites that declare it to nobody in particular. Coverage in your industry trades earns you little exposure in mainstream media.

We specialize in helping you talk about innovation to stakeholders both inside and outside your company, via diverse media that let you truly differentiate, and achieve recognition and value, for what you do.

Let us help you play to your strengths, and realize latent value.

No matter how much tech language is used, most PR is practiced the old-fashioned way: Your messaging gets developed, then staffers work “their” contacts in hope of finding homes for your stories. It’s a hit-or-miss numbers game, for which you pay for effort more than outcomes.

You won’t see it in your progress reports, but the innovation stories you get will read and feel much like everyone else’s. Mentions of big data, the Internet of Things, or the connected [insert product here] are generic these days.

Our proprietary approach helps you identify and then play to your strengths, and thereby realize the latent value of your innovation. It has been proven with dozens of client engagements around the world.

Here it is in a nutshell:

A Big Data Context Engine

We see journalists, bloggers, and other opinion-makers as customers, not simply messengers, which means we strive to understand not only their personal proclivities, but what qualities constitute their understanding and expectations for innovation. Our proprietary Context Engine collects and aggregates this data, and then informs our clients’ strategy development. We call it ‘outside-in’ strategy.

Real-World Integration

Once we understand the context for innovation in a particular industry, we partner with our clients to develop a strategy that directs and links its activities to that reality. This means we work with operations, not just communications and marketing, to identify the content that will accomplish our differentiation goals. Nothing has intrinsic value for us, yet everything has potential uses. Actions speak louder than words.

Strategic Creative

Our approach to creativity isn’t to focus only on tactical techniques to deliver content, but net new creative approaches to how it’s produced. This can include recommendations for new partnerships, programs, or even changes in product functionality or services offerings. The overriding purpose is to maximize our clients’ opportunities to participate meaningfully in conversations about innovation. Less ‘me too,’ and more ‘only us.’

An Actionable Roadmap

We don’t deliver plans promising “to work with key media,” or “position you as so-and-so.” Our initial engagements produce actionable roadmaps that start with communications goals — what, where, and when we want outcomes — and then work backward to specify the actions, required work, cost, and likelihood of success for each step. Clients can use it on their own, or we are ready to help deliver it.

A Better Approach To Placing Content

Unlike agencies that expend endless hours ‘working’ with media to try and make client stories fit their needs, we get most of that work done via our Context Engine at the start of our engagements. This means we have a far better understanding of who will use what (and when), and rely on our Content Tool to aggressively manage its delivery.


We’re constantly innovating communications technologies and approaches, and our clients get visibility into this work (and often participate). Our latest project is a news site, Innovation Communicator, which is intended as a resource for media and analysts interested in innovation at established public companies. We are also developing additional proprietary algorithms for our Context Engine and Content Tool client offerings.

Our Global People Network

We host a worldwide community of expert, inspired individuals who staff our client projects based on skill and location requirements.

Brussels   |   Chicago   |   London   |   Los Angeles   |   Melbourne   |   New York   |   Stockholm   |   Tokyo

Our Partners

Our partners bring unique and proven capabilities to our client engagements, and contribute to the research in our labs.

Our Client Successes

We don’t reveal client names, but we’ve worked with the top brands in categories like computer hardware, consumer electronics, automotive, insurance, non-profits, transportation, entertainment, and retail.

Human Beings Make Machines

Human Beings Make Machines

One of America’s largest foreign-born car companies discovered that its customers felt somewhat distant from its brand, even though the company made significant ongoing contributions to the communities in which it operated (both in localized manufacturing and its corporate and dealer-based philanthropy).
We designed and delivered a campaign to allow its stakeholders to not only become aware of its activities, but participate in them. This interaction included hosting collegiate alternative fuels races, in which students could participate with the engagement of the company’s engineers; connecting company executives with colleges in need of training and support for their professors; and the creation of an ongoing communications campaign, utilizing every tool at our disposal (PR, ads, brochures), to feedback to the communities what they and our client were accomplishing together.
The narrative worked because it was authentic. We couldn’t have bought the recognition and endorsement out client achieved. It still benefits from that value today.

Current History

Current History

We love games of all sorts, so when we had the chance to work with one of our partners on an alternate reality game (ARG) for one of the nation’s leading museums, we jumped at the chance.
The remit was particularly exciting because, ultimately, the imaginary story of the ARG had to communicate a real historical narrative. This challenged our narrative approach, as we first tracked the factual people and events we wanted to share, and then explored how “far” we could step away/ahead of them with an alternate timeline. What factual elements could be hidden, or otherwise “found” in the course of the story experience (this was 180 degrees different than the normal pedagogical, almost lecture approach museums take to sharing knowledge)? What content could we present that was obviously untrue, perhaps even playful, without risking that people would lose track of the “real” narrative.
The ultimate deliverable was both a game and a community. Both components are important to learning.

Defining Innovation

Defining Innovation

Innovation in government is an emergent and necessary capability, and we’ve had the opportunity to work with one of America’s largest and busiest agencies on defining and then meeting that challenge.
There was no lack of effort; the agency had activities in literally hundreds of areas, both internally and in geographies around the world, yet they didn’t “add up” to a program that had a clearly achievable goal and measurable benchmarks.
Their Innovation Narrative started with a criteria for assessing and ranking activities, so as to determine a matrix of work that mapped low, medium and high effectiveness against short, medium, and long-term benefits. The qualities of those activities were standardized in order to enable apples-to-apples comparisons.
We then mapped the work into a chronology that fell into organic ‘chapters” of development, each of which could be shared with the client’s internal and external stakeholders. The assessment tool continued to serve as a channel for additional activities to get added to the narrative, as well as a descriptive that enabled net new activities.

From Education to Learning

From Education to Learning

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s really hard to teach anybody just about anything unless they want to learn. This is no more true than in the marketing communications space, which is filled with good-intended campaigns to educate consumers on what they should like or do, and not recognizing that their interests in learning those things need to be addressed first.
We faced just this sort of conundrum with a client who didn’t just make great CE audio products, but arguably the best in the categories in which they competed. The problem was that consumers had no basis upon which to make that distinction for themselves and, worse, competitors had fostered a mistaken belief in the wrong criteria for making those judgments. Claims of “better” fell on deaf ears (no pun intended).
We built and delivered a strategy that went to the source — the engineers who were responsible for the music that people enjoyed — and relied on a series of tests, interviews and events to change the conversation, driven primarily by the implicit message that our client’s products made it possible to hear the music just as the engineers who created it did.This aspect of authenticity and credibility fit right into the client’s overall marketing and branding messaging. We provided the tools to give that communications more substance, and encourage consumers to judge for themselves…in new ways. The products still lead their categories. If you’d listen, you’d know why.

The Fashion of Computers

The Fashion of Computers

Now that computers can be as small as a watch or mobile phone, they’re as much fashion items — expressions of self — as they are technical tools. Sales are the ultimate metric of any product success, but reputations are determined by adoption and engagement, too.
We worked with one of the world’s leading computer manufacturers to create an Innovation Narrative that delivered those sales and engagement numbers for a new product introduction.
It started by throwing out the standard approach to CE launches, which is to debut a product as close as possible to when it can be bought, and then rely on expert product reviews to drive or suppress sales. Instead, we explored the innovation behind every step of the product’s development, such as what materials were used, where they were sourced, and how they were being assembled, always highlighting the challenges of innovating those activities. This greatly enhanced the company’s reputation for innovation.
When launch neared, we discovered the company’s innovative manufacturing approach would yield discrete batches of product, which normally would have been opaque to the consuming public. We elevated this point in the narrative and helped strategize how to allocate the first units to existing customers, thereby delivering a sellout during the first weekend of the product’s availability. Like any fashion item, this energized the public and generated significant interest that only built momentum as stores continually restocked the units. The brand has utilized this approach to its Innovation Narrative ever since.

The Importance of Geography

The Importance of Geography

Our client was a well-funded startup that wanted to innovate some of the most established business processes in existence. Worse, the activities were often considered private, so finding ways to even suggest trial, let alone adoption, was challenge.
We worked together to come up with a narrative that helped its would-be customers imagine the process as something that could be partially outsourced, with automation (the service depended on some cutting-edge algorithms to deliver the work) providing a level of privacy security that enabled test uses. This involved finding novel places to demo its products, such as airports, and devising unique ways to get its would-be customers involved, which included innovations such as a “drop off” service for the process to be managed.
Just as importantly, we helped it tell this narrative to its investors, both old and new. They obviously found it compelling, since funding was increased, and the company is now often on television (obviously testing another innovative tool).
We never talked about innovation, however. We just innovated new ways to communicate.

The Importance of Headlines

The Importance of Headlines

We live in an era when every news or weather event has a name, and your company’s major initiatives are no exception. A proper headline not only telegraphs the essence of the content that follows, but can stand alone as a purpose or destination that engages those stakeholder communities most responsible with realizing it.
So it’s surprising that so many mission or value statements are very similar, somewhat generic, and quite inert. We worked with a major player in the global shipping industry to buck that trend.
Our engagement focused on inventing a straw man, or model for an Innovation Narrative headline that would encompass the company’s vision and ongoing work. We dove deep into those operations, and looked long and hard at what its competitors were doing (and what its industry required).
The resulting headline came after a handful of straw man iterations, and promptly became the rallying cry for everything from its client engagements to the textual close of every press release.

Integrating Customer Experience

Integrating Customer Experience

Most brands have multiple customer touch points, and this is especially true for services providers. Often times, these touch points are managed separately, measured against different success metrics and, more than occasionally, work at cross-purposes. Everyone strives to innovate and do the right thing, yet this can often come across to consumers as unnecessary complexity or, worse, lessen the benefits of those innovations. Sometimes, they never even get into market.
We worked with a Top Five American multi-line insurer to support and amplify its spending on innovating customer experience.
Where these experiences occurred ranged from self-operating web visits, to personal meetings with agents. Offerings had different processes and, in some instances, varying scripts. Pricing depended on which department had originated the offer or test.
Our approach was to unify these efforts into a coherent Innovation Narrative that respected the many requirements of policyholder privacy, while building opportunities to make each innovation tell a part of the company’s bigger story.
Bids were increased, more policies were written, and the company’s reputation for innovation was noticed and valued by its agents and other stakeholders. The narrative �panned a dozen innovation initiatives.

Criteria For Judgement

Criteria For Judgement

One of the byproducts of digital media experience is that many of the traditional institutions upon which consumers relied for vetting and affirming commercial claims no longer exist, or are simply not believed. Establishing standards, or the criteria for forming expectations for use and experience, is often the responsibility of corporations, which much deliver this substance as a part of a bigger marketing mandate.
Since innovation can change these deliverables in an instant, some companies have endeavored to define standards for innovation by which their narratives can be grasped by stakeholders.
We helped a very innovative wireless products provider create that backbone for its narrative.
In this case, it amounted to an actual standard by which it and its competitors could be measured; the criteria included product performance, ease of use, frequency of updates, and an overall metric of financial value. The company then announced it would be measured by it, and encouraged its industry competitors to do the same.
The project took on a life of its own, and media and industry analysts began to apply the standard when analyzing innovation. Our client effectively defined innovation for its class of products, which made every action a proof point that only affirmed and strengthened its reputation.

Building Loyalty

Building Loyalty

The funny thing about customer loyalty is that it’s rarely bought, yet many companies presume such relationships are financial: customers are ranked and rewarded for their purchase behavior, usually measured in top-line revenue, and companies reward them with incentives to buy more. So it’s no wonder why many brands struggle to deliver true loyalty, and why they don’t reliably see the value of those relationships reflected in the profitability or sustainability of the business, let alone in the depth and frequency of how well it’s liked.
We worked with one of America’s leading multi-line insurers to extract meaningful value from its innovation efforts to build loyalty.
Our project started with, well, the start. We wanted to understand who were their most loyal policyholders, and what characteristics they shared. The data showed us one overwhelmingly inescapable fact: The most enduring, profitable customers were those that had taken on a second line of insurance within a year of getting their first policies written. Otherwise, the company was quite adept at keeping them informed and satisfied.
This insight shifted the loyalty Innovation Narrative from coming up with ways to acknowledge longstanding policyholders, to experimenting with ways to engage with first-timers. There was much work already underway in this regard. Our narrative gave it a purpose to which those investments of time and money could be directed.
It’s a narrative that the company tells today to its stakeholders.

The Future of Media

The Future of Media

It’s easy to say that digital distribution will replace print media. It’s also wrong. We now know that digital isn’t simply an agnostic medium for all text, audio or images/video, but that both content development and its experience are inexorably tied to user, uses, and overall context. This reality renders moot any binary distinction of “digital” vs. “print.” The operant word is and.
We worked with a major US newspaper chain to organize its innovation work in this new media space, and direct it against specific strategic deliverables for the brand.
This meant exploring ways the daily improvements its far-flung units created, matching them with client needs (both current and forecasted) to create bigger, more long-term innovation goals, and creating an execution plan that enabled the company to operationalize its Innovation Narrative.
It monetized their ongoing innovation work. We know it because it was designed to drives sales, margin improvement, and increase its reputation among all of its key stakeholders.
The project touched on all of the key drivers of innovation and value.

Shorthand Was Needed

Shorthand Was Needed

We love a great brand slogan, which means we hate bad ones and have some strong opinions about what differentiates the two.
The most important attribute of a great slogan is that it communicates something real, almost as if it’s telling an authentic story (or making a binding promise). This helps stakeholders frame their expectations, and put brands to test. Bad ones are pithy and catchy, but make no tangible statement that can be verified by experience. What makes a slogan memorable is what people do with and because of it, not how memorable it might be.
Our client, an up-and-coming software services provider, came to us for help coming up with a new slogan, we applied that understanding, along with research and insights into what its stakeholders expected and what the business could provide.
The solution was a two-word slogan that telegraphed the means by which its customers could verify its brand promise. Over time, it proved to be spot on, only what delivered that success was the ongoing narrative of our client’s operations, not repetition of the slogan.

The Opportunity for Change

The Opportunity for Change

Technological innovation presents a challenge and opportunity to every company, whether large of small. Internal programs attempt to harness it, while external entrepreneurs develop it. When the two “sides” meet, it can yield incredible synergies…or disruptive change. Our client helped broach this gap between internal and external innovators, and we developed the Innovation Narrative to help them communicate how to do it successfully.
The key was to define the “place” where this collaboration could take place, since there were a variety of ways companies attempted to do it (starting corporate venture funds and making direct investments in individual startups, hosting hackathons and other events intended to get individual entrepreneurs and engineers involved, opening sponsored “incubators” that were geographically near Silicon Valley in hopes of absorbing innovation, etc.).
Our strategy was to name and quantify this “place” that allowed companies to work together, and then provide the specific criteria for how that engagement could be successfully facilitated.
The communications campaign encompassed everything from industry research (on challenges and opportunities), canvassing potential participants, and hosting a number of events to allow people literal hands-on experiences. Today, they are successfully turning change into an opportunity for clients around the world.

People Power

People Power

Innovation isn’t just an aspiration or idea, it’s something that people DO…or not…which means that inspiring and empowering them are not just key components for telling any brand’s Innovation Narrative, but also core tools for delivering it.
We had the opportunity to work with a team of over 100,000 worldwide store associates to create a content platform that not only included them in company news, but helped them make it. That meant transforming quarterly earnings announcements into interactive meetings at which results were explained and then go-forward actions created. A company-wide newsletter was invented that had no corporate ‘voice,’ but rather was crowdsourced among the rank-and-file associates, who chose what issues to discuss and/or what information they needed from company leadership. Store communications became an ongoing, two-way learning channel populated with videos, podcasts, and other tools to allow associates to innovate laterally.
The company’s people literally wrote the book on branded specialty retailing. They made the movies, too.

Quantitative Rules

Quantitative Rules

Talking about innovation can as challenging as the work itself, insomuch that it is often inseparable from the daily conduct of business. In fact, many leading brands proactively work to make it a seamless aspect of operations, with the expectation that its benefits will be visible in the improvements the business delivers.
We believe this means a lot of innovation value gets left on the table, if not missed outright. A wildly innovative project can yield successes along a development path — informing employees and external stakeholders — long before it ever reaches a successful conclusion.
We worked with a leading regional retailer to define the criteria to define such successes, and then worked on the program to communicate its Innovation Narrative.
A key deliverable was to base every innovation claim on a quantitative proof point; many of its competitors had made sweeping claims that lacked such substance, and we collectively concluded that the narrative needed to not only provide a vision for the company’s strategy, but give the metrics upon which its progress could be tracked. The “rules” we developed helped structure and move its narrative along.

A Corporate Revival

A Corporate Revival

We’ve found that industries that aren’t necessarily recognized for innovation are often the most experimental and aggressive. Low expectations are a mixed blessing, though, since stakeholders can lack the ability to recognize and value a company’s accomplishments. This was nowhere more true a few years agothan in the media retailing business.
We worked with a major brand to tell its Innovation Narrative in the face of significant challenges from online distribution, dire conclusions from equity analysts, and deep concern among its employees.
Our approach was to dive deep into our client’s narrative, and learn about all of the innovation that went on almost as a matter of course: Employee training and incentives, store merchandising, customer service, even the breadth and depth of the content offering were then integrated into a complete picture that was delivered to its stakeholder groups.
The deliverable wasn’t just an Innovation Narrative, but a narrative that our client controlled and could build upon. Their repetitional value improved, as did their prospects for success.

Breaking Down Silos

Breaking Down Silos

We’ve worked with a number of large, global houses of brands, and every engagement usually touches on the challenge of sharing and promoting innovative ideas, whether operational or marketing.
Our client, one of the largest of such businesses worldwide, had a great need for an internal Innovation Narrative to which its brands to contribute, so we aggressively aggregated examples of innovative work at every business — so the narrative could be built from a base of equals — and then facilitated cross-silo participation in activities, events, and programs.
The narrative also involved corporate-level metrics and promotion, to which we contributed content that also appeared in reporting to equity analysts and other external stakeholders.

Found in Translation

Found in Translation

Innovation in the B2B world is often more collaborative and nuanced, especially when it comes to relationships between manufacturers and OEM suppliers. The most successful ones are great conversations that yield regular innovations that benefit all participants.
Our client was a massive electronics parts & platform provider, and our challenge was to communicate an innovative new product to its ecosystem of partners and customers.
The solution we proposed was to take the key learnings of a typical consumer product launch, aggregated from our research of technology CE products, and translate the steps into a campaign that would literally and figuratively “speak” to our client’s ecosystem. We discovered many intriguing points of difference, such as the many of the moments that would normally be considered reveals or news announcements were better executed as collaborative conversations. The introduction was an ongoing process that provided multiple ways to engage with it.
Ultimately, the product failed to find its market, but the company’s market found its introduction a valuable, relationship-positive experience. We also learned a lot.

Answering the Question

Understanding The Question

User experience, or UX, is an emergent priority for products and services. The experiences of usage are not only as important as the promised utility and intangible benefits, but either support or discount them.
Our client, a large financial services provider, came to us with the case for an employee communications innovation that would yield significant benefits for both users and the company (better access to services, lower management and delivery costs). The problem was that the first iteration of the offering had fallen on deaf ears. Nobody used it. We dove in and researched employee habits and needs, and then correlated that with the promised uses of the communications tool (it was a robust intranet in which employees were expected to operate from the moment they signed-in every morning). But we discovered that nobody wanted to sign-into it first thing. They appreciated the potential benefits, but it addressed no immediate need when they arrived at work.
Then, one day as we were leaving a morning meeting, we noticed a sheet of paper taped to the wall in the elevator area. On it were printed the day’s cafeteria specials.
Voila! We reimagined the tool’s home page to deliver each day’s special, and even added incentives for reduced items that were only good if clicked-on before 10 am.
Usage skyrocketed to 97% within the first week, and stayed in that range thereafter.

A Better Way

A Better Way

Habits die hard, and consumers are generally happy with routines until they’re disrupted. Most new product and service decisions are made because of a shortcoming or bad experience, not necessarily the promise of a different or better way.
Our client faced this conundrum with a disruptive technology that changed the fundamental premise and actions driving the soft drinks category, and needed a way to make their narrative compelling to consumers.
After researching the challenge, we concluded that hitting established habits was a losing proposition; there’s no way to undercut the simplicity and low cost of buying favorite soda brands at grocery or convenience stores. Instead, we targeted our client’s narrative to niche consumers who we hoped based their purchase decisions on other attributes.
One of our target audiences were environmentally-aware consumers (since our products were better for the environment because of less transportation and waste impacts). We developed and delivered the narrative to those consumers with the imprimatur of the third-party groups they trusted, and through the media channels upon which they relied. They literally drank it up.
This success led us to add other consumer segments to our strategy, each based less on getting them to unlearn established behaviors, and instead offering them a “better” way to do the things that mattered to them. It was a sparkling success.

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