Following the RB & Lions Health Innovation Hack, we caught up with Sejal Sachdev, RB’s research and development communications manager, about this year’s winning campaign, how PR and comms can fuel innovation – and her highlights from Cannes 2017.
What is the RB & Lions Health Innovation Hack, and what is its history?
The Hack is essentially a product development challenge that brings together our internal marketing and R&D experts, with industry leading creatives and entrepreneurs, to pioneer solutions to a global health challenge – all in a day!
What I love about the Hack is that it truly epitomises the way we work at RB. As a company we’re always looking for like-minded organisations that we can partner with to create innovative solutions that empower our consumers to lead healthier and happier lives.
The theme for this year’s Innovation Hack is air pollution in China. How was this theme chosen? And why is it so important for brands and communicators to team up and tackle this challenge?
Even in countries like China, where awareness of air pollution is high and some preventative measures are available, people are still not protecting their health effectively.
Children’s developing organs and immune systems, as well as their smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable, so we wanted to find new ways to empower parents to protect them. At the end of the day, all humans need to breathe. So it felt right for us to focus on an issue that is so relevant to us all.
The benefit of the Innovation Hack is that it enables us to bring together our global R&D team – who have the technical and scientific expertise – with world-leading communications, advertising and marketing creatives and entrepreneurs who, every day, help brands engage consumers worldwide.
Last year’s Innovation Hack saw some great innovations, from anti-pollutant paint to air filtering pacifiers. Which team do you feel came up with the best creative campaign?
Although I thought last year’s winning innovation – a musical instrument to strengthen children’s lungs – was fantastic, the idea that touched me the most was the pollutant filtering baby pacifier. The story was emotionally compelling, showing how a baby’s lungs are most vulnerable within the first year and was also focused on creating a partnership to reach babies in the poorest communities.
Working in comms, I am a sucker for a good story that brings to life the impact an innovation can have – it’s the human interest angle. Sadly, as pacifiers are not culturally relevant in India the idea couldn’t win.
Which creatives teamed up with RB’s own R&D and marketing experts this year?
Three of our participants won coveted Lions Health Awards over the weekend. We are so proud to have worked with such an inspirational and engaged group this year as they really do help us to make the initiative a success.
What’s unusual about the Innovation Hack is that it gets creatives involved during the early stages of a product’s conception. What are the advantages of this approach?
At RB, this is something we already do. Our marketing and R&D teams work very closely together to drive the innovation pipeline across our brands. But it’s always done with the purpose and intention of making a difference to people’s lives.
I think it’s really important for R&D to adopt this approach and also vice versa, for marketing to bring R&D into the creative process. Diversity of thought and experience can be a powerful driver for innovation.
Which parts of RB’s R&D comms programme are you most proud of?
I am, of course, most proud of the Innovation Hack, which has been a huge success in both its first and second years. So much so, that we are looking into hosting another hack in 2018. Our PR agency, Virgo Health, came to us with this idea, which I fell in love with as it epitomises what RB and R&D stand for.
I am very passionate about the Hack and look forward to seeing our R&D team work over the coming months to explore how we might be able to create 2017’s winning idea, Stroll-Air. It’s a small, portable device for streaming filtered air to create positive pressure that repels air pollution and provides babies with a protective bubble of clean air – very smart!
The Innovation Hack is just a small part of the Lions Health festival. What other events did you enjoy over the course of the weekend?
A really interesting session I attended was led by Dr Shafi Ahmed, who leverages new technologies to transform and enhance surgical education globally. Last year he performed the world’s first live operation using Snapchat Spectacles!
I also was finally able to attend the Lions Award show this year, which was truly inspirational. I love the Immunity Charm by McCann Health – so simple, yet so effective.