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The meaning of innovation for consumers

Table of contents

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Innovation in business

In history, innovative technologies like a light-bulb replacing candles [1] greatly impacted the way people live and work. More effective business models like eBay’s marketplace [2], changed the way we buy used goods. Even looking at modern societies, we wouldn’t be the same without the invention of democracy [3].

Earlier this year, we were looking at the BCG report for the top 50 most innovative companies. Although we don’t have flying cars yet, augmented reality, drones, self-driving cars, AI in healthcare, and even new business models are driving today’s innovation forward.

As Forbes stated in their publication:

Click to enlarge

So how can your business not just improve its innovation in business, but also the perception of being an innovative company by consumers? In this article we describe the actual thoughts people have when it comes to the topic of innovation, and how you can use these associations to better position your brand and product in the market.

Understanding the associations will help you write better content about innovation. You can also use its emotional power to inspire more innovation in your company [4]. We even show which social media posts on Facebook and Instagram are more (or less) engaging. Which images may help you to communicate those concepts and which keywords offer the highest potential for your innovation content.

What prevents innovation? The dangerous brew of fear and complacency—staying where you are out of fear of failing, of blowing too much money, or of placing the wrong bets.

What people think about innovation

As a brand value, being perceived as innovative is desirable. Companies with a strong perception of being innovative are also more competitive in the marketplace, by selling more new products [5].

To understand the meaning of innovation, we scraped mentions of “Innovation” in millions of contexts. Over 70 Billion words from sources in the USA and worldwide are considered in the dataset. We then applied machine learning to predict implicit associations and emotions, underlying meaning of innovation.

Innovation is making people think about positive things [26%]. When rating the associations that come to mind, the general population would have a positive / happy reaction to hearing the word innovation.

The word Innovation is perceived as dominant  [20%]. A company that stands for innovation is more easily perceived as a strong competitor. As a concept its perceived as slightly more masculine and slightly more abstract than concrete.

It’s therefore not enough to say that you are “innovative”, you need to show it. Let’s consider the sub-topics of innovation to help you create content that helps people understand that you truly stand for innovation.

The meaning of innovation in a flower graph

The meaning of innovation and its sub-topics

The flower graph is the heart of the Neuro Flash – Concept explorer (sign-up for the software here). The graph shows words that are connected to the seedword: “innovation”. Words closer to the middle are more strongly related to the concept in the middle. When you want your audience to think about “innovation” you can use the words on the graph to do so, preferring the ones closer to the middle, the association bulls-eye.

You can always see how words are sorted by looking at the legend at the bottom. In this case, words are connected to the seedword (“innovation”) and are more common will be displayed in the middle. Using those is recommended because many people will know the word and they are all connected to “innovation”.

Color of the bubbles surrounding a word indicate mood. More green is more happy, more red is more sad. White is neutral. This means that e.g. green word is perceived to be more unmistakable positive. The words/concepts: opportunity, advance, vitality are more unmistakably positive than technology, global, and develope.

Size indicates the word’s commonness in the country (USA). Big means more common, smaller means less common.

Innovation sub-topics

The main sub-topics of Innovation are: Technology, Entrepreneurship & Startups, Creativity and R&D. Using the Neuro Flash association Explorer, we show the concepts strongly connected to each sub-topic and suggest different ways of communicating them. If you want to dig deeper into any association, try the Neuro Flash software for free here.


One association of innovation is technology
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Technology, is an emotionally neutral and common concept, very closely linked to innovation. Highlighting your technological advancements is a straight-forward way to communicate innovation. Advanced, intelligent and invention are central and positive as well. Looking at Softbank’s robotics advancements, Pepper the robot, gives innovation an approachable face. 

The meaning of innovation expressed by a technological advancement, a robot
Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Entrepreneurship & Startups

Another association of innovation is startups and entrepreneurial
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Entrepreneurship & Startups are positive and common concepts. Accelerators, incubators, venture, visionary and initiative are all connected concepts that are also very positive. It is not surprising therefore that companies create accelerators and startup programs to always have something innovative to communicate. Shoutout to Telekom’s Techboost Program and the Microsoft accelerator, our cooperation partners 🙂

Entrepreneurs and startups are also part of the meaning of innovation
Photo by Slidebean on Unsplash


Creativity is a strong association with innovation
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Creativity, means finding  novel solutions, a concept that is positive, common, and clearly related to innovation. Finding artistic partners in your communication will immediately spark “innovation” associations. Sponsoring artists, painting your product with wild splashed of the rainbow. Communicating “creative” ideas can successfully communicate innovation.

Creativity as part of the meaning of innovation
Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash


Innovation and R&D are closely linked in consumer minds
Click to enlarge

R&D, is the only slightly negative emotionally loaded concept in the flower graph. Slightly less common than the previous concepts. Research ad development is the department descriptor but not necessarily the best way of sparking positive interest. But slight changes may help. Neuro Flash’s explorer can be setup to find R&D associations that are optimized for positive emotions, which shows that words like “Discovery” are a lot more positive. Talking about the Discovery and Development Department is already more positive.

R&D being part of the meaning of innovation
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

The sentiments surrounding the meaning of innovation

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The Venn Diagram shows which associations with innovation are able to communicate different emotions.

In the middle, you find words that are strong on all emotions: advance, excite, recognition, passion, powerhouse. Therefore, when writing about innovation, using words like passion will excite people, ensure your brand is perceived as interested in positive change, and also a powerhouse to be reckoned with.

If you’re more interested to come across as both Happy and Emotional, words like advancement, cooperation, and partnership are very suitable. A slogan like “Your global partner for engineered innovation” would capture this spirit. 

If your goal is to stay positive and exert power, using words like opportunity, vitality, prosperity, and brilliance can help you communicate.

Both emotional and powerful associations are: prestigious, success, talent, enthusiasm, endeavor. Very innovative companies like Tesla and Apple, are very effective in attracting talent through their enthusiasm and appeal to a higher endeavor. Such words, when used, need to be backed up with “facts on the ground”. Being powerful and emotional, claiming these traits is bold. Making sure that people find reasons to believe them is therefore very important.

Focus emotions for expressing the meaning of innovation

More nimble, clearly happy associations are: unique, flourish, versatility, and enlightenment. Purely emotional associations are: spotlight, breakthrough, passionate, embrace, remarkable. And exclusively powerful associations are: achieve, cornerstone, nurture, exceptional, enrich.

Depending on your communication goal, pick from the emotional side that you want to strengthen or where your brand may already have strong assets. The meaning of innovation is abstract, therefore, communicating the message of innovation needs to carry the emotional impact which helps people stay engaged. Which in turn has many benefits for your brand building and consumer loyalty [6]. 

Innovation content with higher engagement on Facebook

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Posts on Facebook about Innovation get more engagement when they are also triggering people to think about champion, or things 3D. Certain Brands appear particularly engaging with their content with McLaren and Puma being able to combine innovation with talking about their brand (see an example below). We also observe that people engage with content that mentions geographic locations (europe and india). Highlighting local innovation may also carry pride with achievements and thereby trigger more engagement.

An engaging Facebook post from McLaren

Innovation content with higher engagement on Instagram

innovatecollaborationentrepreneurialinitiativepioneerinventiongroundbreakingindustryglobalizationrevolutionizeleadershipecosystemglobalgrowthempowermentinfrastructure▼thinkerachievement▲healthcareeconomysectorproductivityorganisationdiscovery▲engineermobilityhub▼philanthropysummitecologicalfuturisticpassion▲flagshippowerhouseenvironmentbusinessautomation▼platformpartnercompanyarchitectureeducationinvestmentinstituteexpo▼communityscalable▼activismconferenceadoptionabmrenownedcomputationaligniteprestigiousagricultureinfluentialworldfoundscientistallianceabbworkplacerenewableawarddecadesphereunleashrapidmilestoneenergyhorizonhospitalitypharma▼logistic▼millenniumstrideadvocateaerospacefoundationnetworkurbanleapsocietymarketerrenaissanceboundaryawarenessfeminismconservationaviationneurosciencetourismregionallifestylewellbeingimmersiveaccoladeexhibitionroirevivaldeployment▼biodiversitynonprofitpinnacle▲technokineticheritagepipelineestablishmentgamingbuildhumanitarianindiavibrant▲fearlesschinainfographicspecialiseheadquarter▼humansolidaritycentrelifelong▲climateacclaimstudysimulationteamnoida▼enthusiasticeuropecosmosboomparamounthonorrolecapitalprominentexpertrevenueluxuryhappiness▲stanfordenormous▲triumph▲nasaacademywide rangefranchisecampusfiercesingapore▼excitement▲iconicpoliticsolarcombustionhuman rightslectureuhdchampionxtremeuaemathematicsforwardchemistrysamsungfacultyeinsteinwelfaredrivephysicpetroleumcelebratetalented▲fellowshipspirit▲maritimevolvorobotnigeriaecommerce▼offshore▼aci▼science fictioncontinentcosmopolitanislamicbeijing▼anthropologyendurancebillionuc▼philosopherlandscapeghanacorpawe▲landmarkobstacleamericas▼machineryfitnessaudiencemedicalgeographyhitachidubai▼nuclearextensivegeothermalcrazedynamoeventmedicinepovertyfrankfurtrecruitbuddhismminespanindependencelifedemocraticcorridorcentennialannualcongratulatedentistryentertainmentvisibilityambassadorpopularchristianitypetrochemicalsurgejourneyarchaeologyvortexesteem▲crusadenetherlandsethiopiaberlinmetropolisembarkcombatpolynesiadavidassetthreatplanetnatural▲beauty▲gravitycongressforbes更多defencebigautomatic transmissionjapandrguangzhou▼massivedrupal▼ More EngagementLess EngagementMoreEmotionalMoreCalmingEngagement is most correlatedwith Emotional.