Imagination for business – a thought leadership project for Canon Australia

June 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Canon, Case studies, Featured

Challenge: Howorth has been working with Canon’s corporate and business imaging communication teams since the end of 2010. In 2011, Canon asked Howorth to develop a campaign that would support one of their core company values – imagination at both the corporate and the business imaging divisional levels.

Our work: It was clear this project would be more than a media relations campaign. The team at Howorth researched the concept of imagination and looked at existing data on imagination and productivity in the workplace. We found a team at UNSW that had proven a link between imagination and learning effectiveness in school children – but the phenomenon of ‘the imagination effect’ had never been proven in a corporate setting.

Canon formed a partnership with the School of Education, UNSW. We designed an experiment for members of Canon’s business imaging sales team to see what effect engaging the imagination had on the effectiveness of a new training module. Participants were split into two groups and completed multiple choice tests on product knowledge before and after an e-learning program. Both groups were given different learning instructions. The imagination group was instructed to use their imagination to learn concepts and procedures about a Canon product and the study group was instructed to use traditional study methods.

The results were extremely interesting – for the first time, the imagination effect was proven in a corporate setting. In fact, the imagination group made significantly more learning gains than the study group with the imagination group’s test results improving by 63% compared with 29% for the study group.

Concurrently, we commissioned a survey of 400 senior decision makers at medium and large organisations across Australia to investigate the state of imagination in business. The survey found that despite the fact those organisations that value and harness imagination were also the highest earning companies, across the board, imagination ranks last on a list of 15 workforce characteristics valued by employers.

Results: The research findings were published by Canon in a report titled Imagination for Business, stating the case for adding imagination to the managerial tool box. Additional content was produced for a microsite, .

The story captured the imagination of business, HR and other vertical media, with more than 30 in-depth media articles published on the topic. The UNSW professors are also planning to present their academic paper at a number of international cognitive load conferences later in 2012.

But perhaps most importantly, the thought leadership exercise resulted in a real change in the way Canon will deliver its training modules as part of ongoing learning and development programs, because Canon now has a low cost way to make training more effective for their workforce – the application of imagination.

Canon’s Extreme Imaging competition – putting imaging science on the news agenda

Challenge: Canon Inc operates five research and development facilities around the globe, one of which – CiSRA – is located in Australia at Canon’s North Ryde campus.

CiSRA contributes imaginative technologies, intellectual property and customer insights to Canon – in fact many of the components found in Canon’s leading consumer and business technologies were created in the Australian facility.

In addition, the profile of imaging science in Australia is quite low, despite the groundbreaking work being completed within Australian Universities.

CiSRA enlisted Howorth to help communicate CiSRA’s role in the Australian science and technology landscape, promote the study of imaging science and improve the status of CiSRA as an exporter of science and technology innovation both at home and in the region.

Strategy: A great public relations opportunity arose with the launch of CiSRA’s Extreme Imaging competition. To promote and celebrate Australian innovation, Canon offered a series of prizes to tertiary students and their supervisors for innovative work in the field of imaging science.

The competition was open for students developing a new technique or equipment to produce images as part of their supervised research project – be it in medicine, physics, engineering, information technology or other academic disciplines.

Howorth devised a PR strategy to communicate the opening of the Extreme Imaging awards to potential participants in the education sector, and then publicly profile the winners in order to achieve the goals of raising the profile of both CiSRA and the imaging science sector.

Results: Once the winners were announced, Howorth reached out to CiSRA’s key media such as science and technology targets and university media units as well as local, regional and major metropolitan media. Working with the winning students to harness their personal story, we created lots of excitement around local imaging science innovation.

CiSRA held an awards ceremony at the Sydney Observatory – rewarding the winning students and treating guests (including journalists from New Scientist, Cosmos and Science Illustrated) to viewings of Jupiter and Venus through the Observatory’s telescope – a fun and educational night for all!

The media outreach resulted in 54 pieces of editorial across various publications including Sydney Morning Herald, Cosmos, The Age, Tech World, National Geographic, The University of Sydney website, Canberra Times and local publications such as the Hornsby Advocate.

For more information about CiSRA, see the 2011 award winners or to apply for the 2012 competition when it opens, see

The four-man Aussie squad – Canon’s technicians battle it out for cup title

January 13, 2012: In October 2011 four technicians from Canon Australia and New Zealand flew to Shanghai to compete for the title of Canon’s undisputed top technician at the Asia Pacific (APAC) Cup.

The APAC Cup is a Canon technician’s version of the football grand final, but instead of battling it out on the footy field, they’re troubleshooting business imaging equipment. It’s a highly skilled and very competitive series of practical and theoretical tests.

It’s also a way for Canon to provide its technicians with opportunities to build their skills by sharing ‘tricks of the trade’ with colleagues from around the world.

Howorth spotted an opportunity to get involved in the hype that surrounded the Rugby World Cup – from one international sporting event to another.

What started as an internal competition in Australia caught the imagination of the media and became one of Canon’s biggest corporate stories for 2011. In total there were 23 pieces across Australia of coverage around the APAC cup including The Today Show, Herald Sun,, MX, ABC 720 Perth, 2GB Sydney, 4KQ Brisbane and Adelaide Now.

The Daily Telegraph even made this online video to accompany its story about the competition.

“Forget Cadel Evans, forget Sam Stosur and forget that guy who won the Nobel Prize for discovering what the universe was made of – Australia has a new hero.” –The Daily Telegraph

“Got a paper jam? Can’t get your printer working? Mt Gravatt based technician Daniel Leong is the man who knows how to solve your printing woes.” – Southern Star

“O’Brien is a paper jam’s worst enemy.” – The Daily Telegraph

“Newing, a specialist senior engineer with Canon, earned his spot in the four-man Aussie squad to compete at the Canon Asia Pacific Cup.” – MX

Shane McClelland, marketing and communication manager of Canon Australia, said it was great to be able to recognise the technicians for all their hard work and enthusiasm.

“We were very pleased with the coverage we received around the APAC Cup and the media hype was fantastic for the finalists – Paul O’Brien even mentioned that he was stopped on the street once and asked if he was “the Canon technician from the TV?,” said Shane.

The Canon APAC Cup showed that the right story angle can make a niche story go a long way.

Did they bring home the cup? Although the four-man Australian squad wasn’t successful in bringing home the APAC Cup – they did prove that good old Aussie sportsmanship is alive and well – on and off the footy field.