Given that this blog is destined to disappear in a few weeks, I had thought to review some of my favourite posts from across the years. However, as I have often found when writing posts over the last 14 years, the subject matter got away from me and I ended up with a summation of what all brands should do to drive profitable brand growth.
Before I go any further, I must make an important distinction. This post concerns driving growth within an existing category. As such, it is likely to return less growth than launching a brand into a country with a fast-growing economy or extending an existing brand into a completely new category. However, most marketers still need to fight for market share and to do so successfully should bear these ten actions in mind.
1) Create a difference that has the potential to be meaningful
Competitive advantage can be found in design, route to customer, service, purpose, positioning or communications not just product innovation. Whatever form it takes, innovation must differentiate the brand from competition and must address a functional and/or emotional need to be meaningful to potential consumers. Without meaningful differentiation brands become commoditized and struggle with weak consumer demand.
2) Maximize availability and ensure your brand is easy to choose
Today’s “omni-channel” is just another way of saying you cannot buy what you cannot easily find. Brands need to ensure that they are available everywhere consumers expect them to be; there are few brands so attractive that people will actively seek them out. Marketers should seek new ways to allow customers easy access to their brand. Within a retail channel, make sure the brand is obvious. Make purchasing ‘frictionless’ by removing any current barriers to purchase. Seek ways to make purchasing easier, like automatic replenishment.
3) Amplify your brand’s meaningful difference
Make sure the brand’s meaningful difference is obvious to all. Reflect it in every touch point and consumer interaction with the brand in order to create coherent mental “real estate” and a strong predisposition to buy. Create positive anticipation of usage based on the meaningful difference in order to enhance people’s experience. Ensure brand can live up to its promise.
4) Ensure product and equity justify the brand’s price point
Ensure the brand’s meaningful difference justifies its price point and helps return a better margin or higher demand (remember that margin improvement will have a greater impact on the bottom line than an increase in volume). When variants are sold under the same brand name but at different price points make sure the perceived value of each offer is well-differentiated to avoid people trading down to the cheapest option.
5) Ensure your brand is distinctive
Recognition automatically triggers instinctive desire based on pre-existing brand associations. Build and leverage distinctive brand assets to ensure recognition, whether online or instore. Assets will include design and logos but can extend to many different properties including celebrities, images, sensory experiences, rituals, jingles and tone of voice. Consistently integrate assets into communications and experience to build mental connectivity and then leverage those assets to trigger positive associations during search and shopping.
6) Make your brand as salient as possible
Given the impetus given to e-commerce by the pandemic, ensuring your brand is salient has become more important than ever. People cannot search for a brand unless it comes to mind immediately a need is realized. Invest in paid communications to ensure brand is thought of automatically when a relevant need or occasion arises. Invest more in SOV than SOM to improve salience relative to competition. Leverage that spend with compelling creative designed to establish and strengthen strong, brand-linked, memory structures to influence purchase now and for the future. A consistent idea, rooted in the brand’s meaningful difference but refreshed with new executions, will help build strong memory structures. Stimulate positive word of mouth and social buzz.
7) Maximize retention of existing customers
Every retained customer is one less that needs to be acquired in order for the brand to grow. Deliver a consistently positive, memorable customer experience that lives up to what the brand promises. Fix problems promptly and create experiences that delight and inspire. Delighted customers are more likely to choose your brand again, buy new products and services or trade up to a premium variant. Find ways to facilitate repurchase and bypass search and shopping.
8) Give your brand the greatest possible exposure
Aim to reach and influence all potential buyers. Within the available budget, choose media channels that combine to maximize effectiveness and make the brand’s meaningful difference salient, then target specific needs and behaviors. Find the right balance between demand generation and activation for your brand and category. Adapt creative to each media channel and continually optimize reach and frequency.
9) Trigger desire during search and shopping
On average, three quarters of growth comes from people predisposed to choose a specific brand. Ensure brand recognition at point-of-purchase to trigger pre-existing positive associations among the predisposed. Ensure point-of-purchase content triggers perceptions of immediate relevance and conveys the brand’s meaningful difference. Use price promotion strategically to drive penetration and satisfy retail partners but do not rely on it to drive volume, otherwise consumers will come to expect deals and perceived value and margins will be undermined.
10) Continue to innovate or risk disruption
Stay true to the brand’s meaningful difference and add real value for the brand’s primary target audience. Stay alert for changes in consumer needs and context that create new opportunities or which might create the need for revitalization. Ensure that all types of innovation add incremental sales: new users, new occasions, new value or new premium. Do not fragment the brand with meaningless variants and line extensions.
Written by Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Kantar’s Insights Division.