My recent post titled, “Getting realistic about the odds of marketing success” sparked a couple of interesting comments. Take, for example, this quote from a comment by Shann Biglione,
“If marketers spent more time influencing salience rather wanting to be seen as innovation junkies, we would have better marketing.”
Some of Biglione’s previous comments make it clear he is a big proponent of Professor Byron Sharp’s view of the marketing world, but is he correct in making this assertion?
One of the reasons I wrote the previous post is because I believe that Sharp’s “rules of marketing” hold good when the status quo rules. Every brand is seeking to improve the probability that it is purchased, and a state of dynamic tension or stalemate is reached where no one brand wins big. Success all comes down to how well you play the existing game. Under those conditions, improving salience is a key growth driver. Once this state is reached the stalemate can last for years (in my analysis 45 percent of categories saw no significant change the course of five years).
The obvious conclusion is that under those conditions marketers should spend more time influencing salience than worrying about innovation… except that if you do not worry about innovation then someone else may identify an opportunity and your brand will get disrupted (along with others).
Take the example of when Coca-Cola launched I LOHAS bottled water in Japan. The brand became the number one mineral water sold in Japan in just six months and undermined several well-established brands. No doubt those brand’s marketers did not think there was much opportunity for innovation in a familiar and growing market.
Coca-Cola’s research revealed that, while Japanese consumers wanted to do something about environmental issues, they admitted that their behavior had not changed. Thin and lightweight PET bottles provided consumers of Coca-Cola’s I LOHAS the chance to create a ritual out of twisting the bottle, and offered them the opportunity to choose a brand with a smaller carbon footprint, thereby demonstrating their commitment to the environment.
The marketing team also turned what had been a negative into a positive: rather than publicizing the qualities of a single source like the French Alps, I LOHAS is promoted as coming from seven local sources around Japan. The BrandZ data for 2012 suggests that the brands which suffered most from the launch of I LOHAS were the premium imports like Evian and Volvic.
If by “innovation junkies” Biglione is referring to innovation for innovation’s sake – the desire to have something new to say - then I would have to agree with him. However, there is always the risk that if you do not continually seek meaningful and differentiating innovation and launch it effectively then your brand risks being sidelined. Once again, the answer is not an either/or, it is both: you need to both seek meaningfully different innovation and grow your brand’s salience at the same time.
Can you think of any similar examples to I LOHAS? Yes, Apple, but what other ones come to mind? Please share your thoughts.
Authored by Nigel Hollis,Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown