Work to Avoid These 3 Roadblocks to Brand Growth.
It will always be the purpose of business to “get and keep a customer.” And to do that, all manner of content, communications, and lures and bait are often broadcast in an effort to command attention. Otherwise known as push, push, push.
Yet, at times, we may be missing the forest for the trees – not correctly understanding an evolved consumer experience and behavior around the purchase decision. Awareness does not constitute engagement.
When it comes to building business we routinely make decisions deliberately – or at times, even passively, reflexively. There can be moments when habits, fears and processes get in the way of victory. Ergo, we’ve noticed some recurring themes observed over time that can reappear like whack-a-moles – distracting you from true success.
If you recognize any of these, let us know your thoughts.
Roadblock #1: Hunch and Assumption Theory
Perhaps the most common barrier we’ve run across is the ‘we don’t need any research’ mantra. After all, how hard can it be to sit down and develop a cogent list of product features and benefits? All well and good, except for one thing.
People don’t buy with their heads. It starts with relevance to them not us. They purchase with their hearts and then use analytical arguments later to justify what they did.
In today’s quickly evolving new marketing era, consumer relevance is king – a paradigm buster for traditional marketers who think the old rules still apply to business growth. Purchases are now mostly symbolic – and intended to telegraph to the rest of the world what consumers want others to believe about themselves and what’s important to them.
For examples, a branded bottle of water isn’t so much about the water as it is about the perceptions we think others read about our health and wellness lifestyle.
Mining consumer insight is job number one if marketing is to be successful. Know your customer, their lifestyles, hearts, minds, passions, needs, aspirations, concerns and pain points. It’s in this knowledge that we can identify paths to alignment with their interests – and that’s how ‘brands-that-matter’ gain traction.
So insight research isn’t optional, it’s optimal.
Everything else morphs into expensive navel-gazing. You can’t go to market and win on hunches and assumptions about what you think the customer cares about or how they feel about the brand. Yet, we’ve seen this occur seasonally like a bad cold.
Roadblock #2: Twin Pillars of Product Mediocrity and Launch Anemia
Innovation is supposed to be, well, truly innovative. All the marketing in the world isn’t going to make vanilla any better than vanilla.
Pushing hard at the edges of innovation leads to a place of marketing strength. We view the innovation objective as New Category Creation.
Definition: when your product concept goes just far enough to disrupt the current category norm and offer a truly distinctive proposition.
So, it’s important to start way up stream with this kind of thinking and goal in mind.
Right alongside vanilla product concept roadblock is anemic launch investment. The two in combination comprise a recipe for treading water. It isn’t easy to reach consumers these days. And, they also have a tendency to avoid anything that starts to look like overt selling. That said, creating the right content and experiences based on their lifestyle aspirations doesn’t need to look like the annual Pentagon budget – and may be considerably cheaper than buying truckloads of national TV ad time. That said, it also doesn’t mean you can win just by sending out a press release.
In the early days of its phenomenal rise to fame (and energy drink category leadership), the Red Bull® brand was growing by leveraging its presence in nightclubs and 20-something social culture. To help build momentum the brand started an Academy in New York for aspiring DJ’s to hone and improve their craft. Some of the top names in the DJ world were recruited as instructors. Tuition was free.
This, in turn, helped drive brand recommendations and positioning as a ‘go to’ for young people in clubs and bars. First, what a forward-looking, non-traditional idea! Second, it took some foresight and insight to make this unique investment. Red Bull® understood; and then mined lifestyle relevance and integration.
Roadblock #3: “Launch and Leave” co-mingled with impatience
Otherwise known as “Miller-Time Syndrome” – yes, we launched, put in a hard day’s work doin’ it, too. Well, guess that about wraps it up…ok boys, it’s Miller Time. And so we’re on to the next shiny object. Launching successfully is tough. It takes time and persistence. It means investing when returns aren’t immediate and staying the course when others may want fast-cash results. It will require more than one visit to the marketing well.
Yet, we’ve witnessed a tendency to launch and then leave too early. The net result is momentum slows and business takes a step backwards. If you believe in the product concept, did the homework, validated with research and hit the right mark on innovation and new category creation, you must stay at it. Building a following often doesn’t roll up like a wildfire – patience is required. Its evil twin impatience can also lead to shortsighted decisions and moves that dilute the equity of your brand proposition.
Deep discounting to incent trial or succumbing to marketing efforts that attempt to leverage clever-at-the-expense-of-substance-and-relevance can work against your ultimate objectives.
Better to stick to the mission, keep the revenue-now wolves at bay and nurture the relationships and conversations necessary to create a devoted following.
- Consumer insight research is not optional.
- The product is the marketing so innovation must push hard to drive uniqueness and differentiation to the edges.
- Don’t under-fund the launch and expect break-through results. Yes, risk is involved but you can mitigate the dice roll with sound strategy (see research above).
- Don’t launch and leave – more than one phase of support will be needed to build a fan-base.
- Stick to the mission and platform. If your marketing plan is built on insight and intended to cultivate relevant relationships with those you wish to sell to, you’re on the right path.
Pushing past these all-too-common barriers ultimately sets you up for success.
Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent Healthy Living. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter@BobWheatley.