Learning from those who turned small brands into big brands

I believe that marketers are using a framework of marketing knowledge built for a different age. Most of the brands I used as metaphors and examples for explanation, such as the big FMCG brands are basically, old, as in, been around for ages. They have followed a similar brand playbook that has been taught in marketing undergraduate and post-graduate programmes for years, but yet, these brands do not seem as omnipotent as before. The new marketing icons that are challenging the hegemony are brands that have been born in the last ten years, and they appear not to have applied the same rules.

I began to think through whether what is required to succeed now different to what was needed then. The old advice appears to be about long term brand building, creating emotional appealing and distinctive brands, and spending lots of money on brand campaigns. Indeed, this appears to be the business model that our advertising agency is locked into. However, the paradox is that the brands that have appeared in the last ten years, dominating the list of the world’s top brands appear not to have got the memo. They are doing things on their own terms. And, what are their terms? A focus on customer needs to make sure that they can grow and acquire customers as quickly as possible, an emphasis on a great product and customer experience, and constant product changes – known as ‘iterations’.

Where there are similarities is that they are following the same rules as older brands, just calling them different names. They all segment their market, position against these segments and target their segment with the messages.  They are targeting the early adopters, in many cases, so they know mass brand advertising is a waste of time.

I have taken a leaf out of the newer brand books, and I am ‘iterating’ and ‘pivoting’ myself. Here are some of the lessons to learn from the new brands that I am taking to the next round of planning: think sales overnight, brand over time. It is possible to create the brand through sales – heresy though this may appear to pure brand guy. Experience is the foundation to build on: give the potential customer the best possible experience and use this experience to change attitudes, as attitudes follow behaviours. People will change their minds by doing stuff and engaging with your brand, rather than actually setting out to convince them through communications. And, try doing a lot more marketing on the fly: think, refine and hone, rather than believing I have to get it right first time.


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