How Brands Grow: Byron Sharp

1. Growth in market share comes by increasing popularity; that is, by gaining many more buyers (of all types), most of whom are light customers buying the brand only very occasionally.

2. Brands, even though they are usually slightly differentiated, mainly compete as if they are near lookalikes; though they vary in popularity (and hence market share).

3. Brand competition and growth is largely about building two market-based assets: physical availability and mental availability. Brands that are easier to buy – for more people, in more situations – have more market share. Innovation and differentiation (when they work) build market-based assets, which last after competitors copy the innovation. Therefore, marketers need to improve the branding of their product (i.e. it needs to look like them and only them) and to continuously reach large audiences of light buyers cost effectively.

Marketers need to research what their distinctive brand assets are (colours, logos, tone, fonts, etc.); they need to use and protect these. Managers also need to research how buyers buy their brand, when they think of and notice it, and how it fits into their lives (and shopping). Marketers need to manage media and distribution in line with this knowledge.

their advertising refreshes these structures by consistently using the brand’s distinctive assets

loyalty doesn’t vary much

In short, the aim of growing category purchases through presenting new uses often turns out to be a pipe-dream. That’s why marketers who want to increase sales need to win more market share and/or enter new markets.

Heavy Buyer Fallacy’ because the misguided logic confuses past/current buying with growth potential – when it’s more reasonable to think that heavy customers are already buying all that they ever will

Another fallacy is that customers who stay longer will become more profitable as they somehow become less price sensitive.

There are two criteria that make some branding assets worth more than others. These two criteria are:

• fame – how many people associate the brand with that asset

• uniqueness – of those people how many only associate that brand with the asset

This assessment must come from consumer research.

Marketers and agencies tend not to research and, therefore, they massively over-estimate the strength of their distinctive assets. In turn, this leads to both overestimating the degree of branding that really exists in advertising copy and over-estimating how easy a brand is to notice on shelf. We can’t stress enough how important these errors are.

It is a very fundamental failure for a marketer not to have carefully market researched their brands’ distinctive assets.

The purpose of building strong, distinctive assets is to increase the number of stimuli that can act as identification triggers for a brand. Distinctive assets improve advertising effectiveness by making it easier for viewers to identify which brand the advertising belongs to. In a shopping environment, distinctive assets make it easier for consumers to notice, recognise and therefore purchase a brand.

To build strong, distinctive elements the brand must be consistently communicated to consumers across all media and over time. The importance of consistency has been emphasised by many branding commentators, and particularly by the proponents of integrated marketing communications. They have advocated consistency across campaign elements and media, rather than over time. It’s something of a mystery why some marketers embrace the idea of consistency across media but not consistency across campaigns. And the consistency emphasis has been too much on the brand’s message and positioning, rather than to the visual, verbal or style of branding elements. Consistency in brand identity is something that many brand strategies lack, particularly across campaigns. For example, when a new campaign is created, most of the attention is placed on what is new and fresh. More attention should be placed on making sure the branding elements are similar and consistent; someone who saw the last marketing campaign should understand that the new campaign comes from the same brand. It is only when there is discipline in this consistency that distinctive brand assets build.

reach is more important than frequency of exposure; continuous advertising is more effective than bursts followed by long gaps, because it counteracts memory decay.

marketing should build distinctive qualities that increase the visibility of the brand in its competitive environment price (i.e. branding matters). Distinctive assets make it easier for consumers to notice, recognise, recall and (importantly) buy the brand. An emphasis on distinctiveness means less of trying to find unique selling propositions and more trying to find unique identifying characteristics. Distinctive assets are not what motivate consumers to buy brands; it’s how they know where the brand is and what brand they bought. They allow for the development of loyalty.

A simple (but not easy) recipe for effective advertising is:

• reach all the category buyers

• don’t have lapses in advertising

• get noticed, not screened out, by consumers

• use clear brand links – a brand’s distinctive assets indirectly brand advertising; mentioning (verbally and/or visually) the brand name is crucial; showing the product and showing the product in use is important

• refresh and build memory structures that make a brand more likely to come to mind and be easier to notice

• if there is a piece of information that is genuinely persuasive, then say it, so long as it does not interfere with achieving the previous objectives.

This is why established brands need to advertise: to hold onto their buyers (in the face of substantial competitor advertising) and to give themselves a chance to grow.

even advertising that says nothing persuasive and gives no new reasons to buy can have a dramatic impact on sales – without causing people to rethink their opinion of a brand, and largely without them even noticing.

Forty years of single-source-based analysis has delivered solid empirical evidence that advertising drives sales among those who are exposed to it (and that some advertisements are vastly better than others). These findings have held across a range of brands, categories, countries and data sets (i.e. McDonald 1969; Jones 1995a & b; Roberts 1994; Roberts 1996; Roberts 1998; Newstead et al 2009; Taylor et al 2009; Wood 2009). This is good news for those who advertise. It is also good news for advertisers who want to measure the sales effects of their advertising so that they can work out what creative executions and what media strategies work better.

An advertisement cannot build memory structures if it is not processed; memory structures cannot generate sales if they are not associated with the brand that is being advertised. Most advertising exposures fail these two hurdles, so the money spent is wasted, or worse, the ad refreshes memories for competitors.

Apart from a very small amount of direct-response advertising (including online search engine advertising), advertising must work through memories

Marketers need to understand the memory structures that have already been built for their brand. They need to use these, and ensure their advertising refreshes these structures. Then they need to research what other memory structures might be useful to the brand (i.e. factors driving purchase in the category) and then work to build these.

there are two main ways that advertising works: persuasion (changing opinions) and mental availability (refreshing and building memories)

John Kay (1993) asserts that most people are inherently cynical about truth in advertising and that they automatically discount claims about quality made in advertisements that cannot be objectively assessed. In this circumstance, he argues (exaggerating somewhat), the only thing advertising can convey is the quality and quantity of the advertising itself.

To summarise, the following observations have been made in this book:

• Reach is important for brand growth.

• In-store promotions generally lack reach, but retailer advertising has much broader reach.

• Price promotions may not be profitable, particularly when the price cut is deep.

• There is the possibility that reference prices would be eroded, particularly from deep price cuts.

• However, manufacturers often feel pressurised to participate in price promotions.

Based on these observations, if a manufacturer had to choose between a promotion that emphasised deep price cuts or a promotion that focused on advertising the brand, the manufacturer should select the latter.

So, will a temporary price promotion have negative after-effects for a brand? The answer is no, but repetitively doing it may have negative after-effects. This is because if consumers commonly encounter low prices and ‘deal’ signals for a brand, their reference price for it will be lowered. Also, customers will get used to seeing price-related information for the brand, which will raise the salience of price (and/or on-deal stickers) and possibly lower the salience of other important brand attributes.

Within this area there are strategic guidelines:

1.Continuously reach all buyers of the brand’s service/product category, with both physical distribution and marketing communication.

2. Ensure the brand is easy to buy.

3. Get noticed. Often.

4. Refresh and build brand-linked memory structures that make the brand easier to notice and buy.

5. Create distinctive communication assets.

6. Be consistent, yet fresh and interesting.

7. Stay competitive, keep up the mass appeal; don’t give customers reasons not to buy the brand.

Marketing today largely functions as a specialist part of the production department; it produces advertising and promotions rather than experimenting and learning about strategy. Development of specialist knowledge of these market-based assets should lead to greater respect for marketing as a crucial function of business. It is a significant opportunity because no other part of the organisation measures and therefore can claim to manage these intangible assets. The same cannot be said for other areas of a business, such as product development, customer service and pricing.

The key marketing task is to make a brand always easy to buy for every buyer; this requires building mental and physical availability. Everything else is secondary.

Building mental availability requires reach, distinctiveness (clear branding) and consistency. The brand is seen/noticed, recognised and recalled more often. Building physical availability requires breadth and depth of distribution in space and in time. Together, mental and physical availability make a brand easier to buy for more people, in more situations.

Yet the most important part of any buyer’s purchasing process (i.e. the part that marketers should be the most interested in) occurs almost entirely without being noticed. This part of the process occurs before buyers consciously evaluate which brand to choose: buyers, in effect, ‘decide’ not to consider the vast majority of brands on the market. Instead they notice a few and quite often, only one – this underpins their loyalty.

The more extensive and fresher the network of memory associations about a brand, the greater the brand’s chance of being noticed or thought of in the variety of buying situations experienced by customers.

building mental availability is about developing different memory links (that relate to a brand) to increase the scope of the brand-related network in people’s memories – the brand’s share of mind.

So the maintenance of mental availability depends on the quality of branding and advertising. Distinctive, consistent icons and imagery build memory associations that allow a brand to be noticed and recalled in a range of buying situations. This is a huge part of brand custodianship, yet it is often overlooked; marketers often fail to deploy a brand’s distinctive assets and, in effect, they sabotage them.

When marketing support has been absent for a long time for a brand that retains considerable market-based assets, tremendous gains can be made by sprucing up the marketing mix – particularly mental availability in the minds of consumers and retailers. This is one way to make your fortune: find a brand that was popular, with substantial mental and physical availability, but that has been neglected and so has lost much market share. Fix the product quality, or lower the price, start advertising again, and if necessary, work to regain breadth and depth of distribution.

Examine marketing options in terms of their ability to cost effectively reach as many customers as possible.

Understand who buys, when, and how the brand fits into their lives. Stop talking about your average buyer – there is a wide variety of consumers.

Physical and mental availability drive market share because they make the brand easier to buy, for more people, in more situations, across time and space. This requires research to appreciate how consumers buy, and how they fit the brand into their lives. You also need to look out for emerging ‘reasons not to buy’, barriers to building penetration like missing pack types or sizes, or prices that are too high

clever, likable creativity is a way to get advertising noticed. But it is only one way. What we see depends on what is already in our heads.

Even if a brand’s advertising is noticed it can’t work unless it refreshes or creates useful memory structures for the brand. This requires understanding what consumers already have in their minds and then working with this, not against it. This is the purpose of brand image research, to understand existing memory structures so that communication can be crafted to reflect them.

For new brands, the emphasis must be on building the memories that consumers use to buy the brand; for example, what the brand actually does, what it looks like, what the brand name is, where it is sold and where and when it is consumed. These are simple, but essential. Forgetting to tell consumers these things is a marketing sin, as is underestimating how difficult this task will be and how long it may take.

Each year’s marketing plan should not have a new objective for a new memory structure. Each advertising campaign should largely be saying the same thing. Even when it introduces a piece of new information (e.g. ‘Now in blue’) it should still tell the old story (i.e. work for the brand).

branding allows consumers to be loyal to particular brands and to adopt heuristics like buying ‘their brand’ or ‘the one they noticed’. Without branding, loyalty (which is a natural behaviour) has to be directed to something: else – like a price point, a position on the shelf or ‘whatever is on special’.

A brand’s distinctive devices and sounds are processed very quickly by viewers; they are primarily used for recognition, to help work out what is going on and to assist people’s brains to access and file information. This is why distinctive brand assets work. This is branding.

Consumers are resistant to new ideas, yet they are very happy to be reminded of things they already believe, particularly if it is done in an entertaining way

A large part of the art of advertising is telling the same story, over and over, but in new and entertaining ways.

while positive features and perceptions help a brand to be chosen, they only do so when they are part of the selection set (i.e. after the buyer has culled most of the other brands). Over time, feature advantages can build mental and physical availability. This means that advantages in a product’s features, while important, are less crucial than the business press makes out. This is especially true for established brands with significant market-based assets.

It’s very difficult to get consumers to notice a brand; when marketers succeed in this, consumers reward the brand with a degree of loyalty (largely due to habit and inertia). However, this can be ruined if they suddenly notice a reason not to buy. Marketers should always be on the look out for such barriers. This is one of the reasons that differentiation needs to be approached with caution: being different and appealing to one group in the market can turn consumers away.

Building a distinctive memory structure achieves this; it enhances all future advertising (remember it is much easier to refresh existing memories, so advertising for brands that have distinctive elements embedded in people’s minds suffers less from brand ambiguity)

the key objective is to build its market-based assets.

Market penetration is a good proxy measure for these assets, and so worth monitoring as a key metric.

attention will then shift to branding, media strategy and distribution – there is a great deal of research, development and experimentation that needs to be done in these areas to improve marketing effectiveness.

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