Disruption must be specific to a brand and category

by Nigel Hollis | July 16, 2018

Different brands in different categories require different growth solutions. This fact should go without stating, but why then do so many people seem intent on applying a one-size-fits-all solution? If everyone follows the same growth strategy it is a recipe for stalemate, not checkmate.

There is a widespread belief that all you need to do to grow is to make your brand salient to more people. This is true as far as it goes. Brands do grow if they can get more people to think of them when relevant needs and occasions arise. However, there is a lot of evidence that brands grow faster when they adapt their strategy to take account of their status and context.

For instance, analysis by Kantar Worldpanel finds that brands which pursue a more nuanced growth strategy grow 45 percent faster than those that simply aim to recruit new buyers. Instead, Kantar Worldpanel recommends that a brand’s growth strategy should vary according to its size. Small brands should aim to steal existing categories users from the competition, medium sized brands should focus on attracting new category buyers, and big brands should focus on retaining existing buyers.

But brand size is just one factor. How a brand realizes its growth will also vary by category. The Kantar Worldpanel findings are based on the purchasing of consumer packaged goods where choice is mostly driven by instinct and habit. However, I suspect most people would feel uncomfortable if they did not put a bit more thought into their choice of a bank, car, or consumer electronics brand.

Data from BrandZ suggests that most people research their choice of a new bank, car, or electronics brand online before buying (far higher than for beers, detergents, and soft drinks). That implies a reasonable degree of conscious deliberation has been applied to that choice. People’s instinctive response to the brands will still influence their decision but most people like to have a clear rationale for why they bought a higher-ticket item and academic evidence suggests that people are more satisfied with their choice if they can easily justify it.


Why does this matter? Because for non-CPG purchases this means the marketer must be prepared to deal with a more deliberative mindset. People may well need some form of tangible evidence of advantage to feel comfortable with their choice. This is why Santander created the 123 Current Account in the UK with its offer of interest on current accounts and money back on utility bills paid by direct debit, and then single-mindedly focused its media investment on the new account. 3.5 million new accounts were opened in the first year.

Would an emotionally engaging campaign without a new, meaningful claim have had the same effect? Given where Santander had started from (low familiarity and customer satisfaction) the answer is probably not. Could the campaign have had an even stronger effect if it had been more engaging and compelling? Yes. But, given a more deliberative category, to stand any chance of success Santander needed to encourage people to reconsider what they knew about the bank and why they might choose it.

To my mind this example supports the proposition made in our report on How Disruption Helps Fuel Brand Growth but what do you think? Please share your thoughts.

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