The value of your brand is based on how much your customer wants you. Brand equity relies on customer demand. If your brand won’t care about your consumer, your consumer won’t care about your brand. If your consumer doesn’t care about your brand, if your product lacks appeal to the consumer, your brand will fail in shifting demand.
Apple captures more than 3 times the market share of the number two company in the MP3 player category – and this is if the price and other features are completely equal. Even if Apple doubled their price, they would still have market share equal to its competitor brands! That is the power of building brand equity. That is the power of understanding your consumers to such a degree, that your brand is like a magnet that pulls consumer demand towards you.
Long-established or “mature” brands often find themselves asking brand oriented questions when sales are lagging and competitors are thriving. They ask questions like:
- “Should we re-brand?”
- “Are our brand’s lagging because of ineffective marketing tactics?”
- “Are we not advertising enough?”
In reality, these are questions that revolve around creating customer awareness. Customer awareness is already there. Customers already know of your brand’s existence if your brand is a long-established brand.
Instead, brand managers need to have a demand oriented perspective on the purpose of a brand. The focus needs to be on the end goal – the consumer. It’s the message that your brand is sending out that doesn’t speak to your customer’s priorities. It could also be that your product or service is flawed and is not creating recurring customers. Either way, your resources are much better spent on understanding what the customer wants, not on more advertising and on more marketing tactics.
When creating the strategy to build brand equity and shift consumer demand, you are essentially focusing on building your brand’s competitive advantage. Logically, if you’re shifting consumer demand to your brand, you’re also shifting consumer demand away from your competitor’s brand.
The Key: Develop Competitive Advantage (through demand-oriented perspective) –> Shift Consumer Demand –> Build Brand Equity
The Question: So how can you specifically develop a strong competitive advantage?
Here is how Kellogg’s Special K did it…
CASE STUDY: Kellogg’s Special K
Special K is a cereal that was introduced to the US in the 1950’s. If you’re familiar with Special K now, you’re well aware of its strong association with weight loss. You might have seen the multi-level marketing campaigns Kellogg’s has launched with this brand, especially through social media. Special K was connected with the weight loss idea from the 80’s, straight through to all of the 90’s. Back then, it was just the one flavor of cereal described as being ‘bland’. The taste was bland. The brand was bland. There was no innovation. Competitors wouldn’t look twice in fear at Special K. This is because all throughout the 80’s and 90’s, no one at Special K had a DEMAND-ORIENTED perspective. They didn’t look to understand their consumer as much as they should have.
Towards the end of the 90’s, a brilliant mind at Special K began understanding consumer priorities. They began constantly acquiring feedback to gage if consumers are getting the right experiences with the product. It was only when Special K began focusing on the consumer and asking questions like:
- Do our consumer believe what we say about weight loss?
- How should we deliver our promise to our consumers?
- What makes consumer’s think about our brand?
- What benefit are our consumer’s seeking?
This consumer-oriented perspective led to the initial process of creating a competitive advantage. This led to the process of Special K beginning to connect more powerfully with their specific target market (women aged 25-45).
Successful brands share a similar focus when it comes to developing strong competitive advantages – that focus is on TWO extremely important elements:
Vision and Innovation
Everything begins with a compelling vision. Your vision is your heritage. It’s your purpose, your identity, your central idea. New brands must develop their vision before anything else. Long-established brands have their vision in place. For long-established, mature brands however, it often becomes difficult to adapt and change with the market because the brand is so rooted in what has been ‘working’, that sticking to tradition is perceived to be the best way to go. Long-established brands feel that they need to choose between ‘change’ and ‘tradition’. The answer however, is to have a BALANCE of the two; a balance of tradition and change, in other words, of vision and innovation. In around 2000, when Special K disrupted the cereal market, I believe they shifted their focus and began fostering this balance.
They zoomed in on their vision: “to empower women to take control and maintain a healthy weight”, and leveraged it to create a measurable, specific, and direct PROMISE that resonated with the consumer.
The promise: Eat Special K two times a day for two weeks, and lose up to six pounds.
They understood that the consumer was looking for a simple, easy, solution to their dieting needs. They understood that the consumer also wanted to feel like they overcame a challenge on their journey to success. Thus, they framed their brand story as a ‘2-week challenge’.
Finally, after years of remaining stagnant in the cereal market, Special K began aligning its vision with the consumer, and the Special K flight had taken off and was at an altitude higher than its competitors. Now it was all about maintaining that altitude and rising higher. Now it was all about INNOVATION.
Innovation is what keeps brands and businesses alive and thriving in a highly competitive environment. If your brand is defined as an innovator, it is pretty much understood that you brand has been around long enough to develop strong core values that define it, values that stood the test of time, values that have roots in a solid VISION.
Special K’s innovation started with Berry Special K – which allowed Special K to dive into the ‘good-tasting’ cereal market. Since then, we have seen Special K protein bars, shakes, water mixes, cereal bars, crackers, chips, fruit crisps, etc.
Special K recently:
Aug 2013 – According to market research firm Euromonitor, cold cereal sales in the US have increased only 6 percent. However, Special K has been a standout for Kellogg, with the brand’s market share increasing to 5 percent, up from approximately 3 percent a decade ago.
Aligning your vision with your consumer shifts your consumer’s demand because your brand becomes highly valued and relevant to your consumer. Aligning your innovation with your consumer shifts your consumer’s demand because your brand remains highly valued and relevant to your consumer.
The marketing team at Special K realized this and today, Special K continues to be a leader in its market.