Brand Vs. Brand

21 Aug 2019
Louis Corso
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Brand Vs. Brand

(Thanks for the Idea Mom!)

Today we have an exciting bout between two amazing, fan favorite brands. They will battle it out to become the leading Brand in their segment!

The Champ

In this corner we have the reigning champ. This brand has market share; a great marketing campaign; well-thought-out packaging and recently changed their formula to be non-GMO and gluten free! They have been using focus groups to stay close to their customers; have 10,000 consumers at the ready;  geographically dispersed; aged 25 – 39; earning $50K per year and able to answer surveys; test new products and give feedback.  They have been the segment leader for 25 years and look like they can go for 25 more. Give it up for your favorite brand, Brrrraaaaannnnd AAAAAAAAA!

The Contender

In this corner we have the contender. They are the upstarts, rebels with a great new product, organic, taste amazing with biodegradable packaging,  certified not harmful to the environment. They have carefully crafted their image finding a niche that has tremendous demand and with the ability to create a wedge, gain momentum and unseat the reigning champ. They are focused and sharp and have been relying heavily on social media to get the message out.  They are conducting  tastes tests in strategic test markets to stay on top of possible new trends and gain brand awareness.  They are pulling their product through the channel and are using e-Commerce to get their products into the hands of consumers. They are hyper-focused on customer satisfaction, are hungry and are eager to stand toe-to-toe with the champ. Give it up for the Rebel with a Cause, your favorite upstart brand Brrrrraaaannnnnd Beeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Have a little Fun

We have to have a little fun with this one. Everyday these toe-to-toe bouts are taking place.  Whether you consider it a horse race, title bout in the boxing ring or tennis match, new Brands are popping up all over with new ideas and new products ready to take on the big enterprise brands. We like smaller and mid-sized brands, because they represent everything that makes us feel good. They are challengers and usually the underdog and everyone routes for the underdog. They are connected at the grass roots level, humble and willing to come out with new products quicker.  They are focused on quality control, have a smaller footprint and have a good chance of being bought out by a larger brand.

Enterprise brands can offer discounts and can rely on other brands in their portfolio to bring in cash just to maintain market share. They have the distribution and can be found at many places. They may lack the ability to bring new products to market quickly, because of their size and complexity. They may rely on the purchase of smaller brands to get into new markets and segments. They can push their product through the channel by offering better margins to their channel partners.

Innovation through Acquisition

How many new brands have come out in the last 10 years? How many have been bought by enterprise brands? An entrepreneurs put their heart and soul into their business. Night and day, weekday and weekend, no amount of hardship or setback will keep them from their course. As Gary Vaynerchuk, so aptly put it, “No one will love your business as much as you do”.  Kind of makes you jealous in a way.  All the glory for those who have the guts to lay it on the line. If you have built your brand for acquisition and are in the right place at the right time, you stand a good chance of getting bought out by a large-enterprise brand.  Most small brands will not have that experience.  Finding a small market that can grow is better than taking on the big guys just.   Market share, market penetration, economies of scale and the ton of marketing dollars are hard to beat when you are a start up. Doesn’t mean you can’t, but it may be better to be a small fish in a small pond. If you want to see a great idea that only had a little bit of money that made it big, look at Dollar Shave Club.

Size can make a difference

The reason why smaller companies are taking on enterprise brands is simple. They can be innovative and nimble and move quickly into markets. If you want to succeed in the CPG industry you have to be three things: innovative, determined and focused. That means staying connecting with customers and looking for ways to innovate and introduce new products. Imitate the best practices of companies like, Ben & Jerry’s, Arm & Hammer and MilkBone. Great examples of companies that innovate through customer suggestions. e.g. Ben & Jerry’s introduces new flavors each year based on customer suggestions.

Nielsen said 88% of the about 900 food and beverage items that have been added to US store shelves the past five years came from small and medium sized companies. *1

Get in front of your customer

Even though digital marketing campaigns have gained tremendous ground you can’t forget about brick and mortar and traditional methods of marketing and advertising to get the word out to grow your brand. There is no substitute for getting in front of your customer, getting them to taste your product and getting feedback in realtime. There are the downsides of demos and taste tests and it is usually because brands do not learn from their mistakes.

How many times I have heard: “I don’t know why it isn’t selling, people really love the taste”.  Seriously, you’ve just given someone for the first time, you ask them to taste of your product and give you an honest answer. How many people will actually tell you how they really feel?   There are two responses that usually happen at a demo. Either they say that it tastes great or nice and walk away or they say  “it’s too sugary; sweet; bitter; sour; the texture is not right” and so on.  Most will say “it tastes great” and a few will say “oh, not for me”.  Who do you listen to and what do you do next?

Set up the demo with a method to get feedback to determine the success of the event. Listen to both and follow up with both. Once you give the demo, hand them a coupon, get their email and send them another test and ask them for their feedback.  Build your database of people you can go back to for feedback. Too many companies go to market without seriously testing the flavor profile and fail because by the time the product hits the shelves it’s make or break time. You need to form a relationship with your customer.  Hey, you are trying to get them to put a product of yours into their body.  Take the time to form the relationship and understand their needs and wants. Very few brands hit it right out of the gate and none are built overnight.

Make sure when you hire a person or company to conduct the demo you are getting someone who is committed.  At the end treat it just like it was focus group or an online survey. Focus on getting real, actionable feedback. Respond to the consumer with a message or product that reaches the larger audience and satisfies the needs of your customer?  Consistently get in front of your customer to measure the acceptance of your products and to stay ahead of the curve.

Social Media is a must

Social media serves many functions. It is a communication mechanism; it is an awareness engine;  it can be used to measure sentiment and trends and it can be a way of listening and tuning into to your customers. It is also a way to acquire new ideas and to identify new opportunities.  Building a solid foundation requires a good understanding of social media. You will need great content. Content that matches your brand, your message and your aesthetic. The best place to get that is directly from your audience. There are many companies that can help. Setting up influencer campaigns even on a small scale is a good idea and get your products out to advocates and influencers where they can test it, take a picture of it and post it on your behalf. It is an inexpensive way of connecting with your customers and getting the most bang for your buck. However, price will be an issue. If you start with influencers because you are small and trying to gain an audience do your best to find influencers that are in your market. There is some cross over, but for the most part you want to find someone that is focused in your market.

Final Thoughts

The CPG industry is where creative entrepreneurs thrive and flourish. That being said, there are many brands that have failed.  If you think you are jumping in the water with a bunch of placid marine life, look again. There plenty of  big nasty fish in this ocean that are very hungry and protective.  If you passionate and willing to put in the time,  you can be successful.  That is after lots of late hours building your brand, attending trade shows, listening to customers, brokers, distributors and everyone else in between.  My hat is off to all those who try. It does not matter if you succeed or fail.  I cheer for all and especially for the ones who fail and get back up and try again. Fall seven times, get up eight.

Check out these reads!
  1. https://retail.emarketer.com/article/smaller-cpg-brands-upstarts-increasingly-level-playing-field/59406111ebd4000b2ceae057
  2. https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/28/large-cpgs-are-under-attack-by-startups-and-consumers-are-winning/
  3. https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/trend/2017-Consumer-Packaged-Goods-Trends

 

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