No Such Thing As An Immature Market

Tom Dougherty

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Lessons For New Entries

All brands must steal market share to survive. Even if you believe you are “first to market" with a new product or service or believe you have created a “new category" a brand will not survive unless it steals share. When you evaluate your category, do not look at it as a particular process or technology, rather look at it as the satisfaction of a customer need or want. Suddenly, even your most immature market begins to look remarkably crowded and quite mature.

Evaluating your offering in terms of a perceived need or want is an important understanding to foster — that is, if you want to steal market share. It forces you to see your product and service from the outside-in perspective of the customers you are trying to influence. Immediately, rather than a new offering, your “new category" looks a great deal like a marketing improvement that will help you target the competitive set most likely to offer up its loyal following to your innovative category upgrade. Failure to understand this is failure to “know the enemy. "

Legends In Our Own Minds

Purveyors of new product offers are not the only guilty parties when it comes to self-deceit. All marketers worth their salt are in love with their offers, but somehow, those riding the exhilarating crest of innovation and newness are understandably more prone to this error. Know this, and you will own the advantage.

Your competition will often introduce its innovative offer with a barrage of amenities and product/service advantages. Don’t make this mistake. Certainly, it is important to tout the innovative advantages, in order to point out how the new brand works, but do not get lost in the minutiae of process that excites the engineers and the lab-coated folks in R&D. They love the processes… your target audience cares only for the outcome and purposes and even the greatest of outcomes is no substitute for a great brand promise. Brand equity not only promises a specific outcome but ALSO promises to reinforce the self-description of the target audience while they actively use or purchase the brand. It speaks directly to your target’s sense of self.

Defining Your Competition

When we evaluate a new brand or service, new pharmaceutical, new technology, new financial service, or new consumer product, we think about every means that the customer has of satisfying that need or want. FedEx competes with UPS, and DHL for sure, but they also compete with all means of communicating and sharing data at high speed. The competitive set therefore includes, FAX, E-mail, telephone and dare say, carrier pigeons!

When the iPod hit the market, it was in a life or death struggle not only with other MP3 players but also with every means by which the end user had to play music — both portable and non-portable. Understanding the entire competitive set prepares you to find real opportunity for your brand and not just a temporary fix.

When building the brand story, always remember that your competition’s customers are not simply buying a product or service, they are buying a brand that reinforces a belief in whom they are — as individuals and as a group. They are reinforcing their sense of self with every purchase and no one, regardless of the power of the offer, will commit emotional suicide by buying a brand that shatters that self-concept. These emotional attachments to brands are more important than efficacy or performance and need to be tightly woven into the brand promise if you intend on growing your market share. It is this sort of brand loyalty that protects your brand from always having to be best or most affordable. It protects Coke from being overtaken by Pepsi even if Pepsi is preferred in blind taste tests. It protects Microsoft from encroachment by Apple and it provides advantages to countless other brands everyday. It is the only reason to invest in brand building and runs counter to everything R&D might tell you. Anthropologists better understand brand equity than most marketers and companies. Those that know both disciplines own an outstanding advantage.

Low Penetration vs Immature

We feel quite comfortable in stating that there are no immature categories when it comes to stealing share. Sure, there are many categories where market penetration is slight, however, there are a number of existing product that are certainly satisfying the category need by other means. To get consumers to change their current behavior your brand needs them to change both their loyalties and their actions and choose differently. You are bucking both brand loyalty and force of habit and such powerful laws of consumer behavior requires an equal force be applied to institute such a change. At Stealing Share®, we believe these represent both the emotional and cognitive needs of the target you wish to influence. You must engage their intellect and excite their emotions. You must promise not only a better outcome and process but a better “user of the brand" as well. In short, you need to invite them into an exclusive club that welcomes them as a member.

Tom Dougherty
CEO, Senior Strategist at Stealing Share, Inc.

Tom began his strategic marketing and branding career in Saudi Arabia working for the internationally acclaimed Saatchi & Saatchi. His brand manager at the time referred to Tom as a “marketing genius, " and Tom demonstrated his talents to clients such as Ariel detergent, Pampers and many other brands throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. After his time overseas, Tom returned to the US where he worked for brand agencies in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. He continued to prove himself as a unique and strategic brand builder for global companies. Tom has led efforts for brands such as Procter & Gamble, Kimberly Clark, Fairmont Hotels, Coldwell Banker, Homewood Suites (of Hilton), Tetley Tea, Lexus, Sovereign Bank, and McCormick to name a few. Contact Tom at .


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