October 17, 2016

Book Reflection: How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp

A good friend of mine mentioned this book to me last year and I was only able to get a copy of it when I went to London earlier this year.

Purchased from Foyles London
I finally found the time to sit down and read it the past few weeks and I think it's one of the best marketing books I've read so far.

The book is grounded on large amounts of data collected across different markets and different categories across different time periods. The data is analyzed by academics and conclusions are made based on this. Therefore, it makes it very hard to argue with the data and the general conclusions made in the book.

The book actually tries to dispel some of the things most marketers have been taught in school and in practice.

Some things that stood out to me given my line of work as a communications planner:

Go for broad targeting and broad reach. Many consumers switch between products, therefore, it makes little sense to try and do niche targeting. Go and talk to as many people as possible to increase the likelihood that someone will pick up your product.

Physical availability + mental availability = growth. Make it easy for consumers to buy you and to remember you. It almost sounds too simple but many marketers fail to nail this down completely. Build brand elements and make sure to use it consistently across all forms of communication including advertising and packaging. And make sure the product is available everywhere. Consumers will rarely go out of their way to buy your product if they can't find it in their preferred store.

Loyalty programs rarely work. CRM programs and rewards cards rarely sway consumer behavior enough to justify the high costs for implementing these programs. These programs likely appeal to consumers who already buy your products and therefore don't really change any consumer behavior that results in significant brand growth. 

Bigger brands will have higher market share and have higher loyalty. These big brands will also share and take away more consumers from smaller brands and vice versa. This is also called the "double jeopardy" law in the book. How to fight and get consumers from these big brands? Be memorable, be available, be distinctive.

I would consider this book a must-read for all marketers. And even though some people will argue against the conclusions make in the book, you must agree that any form of debate or discourse that results from reading the book can only improve the overall marketing techniques and practices we have.

My POV is that we don't have to follow the rules stated in the book 100%. There will always be exceptions to existing rules and laws. Consumer behavior is always changing. Innovation can and will still disrupt existing industries and categories. But the book is a great starting point when trying to make sure we satisfy all the basics when trying to grow any brand. And we can all agree that growing a brand is never easy. 

You can be good, you can be lucky or you can be both. I firmly believe that we can have some semblance of control over our luck. We can prepare and make sure we learn from the past, giving us a higher probability for success. This book is just one piece of the marketing puzzle. The rest is up to us and the other tools and information we have at our disposal.

Have you read the book? I would love to hear from other marketers.


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