where complacent brands go

I heard once that there are three types of companies: rule makers, rule followers, and rule breakers. It’s easy for rule makers and rule followers to get complacent, particularly in industries that have been around for a while.

As marketers, we often focus so closely on our direct competition, we can miss the big picture. I had a manager once who described looking at market share graph lines week after week as watching “worm races”. One week, our brand was up. The next week, our direct competitor was up. By obsessing over the worm races, he told us, we would miss what was really important to the consumer. We would move in lock step with our competitors and miss larger market shifts. We would get stuck in the status quo.

The status quo creates real opportunities for rule breakers and brand challengers. I learned from my time at the method brand that mature categories start to accept rules of the category as infallible that may not be true (like the “rule” that packaging design doesn’t matter in home cleaning products). It’s up to the challenger to break those rules.

This is what Chobani did in yogurt, coming from nowhere in 2005 to hit $1billion in sales last year. Their founder Hamdi Ulukaya described their founding approach, saying “We came from the angle that this is a boring category that we will change”.

In most markets today, the pace of change is so fast that we all have to think like brand challengers even when we’re the brand leader. We all have to question, and be wiling to break, the rules. If you want to remain number one, you have to think like number two.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away one signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. I’ll pick one comment. Thanks!)

  1. Karl Sakas says

    Market share info only matters if it’s actionable — and acted upon.

    In an early job, I calculated market share for the CEO and COO. Every quarter, our market share declined. Did they take action based on this information? Not as far as I can tell. They’re now a fraction of their former size.

    It’s about action, not data and information.

  2. Kerrie M says

    R&D and sales leaders are meant to have some ‘healthy friction’ in their relationships but one things my ex-colleagues agreed on was their view on disruptive innovation.

    If you find a new, and better way of doing something, but the current approach makes you a lot of money, it’s tempting to hold off, but as the VP of R&D said “it’s better to disrupt yourself, than wait for someone else to do it”, and as the VP Sales would add, “you don’t want to be the most successful buggy-whip seller, when everyone is driving cars”.

    Not surprisingly they were part of a highly successful leadership team.

  3. Lilster says

    I call this marketoon, “Hindsight” It’s that deep feeling of loss when you know you had it, the right strategy, the right idea, or the right execution and got genius blocked by the organization. It’s the feeling you get when your colleagues commiserate over coffee and say “If only…”

  4. Jeremy Heng says

    Heres lies the Late BrandX.

    Too Late In discovering that it didn’t have a meaningful purpose for existence beyond profit.
    Too Late in leveraging the tide of insights each new cultural trend brings.
    Too Late in discovering no one else was communicating in its dialogues.
    Too Late in diagnosing its terminal stages caused by ego..


  5. Lisa M. says

    A May 2012 article written by Mitch Joel concluded by saying …”The roadblock has become our traditional and non-consumercentric ways of thinking.”
    Your marketoon depicting complacent brands is dead on (pun intended!) Status quo … same strategy year after year … “it’s only a fad” .. and not taking challengers seriously and focusing on the analysis rather than the consumer …

  6. Archita says

    My last workplace has been a longtime brand leader. Thus, it has made them overconfident of the strategies they employ in communication and the rest (read safe and conservative approach). The rule breakers keep garnering market share by challenging their limits but this firm keeps dismissing them as “flavor of the season”, believing that one new TVC with heavy airplay will bring about a change in their sales figures. The place became boring as all hell. I had no option but to quit.

  7. Daniel says

    “If you want to remain number one, you have to think like number two.”

    That quote should have a Click-to-tweet link. It says it all. Thanks for the post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *