There is a right way to conduct research to grow your market share and a wrong way. Unless you are asking the right questions, your research will fail.
You must go beyond theory and identify the emotional drivers of your target audience and use tough-minded strategies and positioning to steal market share from the competition.
Stealing Share has developed a unique process unlike any other brand company in the world that is designed with a single purpose, to steal market share.
Wal-Mart, Netflix, Best Buy. Most of the big box retailers for consumer electronics have decided to focus exclusively on selling Sony’s Blu-Ray technology for high-definition DVDs rather than Blue-Ray’s competitor, HD DVD.
The Final Blow
Then came the final blow. Toshiba, the company behind HD DVD, threw in the towel and Blu-Ray was officially considered the champion. Cue the Rocky music. Well, let’s hold off for a bit. Competition still lurks out there for Blu-Ray in the form of downloadable content and, if Blu-Ray and its studio and retailer backers don’t build on its current brand equity, Blu-Ray DVDs threaten to go the way of the Betamax very shortly. (Remember, Betamax was actually considered the better technology than the more convenient VHS, but still lost.) Understanding this is nothing new to the backers of Blu-Ray. That’s why they closed ranks so quickly. The longer they waited to let the market pick out a winner in the format war, the more then time frame shortened for capitalizing on any victory. So they choose a victor and started preparing for the next fight.
Threats to Blu-Ray
It is clear where threats loom: From cable companies providing HD content to the federal requirement that TV stations broadcast in HD before February 17, 2009 to Netflix providing downloadable content, although it’s not in high definition yet. However, very soon, high definition will be “table stakes” - what you have to have to even play in the game, but not what you must have to win – if it isn’t already.
Winning the Game
To win the game, Blu-Ray must build a brand that has meaning to potential customers, of which there are still many of them as the high-def market is still relatively immature. In fact, the market share of high-def DVDs and players still lag far behind the sale of HD TVs. It’s how successful Blu-Ray is as a brand that will determine its future. In fact, the largest threat might be Apple’s iTunes once it has enough content and a faster, HD delivery system. More importantly, Apple features one of the most powerful and effective brands in any industry. Once technology enables consumers to download HD content and watch them on devices other than a computer, a new business model will have replaced a very young “old” model - and the most meaningful brands will dominate that model. It’s a scary proposition for the backers of Blu-Ray because so far they have only talked about Blu-Ray in terms of its technology and content – and not about the consumers who play them. “The best movies. The greatest stars,” say most of Blu-Ray’s marketing.
What do Consumers Covet?
Consumers have to recognize something about themselves in the Blu-Ray brand that they don’t see now. The brand must have enough power so that consumers covet it and want to be a part of it, even if it’s no longer the most convenient. Otherwise, once the technology becomes the norm, consumers will move on to newer technology and delivery systems or to a brand they feel kinship with. At this point, Blu-Ray and others in the high def have only had to sell the category – the technology and the content – in order to grow. But as the market matures, that’s not enough.
Once you’ve got everybody buying into the idea of bottled water, for example, just marketing the benefits of purified water isn’t enough to grow your sales or market share. It just increases the market share of the market leader, which may be winning on price, convenience and, well, brand. Blu-Ray can grow into a long-term success as long as it uncovers the meanings and belief systems of its target audience and aligns its brand with them. A brand that says something about who the consumers are when they use the Blu-Ray brand will ensure long-term success because then Blu-Ray will have permission from target audiences to explore even more territories. For example, Apple customers are those who treasure simplicity and feel a little ahead of the curve. They “think different,” as the Apple tagline says. Blu-Ray will need to talk about itself and what it provides by peeling back the layer of the onion and understanding what is inside in terms of the wants and needs of the consumer. What are they really getting? What does the technology provide other than simple content? Excitement? A new experience? Being in control? Enjoying the fine things of life?
Blu-Ray's Brand vs. Its Business
Research will help Blu-Ray find that out. As will understanding the difference between the business of your business and the business of your brand. Look at it this way. The business of FedEx’s business is overnight delivery. The business of FedEx’s brand is peace of mind. When you absolutely have to get something somewhere the next day, you pick FedEx even though you will pay more for it and may even inconvenience yourself to use it. For the entry into the DVD market, Blu-Ray has done several things right. Sony hitched Blu-Ray to Playstation 3, which helped introduce Blu-Ray and its technology to technology-minded and young customers. It also called itself something other than a simple description of the technology, unlike HD DVD. (HD DVD and its name are akin to calling Toyota’s Prius something like, Hybrid Car.)
The Blu-Ray name suggests laser technology, of course, but it also appeals to something more than that: A kind of momentum and a nostalgic sci-fi feel, like something Flash Gordon might have. Its tagline “The future is Blu” was certainly more meaningful than HD DVD’s “It all begins with HD” or “And your DVD’s will look even better.” But a tagline or a logo alone does not make the brand. Instead, a brand is a stake in the ground that covers all of a provider’s communications and, in the end, reflects the consumer.
The Harley Davidson rider is a family man during the week and a rebel on the weekend. The Huggies mom is a good mother. The Pepsi drinker believes in the importance of fun. Blu-Ray must ask itself: Now that we’ve won, who are we now and, most importantly, who are our customers?