Marketing Risk When You Steal Share
What do you know? What don’t you know? What is knowable? Until you fully understand the issues facing your brand, you cannot solve your marketing problem. Your ultimate success is therefore much more dependent upon the questions you ask then the answers you find. The price of success is the risk of unsettling the boat — rocking the very foundation upon which your business currently floats. Committing your brand to grow its market share is a courageous effort. It is not the bailiwick of the feint of heart because it requires an intent to challenge everything — even slaying all the sacred cows.
Art and Science
Increasing your market share requires both a mixture of art and science (right and left brain thinking). The cognitive side of the process needs to lead the emotional side. The process will enable you to manage the risk of change. You would be surprised how many of your competitors inside-out when assessing opportunities and issues.
This fact is your biggest opportunity if you have the courage to look long and hard at your own business model and marketing strategy. Rest assured that most of your competitive set lacks the fortitude for such assessment — except, of course, the new market leader who rises to everyone’s surprise. Upsetting the apple cart is the recipe for success. Keeping to the old model is the recipe that the market leader hopes you salute in dead earnest.
A Concrete Example
Let’s look at this in a more concrete way. An old and well-accepted adage is if you are in second place in a category you will only help the market leader when your marketing is designed to grow or build the category. We agree with this, but not for the reasons you might think and our reasoning explains why it is so hard to kick the king of the hill off his throne by conventional and traditional means.
For the most part, category competitors, despite all protestations to the opposite, try to differentiate themselves and grow market share by touting category benefits. They, in effect, continue to support the supremacy of the market leader through their current marketing and advertising. Banks expect prospects to switch and customers to choose based on having multiple ATMs, online banking, friendly employees, competitive rates, and convenient locations — the very foundation upon which Bank of America has built its franchise.
Beers try to unseat Budweiser by out “budding” the King of Beers. They all claim great taste, choice ingredients and brewing prowess. Once again, the foundation of the Budweiser brand franchise. (Read our market study on the beer category here)
Let’s look at these marketing challenges dispassionately. First, if you are a bank, take all the table stakes (the category descriptors that define your business) off the table. For the sake of this experiment, assume that all benefits are well understood by the category as equal. After all, no one remains with a bank if the employees are not pleasant, the ATMs convenient and the rates and fees are competitive. What is left? Something is left because the market claims to have preferences and, by simple deduction, we can eliminate 99% of the banking claims as not the culprit.
Will a beer drinker change brands because you claim to have won more awards, taste better or use better ingredients? Logic would say yes, provided the competitor’s customer does not like the taste of the beer they currently drink or dislike the quality of their current beer’s ingredients.
In blind taste tests, few beer drinkers can identify their own brand and seldom can they tell one American lager from another. Often, their taste choice is not their preferred brand yet beer brands continue to battle over category benefits like taste. So, if you eliminate the table stakes, what is left? We never said the answers were easy to find, we only promise that the answers can be found once you discount the obvious.
The Road Untaken
The easy road is not the best choice and finding the switching triggers to human behavior is a taxing endeavor. It is easier to assume that the obvious choice is the best choice, that the well-worn trails are the finest paths but this quite simply ignores our experience. The less traveled road is often the best choice when planning to grow market share because it is important to be both different and better then the competing messages.
Once you have asked the right questions, you need to start seeking the right answers. Let the market guide you, not your own tightly held beliefs. Research is a must but most of the research we see is not worth the paper upon which it is written. Open-ended questions might be great science but it is bad marketing. Ask beer drinkers why they choose the beer they drink with an open-ended question and they will respond, “I like the taste.”
Too bad that it is not why they choose. Finding the real triggers requires hard work and right brain creativity. It is the art in the science and the proof in the pudding. (Read about the Stealing Share process here)