The System for Analyzing Markets
By Tom Dougherty
All good advertising starts with a complete analysis of the market. That means considering the competition, the customer, and the advertiser. Completion of that market analysis begins the process of creating a brand and the advertising that steals market share from the competition. To increase market share, however, you must begin with the creative brief, a strategic blueprint that defines objectives.
The overall intent is to give the creative team as much strategic traction as possible and help them understand the brand, the target audience, and the marketplace. Out of this “starting gate” rush the advertising messages that define the brand to the customer. To prepare a brief that will steal share you must take this approach one step further, into a complex realm. The experts at stealingshare.com have a process they use in tearing a market apart, a process that relies on the ageless wisdom of Socrates and the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes.
Socrates Knew What He Was Doing When Developing Strategy
Borrowing from the Socratic method, the process begins by asking intuitive questions and progresses by using the sleuth’s skills at discovering the hidden messages, meanings, and opportunities that rise up as a result of well-formulated questions. This is key in analyzing markets. The creative brief starts with a brand audit, which is an assessment of the current meaning of a brand within the context of competing brands in the marketplace.
This process requires making as few assumptions as possible, because existing marketing “wisdom” may be based on nothing that is actually important or meaningful to the customer. After the audit, the share-stealing strategist continues by defining the brand, deciding what the brand has permission to do, and determining who the customer believes he is when he buys into the brand identity. The strategist begins this definition by plotting the brand landscape as the marketers see it (inside-out view) and then again as the customers see it (outside-in view).
At the end of the day, when it comes to stealing market share, the outside-in perspective is more important and profitable. To get proper insight, we ask ourselves basic questions, such as: Why does the customer care? What emotions do they bring to the decision-making process? What are their assumptions? Who do they believe they are when they use the category brands? What other brands might they use to accomplish the same result? When the questioning process is done right, the market seems fresh and new. Opportunity prevails when we find differences between customers’ emotional needs and the market’s promises and we position the brand in a way that takes advantage of a mismatch.
Developing a Strategy and The Brand Promise by Analyzing that Market
Often, when analyzing brand messages, we find that the brand promises are as benign and meaningless as a restaurant category’s promise of “we sell food” with only a few enlightened brands defining themselves further by stating that they serve “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” In such cases, it is impossible for the customer to distinguish one brand from another. So they surrender and choose the market leader (Read an example of a valuable brand promise here).
The next step in analyzing markets we need to analyze the category messages. One of the hard rules in stealing share is to be different and better. The temptation, however, is to copy the market leader. After all, haven’t they been hugely successful? The problem with that thinking is that market leaders are often not enjoying their success as a result of their current messages. If the advertisers are all selling category — for example, if the restaurants are all saying, “We sell food,” the customer will choose the market leader. It is a fatal mistake to attempt to “out-Intel” Intel. If I am a customer that needs “Intel Inside” to feel complete, I won’t feel the same level of satisfaction buying something that says “AMD Inside.” The meaning of AMD needs to be felt before I place AMD inside my PC. You can’t beat the market leader by shadowing. You simply need to choose a brand position that has meaning to the customer and can out-maneuver the leader.
We must know how the market is being informed before we can clearly characterize what the advertising is intended to achieve. We must find the single most important thing that causes the target audience to change their minds and buy the brand. To do this, we plot the existing messages.
We look at the genres and understand the trends. Are they using humor? Slice of life? Testimonial? Exaggeration? Irony? Are they building the brand through music, imagery, or wordplay? We need to know because being different requires knowing where everyone else is the same. When the creative staff is finally briefed, the process is anything but brief. They should leave the briefing room as experts on the brand, category, messaging, advertising, and, most importantly, the target audience and its emotional and physical needs. Armed with this knowledge, creatives are ready to produce work that steals share.