The Risks of Not Taking Risks

By Tom Dougherty

Taking Marketing Risks. No risk at all.

Taking Marketing Risks When You Steal Share

Taking Marketing RisksTaking marketing risks is how you win. What do you know? What don’t you know?

Are things 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. T

he 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.

Taking Marketing Risks. Art or 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. But you will need to be taking marketing risks if you want to win. You would be surprised how many of your competitors inside-out when assessing opportunities and issues.

Your biggest opportunity, if you have the courage to look long and hard, Is when you see 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. It is all about taking marketing risks. Keeping to the old model is the recipe that the market leader hopes you salute in dead earnest.

A Concrete Example of Taking Marketing Risks

Let’s look at this in a more concrete way.

Consumer packaged goodsIf you are in second place in a category you will only help the market leader when your marketing is designed to grow 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. At least by conventional and traditional means. You will need to be taking marketing risks if you want to do that.

Category competitors, despite all protestations to the opposite, try to differentiate themselves. They try and grow market share by touting category benefits.

Brands, in effect, continue to support the supremacy of the market leader. They do it through their current marketing and advertising.

Banks expect prospects to switch and customers to choose based on crap. Things like having multiple ATMs, online banking and friendly employees. Or, competitive rates, and convenient locations. The very foundation upon which Bank of America has built its franchise.

Budweiser Too

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)

Marketing Risk

Creativity is not enough

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. Or if  the ATMs aren’t convenient.  And, the rates and fees 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. They all avoid taking marketing risks.

Will a beer drinker change brands because you claim to have won more awards? Or, 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. What are the odds of that?

In blind taste tests, 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. Once you start taking marketing risks.

The Road Untaken

Marketing RiskThe 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)As we see it, taking marketing risks is not risky at all.