It is steal or die: The immature market myth.


Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

17 June 2014


 Each innovation replaces an old need


I was talking with a chief marketing officer last week and he told me that his marketplace was immature. I assured him that there was no such thing as an immature market. That, in fact, all markets were mature.

“How so?” he challenged.

I told him that this idea is the immature market myth. Even Paleolithic men who discovered fire and were convincing others of their group to cook meat were doing so under the rule of a mature market. They were stealing share from the raw meat eaters.

immature market mythNow, don’t think this is me splitting hairs. Understanding the difference between the strategies needed to exploit one from the other is crucial to your success. Thinking that your market is immature should only affect your media strategy. But if you overlook mature market strategies in your brand or advertising content…you will miss the boat.

Mature market sensibility tells you that, to be successful, you need to take the competitor’s customer and make him your own. You need the prospect to change behaviors and choose your product or service from the habitual purchase behavior of his/her past. Can you give me an example of any market where this was not true?

The personal computer revolution was a mature market in my mind. Everything that the computer accomplished was being performed in a different way when the PC arrived on the scene. The prospect may have been using a typewriter, a pad and pencil or a calculator — the task was just being performed differently. Computers were stealing market share from those actions.

The reason I think this distinction is important is that mature market strategy asks more of your marketing and brand strategy. It requires you to look into the double helix of your prospects and illuminate the values and belief systems that drive and direct their behavior.

If the category is relatively new (if you think of it as immature), then you have the added momentum of a changing category. But if you stop and define your message as merely a better way, then you will miss the boat because that ship has already sailed.

Always take the high ground and view your task as changing an existing behavior. The bells and whistles of your brand should be proof points and support for a much bigger promise than simply accomplishing a task in a terrific way. Try to understand the personal aspirations of the prospect you need to influence. Let them know that among all the great choices available to them in your category, your brand best represents the aspirational self-identification that prospects covet.

Understand this and couple it with all the rational proof points that your brand owns and you have the recipe for growing your market share. At the end of the day, you either steal market share or die. Don’t buy into the immature market myth.

See more posts in the following related categories: immature markets Mature markets


  1. Corbin

    Brand is always about changing behavior no matter how mature or immature your market is.

    At the end of the day, brand is about increasing preference and increasing margins and to do that you have to both understand your customer’s behavior and initiate a plan to change it.

    • Tom Dougherty

      Even if you consider your market as immature, the most powerful thing you can do as a marketer is to approach it with the same tenacity you would need if you considered it mature.

  2. Mike Oz

    This is an interesting idea. Most innovators believe they are creating a new market. But when you think about it, even the Model T stole market share from the horse.

    • Tom Dougherty

      Exactly. The iPhone stole share from standard mobil phones.

  3. Rachel Lentz

    Your blog has really helped me understand that the focus should always be on changing behaviors. Makes sense.

    • Tom Dougherty

      At the end of the day it is the only way to grow a business.


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