May 20, 2020

by Nigel Hollis

With the recent demand fluctuations caused by the Great Lockdown many brands have focused on driving short-term volume but to grow market share in the longer-term, brands must gain more than their fair share of category entrants. The latter growth mechanism is facilitated by making sure new category entrants are predisposed to choose your brand, and do not just do so because it is easily available.

Although big brands have a target painted on them by every small brand in their category, and although they are less likely to grow, big brands are no more likely to decline than smaller ones. This is because big brands have big advantages when it comes to driving sales. If nothing else, mental and physical availability ensure big brands are the most obvious choice.

The onset of the Great Lockdown saw a boost in demand for some consumer-packaged goods categories. What was notable was that brand leaders in those categories tended to benefit more than others. In the UK, Kantar Worldpanel found that 71% of brand leaders gained share during March 2020. Dettol, the antiseptic brand first created in 1876 and currently marketed with the tagline “Be 100% Sure”, saw a 10% increase in value market share in March versus its moving annual total.

Brand leaders benefit more than other brands because they are both easy to mind and easy to find, in line with the Double Jeopardy generalization. But it is not just that big brands have more repeat purchasers, big brands also get more than their fair share of first-time purchasers too.

Of course, this does not mean that big brands can take their advantage for granted. Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of big brands that failed, and when they do so they tend to lose big. Big brands need to not only ensure that they are easy to mind and easy to buy for existing category purchasers but also predispose people who are not yet ready to buy the category but who might do so in the coming months and years. In our Mastering Momentum report we found that two thirds of brand growth was driven by predisposed buyers.

Now this might seem a little weird to some. Why would you aim your marketing at people not buying the category today? My answer would be, because these are your customers of the future. Many of the people who bought household cleaning products at the onset of the Great Lockdown will instinctively have chosen the brand leader based on a lifetime of prior exposure and experience of that brand. Part of the reason that Kantar Worldpanel found an increase in market share for brand leaders was that a new need triggered old impressions and made it easier to choose the familiar brand.

This said, under normal conditions, the exact time frame in which people might buy is going to be measured in months or even years, so your brand’s messaging needs to be tailored in such a way that it leaves a lasting, memorable impression. This implies not only creative and memorable content linked to the brand but also the right type of messaging and enough repetition to firmly entrench the impression in people’s minds. Someone who has no active interest in your category today is not going to remember a specific claim unless it is repeated on a regular basis, and that could get expensive. Far better to leave a positive general impression that predisposes someone to like the brand without having to remember a specific claim. When the time does come to buy your brand will likely come to mind, predisposing them to search for or notice your brand and check out the details.

Assuming your content conveys a motivating impression and is likely to engage people’s attention it now needs to reach the right people. For some categories there may be clear triggers that anticipate likely category entry, for instance, leaving for college might mean someone opens a bank account. Starting work might mean they need to buy a car (or perhaps not, now many are working from home). And buying a house likely means they will need a washing machine. A carefully constructed combination of behavioral and attitudinal metrics should allow marketers to identify the people most likely to buy in future.

In many cases, however, such targeting might not prove to be a good return on investment. Far better to influence a wide audience, spreading the net wide in order to influence as many people as possible. Unfortunately, that means you are going to have to stitch together a patchwork of different media channels in order to ensure your content is seen. While the TV has been the platform on which multimedia campaigns of the past were built, in future marketers are going to have to be more creative.

Do you think big brands need to focus on category entrants or can they take this source of buyers for granted?


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