April 28, 2014
The ugly truth is that too many marketers chose marketing as a career in business school because they hated accounting and finance. They were drawn to the strategy or creativity of marketing, hoping that someone else would do the accounting. But in reality, from the CEO’s point of view, the only reason marketers exist is to drive growth and profit for an organization, with a focus on ROI (return on investment) for all those creative marketing programs.
The more love you can create for your brand, the more power and profits you can generate. At Beloved Brands, it is our belief that marketers need to create more love for their brand, but not just for loves sake, but for the sake of profit. Love = Connection + Power + Profit. That bond between your brand and your consumer becomes a source of power for your brand, whether that power is with the very consumers who love your brand, versus retailers, suppliers, competitors, influencers, employees or even versus the media. Once you’re able to generate power for your brand, you can then turn that into profit, whether driving price, cost control, market share or increasing the market size.
While good marketers can run brands and marketing programs. Great marketers can drive their brands P&L and deliver growth and profit for their brands. Here are eight ways the Brand Leader can drive profits:
- Trading the consumer up or down
- Product Costs
- Marketing Costs
- Stealing other users
- Getting current users to use more
- Enter new categories
- Create new Uses for your brand
While many marketers think of price as a defensive reaction, most times to counter inflation or something happening in the trade channels, marketers should refocus and start using price as a weapon to drive Brand Value. Beloved Brands seem more capable at driving profits through pricing, but they also are careful to ensure the premium does not become excessive to create backlash.
- Price Increase: You can do a price increase if the market or brand allows you. It likely has to be based on passing along cost increases. Factors that help are whether you are a healthy brand or it’s a healthy market as well as the power of your brand vs. competition and channel.
- Price Decrease: Used when fighting off competitor, if you need to react to a sluggish economy or channel pressure. Another reason to decrease price is if you have a competitive advantage around cost, whether that’s manufacturing, materials or distribution.
There are watch outs for price changes. It’s difficult to execute especially if it has to go through retailers. You need to understand power relationships–how powerful are the retailers. Many times, price changes are scrutinized so badly by retailers that you must have proof of why you are doing it. It’s likely your Competitors will over-react. So your assumptions you used to go with the price increase will change right after. And finally, it’s not easy to change back.
2. Trading the Consumer Up or Down
Aside from price increases, another strategy would to create a range of products that allows you to reach up or down to a new set of consumers. You need to ensure that you are doing this for the right reason or it could backfire on you.
- Trading Up: If you have a range of products, sometimes it can be beneficial to get consumers to trade up. Can you carve out a meaningful difference to create a second tier that goes beyond your current brand? Do your brand image/ratings allow it?
- Trading Down: Risky, but you see un-served market, with minimal damage to image/reputation of the brand. In a tough economy, it might be better to create a value set of products rather than lower the price on your main products.
There are a few watch outs around trying to trade up or down: Premium skus can feel orphaned at retail world—on the shelf or missing ads or displays. Managing multiple price levels can be difficult—what to support, price differences etc. For all the effort you go to, make sure your margins stay consistently strong through the trading up or down. Be careful that you don’t lose focus on your core business. You can’t be all things to everyone. The final concern is what it does your Brand’s image, especially risky when trading downward.
3. Product Costs
Managing cost as a weapon to enhance the Brand’s Value. It can be either your cost of goods or the marketing costs. As marketers, we sometimes think cost is someone else’s job. But it’s an effective weapon that marketers should be utilizing.
- Cost of Goods Decreases: You are able to use the power of your brand to drive power over your suppliers; you find cheaper potential raw materials, process improvement or find off-shore manufacturing.
- Cost of Goods Increases: Make sure that you manage the COGs as they increase. Watch out for suppliers trying to pass along costs. But realize that with new technology, investing in brand’s improved image, going after premium markets, offering new benefit or a format change, that cost of good increases could be a reality.
The watch outs with managing costs: with cuts, make sure the product change is not significantly noticeable. You should understand any potential impact in the eyes of your consumer on your brand’s performance and image. Can the P&L cover these costs, either increased sales or efficiency elsewhere? Managing your margin % is crucial to the long-term success of your brand.
4. Marketing Costs
As marketers sometimes we get protective of the amount, hoping to have as much money as we can to carry out the activities on our priority lists. But we should be looking at marketing costs from the view point of the CEO, with a focus on making sure every program drives profit.
- Marketing Cost Decrease: To counter changes in the P&L (price, volume or cost), it’s very tempting to look to short-term P&L management or look at changes in go-to-market model. Where a brand stands on the product life cycle or how loved the brand is can really impact the selling costs. Even though we think that Beloved Brands have endless spending, they actually likely have a lower investment to sales ratio.
- Marketing Cost Increase: When you’re in Investment mode, defensive position trying to hold share against an aggressive competitor or when you see a proven payback in higher sales–with corresponding margins.
Always be in an ROI mindset: Manage your marketing costs as though every DOLLAR has to efficiently drive sales. Realize that short-term cuts can carry longer term impact. Competitive reaction can influence the impact of investment stance–like a price change, your competitor might over-react to your increases in spending.
5. Stealing other Users
Externally, the Share and Volume game are traditional tools for brand. Either stealing other users or getting current users to use more.
- Offensive Share Gains: Use it when you have a significant Competitive Advantage or you see untapped needs in the market. Or opportunistic, use first mover advantage on new technology.
- Defensive Share Stance: Hold the fort until you can catch up on technology, maintain profitability, loyal base of followers needs protecting.
Be careful when trying to gain share. A Beloved Brand has a drawing power where it does gain share without having to use attack modes. Attacking competitors can be difficult. It could just become a spend escalation with both brands just going at it. After a share war that’s not based on a substantive reasoning (eg. technology change), there might end up with no winners, just losers. Many times, the channel will try to play one competitor against another for their own gain. Watch out what consumers you target in a competitive battle: some may just come in because of the lower price and go back to their usual brand.
6. Getting Users to Use More
Going after frequency is a different strategy.
- Share of Requirements: In many categories, even loyal consumers will work within a competitive set of favourite brands. A good strategy is to provide a reason (claim, experience, emotion) for loyal consumers to stay with your brand.
- Get Current Users to Use More: When there is an opportunity to turn loyal users into creating a potential routine. Changing behaviours is more difficult than enticing trial. It’s a good strategy to use, when your there’s real benefit to your consumer using more. It’s hard to just get them to use more without a real reason.
There has to be a real benefit connected to using more or it might look hollow/shallow. Driving routines is a challenge. Even with “lifesaving” medicines, the biggest issue is compliance. Find something in their current life to help either ground it or latch onto. When I worked on Listerine, people only used mouthwash 20-30 times a year compared to 700+ brushing occasions. So we focused on connecting rinsing with Listerine to the twice daily brushing routine.
7. Enter New Categories
When there is an untapped or under-served need. There could be a significant changing demographic that impacts your base. Or you are able to translate/transfer your reputation to a new user group. There should be something within your product/brand that helps fuel the brand post trial. Trial without repeat, means you’ll get the spike but then bust. Substantial investment required. Don’t let it distract from protecting the base loyal users.
8. Create New Uses
Format Line Extensions that take your experience or name elsewhere. Able to leverage same benefit in convenient “on the go” offering. Make sure current brand is in order before you divert attention, funding and focus on expansion area. Investment needed, could divert from spend on base business. Be careful because the legendary stories (Arm and Hammer) don’t come along as much as we hope.
Beloved Brands drive strong sales growth, which helps the P&L work harder and more efficiently.
With all the love and power the Beloved Brand has generated for itself, now is the time to translate that into growth, profit and value. The Beloved Brand has an Inelastic Price. The loyal brand fans pay a 20-30% price premium and the weakened channels cave to give deeper margins. We will see how inelastic Apple’s price points are with the new iPad Mini. Consumers are willing to trade up to the best model. The more engaged employees begin to generate an even better brand experience. For instance at Starbucks, employees know the names of their most loyal of customers. Blind taste tests show consumers prefer the cheaper McDonald’s coffee but still pay 4x as much for a Starbucks. So is it still coffee you’re buying?
A well-run Beloved Brand can use their efficiency to lower their cost structure. Not only can they use their growth to drive economies of scale, but suppliers will cut their cost just to be on the roster of a Beloved Brand. They will benefit from the free media through earned, social and search media. They may even find government offer subsidies to be in the community or partners willing to lower their costs to be part of the brand. For instance, a real estate owner would likely give lower costs and better locations to McDonald’s than an indifferent brand. Apple get a billion dollars worth of free media, with launches covered on CNN for 2 weeks prior the launch and carried live like it’s a news event.
Beloved Brands have momentum they can turn into share gains. Crowds draw crowds which spreads the base of the loyal consumers. Putting the Disney name on a movie generates a crowd at the door on day 1. Competitors can’t compete–lower margins means less investment back into the brand. It’s hard for them to fight the Beloved Brand on the emotional basis leaving them to a niche that’s currently unfulfilled. Walk past an Apple store 15 minutes before it’s open and you’ll see a crowd waiting to get in–even when there are no new products.
Beloved Brands can enter into new categories knowing their loyal consumers will follow because they buy into the Idea of the Brand. The idea is no longer tied to the product or service but rather how it makes you feel about yourself. Nike is all about winning, whether that’s in running shoes, athletic gear or even golf equipment
Here are lessons learned for driving more profits for your brand.
- Higher volume helps you exert pressure on costs. That could be supply costs, operations costs, and distribution over even media costs.
- Get More for Less From the Trade. You can begin exerting power over the sales channels to your advantage–trimming variable trade costs with retailers while demanding more display, prime real estate, coop advertising and more control over pricing. ROI on trade programs.
- Smarter More Efficient Management: manage your inventories, meet customer expectations, control pricing and drive cheaper costs.
- Growth means you start outgrowing any fixed costs. This includes start-up costs, sales force, product plants or R&D costs.
- Lower Cost of Capital: More certainty means lower risk and you can re-invest, knowing the ROI will be quicker and stronger.
Love = Power + Profit
How loved is your brand?
We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.
In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits. To read more, follow this presentation.