Many brands start in a garage, in someone’s mind or discussed over the kitchen table. To break through, the new brands must use a rebel brand strategy that go against entire marketplace. Gradually, as the brand gains strength, it can move to an island brand that tries to separate consumers away from the main competitor. Then, as the brand gains a larger follower, it opens up the opportunity to use a challenger brand strategy and go head-to-head to take on the leader. And finally, if the brand does really well, it will reach the power player position, needing to defend the castle they worked hard to achieve
Consumer Mindset Curve
In every category, there is a consumer mindset curve in relation to adopting innovation and new products. Consumers are divided into trend influencers, early adopters, early mass and then the mass audience. As consumers, we do show up differently to every category we might purchase. A trend influencer with technology products may be part of the mass audience with fashion. Brands have to identify and understand the various types of consumers they should be targeting.
The trend influencer consumers are right at the beginning of the curve, looking for every new innovation in a category. They are in touch with experts and frustrated by the status quo brands. They love the leapfrog gains and they despise incremental movement by brands.
The early adopter consumers play the bridge role between the influencers and the mass market. They try to keep up, and enjoy being the first within their network to try the latest and greatest.
From there, the mass market consumers gets divided into early and late mass. The early mass take on new products while the overall mass is resistant to change.
How your brand strategy should evolve
The rebel brand stands out as a completely different and better choice to a core group of trend influencers who are frustrated with all the competitors in the marketplace. This group becomes the most motivated consumer base to buy into your new idea. You must bring them on board and use their influence to begin your journey.
At the rebel stage, you must take a high risk, high reward chance on who you will be. You should not worry about the mass audience, because most times, they will naturally resist brands that are very different as they do not yet see the problem. If you play it safe, it will lead to your own destruction. Your brand should naturally alienate those who are not yet ready to take on something new. Not only does a great brand say whom the brand should be for, it should equally say who it is not for. Be careful; do not try to be mass too soon or you will lose your base while also missing the mass audience.
As the brand gains power
As you transition to the island brand strategy, you must mobilize your audience of the early trend influencers to gain a core base of early adopters into your franchise. While the rebel brand attracts the attention of trend influencers by alienating the major players in the category, the island brand tries to use their significant point of difference to pull consumers away from the leaders, making the leaders seem detached from the needs of the consumer.
As the brand gets bigger, it should take on the challenger strategy, using the influence of the trend influencers and early adopters to attract the mass audience. With a bigger consumer base, more power and financial resources, these brands have earned that has earned a hard-fought proximity that allows it to go head-to-head with the power player leader. The challenger brands turn the competitor’s strength into a weakness, pushing them outside of what consumers want, while creating a new consumer problem for which your brand becomes the solution.
At the Power Player stage, the strategy shifts to maintaining the growth. The focus becomes a defensive strategy to attack back at any player. While you may lose the early innovator type consumers that once loved your brand, you have to focus on the mass audience. While the trend influencers and early adopters play a huge role in making the brand a household name, as the brand gets bigger, they leave the brand and look for what is next.
How Apple evolved from an innovative rebel into the mass power player
Back in the 1980s, Apple was the rebel brand using the MacIntosh as the computer for the “rest of us”. They stayed a niche brand to with a simplicity message to those favoring the artistic side instead of the strictly functional PC.
Apple evolved in 2001 to an Island brand strategy, when iTunes disrupted the music industry. They gave consumers the ability to have 1,000 songs in your pocket, with perfect digital quality. And, they made CDs feel disconnected from consumers and CDs quickly became a thing of the past.
In 2006, Apple used their newly found power and heavy resources to use a Challenger strategy, using the “Mac versus PC” TV ads to go head-to-head with Microsoft. With a challenger stance, Apple repositioned every one the potential Microsoft strengths into a frustration point for consumers. This set up Mac as the only simple solution for consumers.
Since 2012, Apple has become the Power Player brand, with stock prices continuing to climb. They are now the brand for the masses. Apple now takes a fast-follower stance on every technology, which frustrates those who loved Mac in their early days. They also must attack themselves internally to stay at the top. Apple’s core audience may be frustrated by what they see. However, Apple must now play to the mass audience, and let the true trend influencers go find someone else to love.
Strategic Thinking Workshop
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