Do blue ocean opportunities really exist? Or is it all just red ocean?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

blue oceanPeople love brainstorming “blue ocean” ideas, coming up with unique ways to create their own uncontested market space and do it so well, they can make competition irrelevant. These sessions can open up business minds that might be stuck. They can get your people out of their usual thinking so they can explore where else you could go. However, if you feel like once you launch, it’s sailing the open seas all by your lonesome, think again.

With any market situation, if you steal money from someone, they’ll figure who stole it and come after you. All of a sudden, your blue ocean market is really a red ocean, filled with bloody battles to the death of one brand over the other. Just because you might be significantly better than who you are fighting does not mean it will be easy. Make sure you are ready for battle. Think in terms of competitive market warfare. It might get bloody.

Murder and strategy have one thing in common; they both start with opportunity.

Finding those blue ocean strategies can create opportunities. The reality is most brands play in a highly competitive space. Every gain you make, comes at the expense of someone else, who is also always trying to win.

  • Netflix has dramatically impacted network television and movie theatres.
  • Uber is experiencing fights across North America with Taxi companies, and Municipal governments.
  • Amazon is fighting against retailers and brands selling direct.

It’s fine to use a blue ocean brainstorm to create these type of ideas. You have to use a red ocean defence to run these businesses. Anytime you take a dollar away from someone, they will fight back.

blue ocean

How to win in a red ocean world

Brands have four choices:  better, different, cheaper or not around for long. Which do you want?

To find the competitive space in which your brand can win, I introduce a Venn diagram of competitive situations that we will use throughout this discussion.

Competitive Strategy

You will see three circles. The first circle comprises everything your consumer wants or needs. The second circle includes everything your brand does best, including consumer benefits, product features or proven claims. And, finally, the third circle lists what your competitor does best.

Winning zone

Your brand’s winning zone (in green), is the space that matches up “What consumers want” with “What your brand does best.” This space provides you a distinct positioning you can own and defend from attack. Your brand must be able to satisfy the consumer needs better than any other competitor can.

Your brand will not survive by trying to compete in the losing zone (in red). This space matches the consumer needs with “What your competitor does best.” When you play in this space, your competitor will beat you every time.

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It has become harder to be better with a definitive product win. Many brands have to play in the risky zone (in grey), which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie.

There are four ways you can win the risky zone:

  • Use your brand’s power in the market to squeeze out smaller, weaker brands.
  • Be the first to capture that space to earn a reputation you can defend
  • Win with innovation and creativity to make your brand seem unique
  • Build a deeper emotional connection to make your brand seem different

Sadly, I always have to mention the dumb zone (in blue) where two competitors “battle it out” in the space consumers do not care. One competitor says, “We are faster,” and the other brand says, “We are just as fast.” No one bothered to ask the consumer if they care about speed. Both brands are dumb.

Competitive Warfare  

Regarding the competitive strategy, you must choose from one of four different types of competitive situations you find your brand operating within. The power players are the dominant leader in the category and take a competitive defensive stance. The challenger brands have gained enough power to battle head-to-head with the market leader. The disruptor brands have found a space so different they can pull consumers away from the significant category players. Moreover, craft brands aggressively go against the category with a niche target market and a niche consumer benefit. They are small and stay far away from the market leaders.

Brands rarely experience competitive isolation. Even in a blue ocean situation, the euphoria of being alone quickly turns to a red ocean, cluttered with the blood from nasty battling competitors. The moment we think we are alone, a competitor is watching and believing they can do it better than we can. When you ignore your competition, believing only the consumer matters, you are on a naive pathway to losing. Competitors can help sharpen our focus and tighten our language on the brand positioning we project to the marketplace.

Regarding marketing war games, I will use this Venn diagram to map out four types of competitive brands:

  • Power players
  • Challenger brands
  • Disruptor brands
  • Craft brands.

Power players

Power players lead the way as the share leader or perceived influential leader of the category. These brands command power over all the stakeholders, including consumers, competitors, and retail channels.

Regarding positioning, the power player brands own what they are best at and leverage their power in the market to help them own the position where there is a tie with another competitor. Owning both zones helps expand the brand’s presence and power across a bigger market. These brands can also use their exceptional financial situation to invest in innovation to catch up, defend or stay ahead of competitors.

Competitive Strategy

Power player brands must defend their territory by responding to every aggressive competitor’s attacks.

They even need to attack themselves by vigilantly watching for internal weaknesses to close any potential leaks before a competitor notices. Power player brands can never become complacent, or they will die.

Google

One of the best contemporary power player brands is Google, which has managed to dominate the search engine market. The company’s extreme focus and smart execution gained market power and squeezed out Microsoft and Yahoo. Focused on providing knowledge for consumers, Google has continued to expand its services into a bundle of products with e-mail, maps, apps, docs, cloud technology, and cell phones. Regarding advertising dollars, the combination of Google and Facebook now accounts for over 80% of all digital advertising spending. We are currently entering the digital duopoly age with influence shared between these two power player brands.

Blackberry: A failed power brand

On the other hand, BlackBerry is an excellent case study of a power player which forgot to defend its castle. In 2009, Blackberry dominated the B2B corporate smartphone market. Fanatics were so addicted they referred to the brand as “CrackBerry.” At the time, a great market research story on BlackBerry said, “If there were 20 people in the room and one had a BlackBerry, guess which one person was the boss.” That is a great brand positioning space to own. However, BlackBerry became distracted by the Apple launch and tried to be more like Apple rather than staying true to itself. BlackBerry launched an inferior touchscreen phone, an undifferentiated tablet, sponsored rock concerts, and launched BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for young teens. The brand failed to attack itself, leaving severe product flaws, which frustrated their users. Pretty soon, corporations began to switch to the iPhone.

Challenger brands

Challenger brands must change the playing field by amplifying what your brand does best while simultaneously repositioning the power player brand you want to take down.

While your first instinct would be to attack the power player’s weakness, the smarter move is to reposition one of the power player’s well-known strengths into a perceived weakness. This strategy helps move the power player brand outside of what consumers want.

Competitive Strategy

When you attack a power player brand, be ready for the leader’s potential defensive moves and anticipate a response with full force, as the power player brand has more significant resources than you. You also need to be highly confident that your attack will make a positive impact before you begin to enter into a war. The worst situation is to start a war you cannot win, as it will drain your brand’s limited resources, only to end up with the same market share after the war.

Since the power player leader tries to be everything to everyone, you can narrow your attack to slice off those consumers who are frustrated with the leading brand. Tap into their frustration to help kickstart a migration of consumers away from the leader. If you can gain these lost consumers, you can quickly change share positions.

The Pepsi Challenge

One of the best examples of a challenger brand that made significant gains is the Pepsi Challenge from the 1970s. It was a direct offensive attack on Coke. In blind taste tests, Pepsi was the preferred brand. Pepsi is a much sweeter taste, so in a quick hit, it was the chosen brand. Coke is an acquired and memorable taste. The blind taste test took away the Coke brand name and the emotional feelings of that brand. At the same time, Pepsi amplified its strength as the “new generation” and positioned the brand as the solution to consumers ready to reject the “old taste” of Coke. Pepsi’s approach on taste contributed to the launch of a sweeter “New Coke.”

Avis

Avis created the “We try harder” campaign that openly said “we are #2, so we have to try harder” which turned the strength of Hertz #1 market share into a slight weakness, making consumers wonder if the #1 brand Hertz was resting on its laurels. They layered in reasons to believe saying they couldn’t’ afford to provide unwashed cars, low tire pressure and dirty ashtrays which made consumers start to wonder if Hertz did those things.

Disruptor brands

Disruptor brands move into a blue ocean space, all by themselves. They use a new product, distribution channel, target market or price point. They are so different they appear to be the only brand that can satisfy the consumer’s changing needs.

Competitive Strategy

When successful, the disruptor brand repositions the significant players, making them appear unattached to consumers.

While everyone wants a game-changer, it is a high-risk, high-reward competitive situation. The trick is you have to be “so different” to catch the consumer’s attention and mindshare. Being profoundly different increases the risk you may fail. Also, your success may invite other entrants to follow. At that point, you become the new power player of the new segment. You have to continue attacking the significant players while defending against new entrants who attack your brand.

Technology examples

Uber, Netflix, and Airbnb are contemporary brands that effectively use modern technology to create such a unique offering that they cast significant category-leading brands or entire industries as outdated and outside what consumers want. Uber disrupted the taxi market, Netflix is revolutionizing the way we watch TV, and Airbnb has had a dramatic impact on hotels. These brands have a smarter ordering system, better service levels, and significantly lower prices.

Craft Brands

Craft brands must win a small space in the marketplace that offers something unique to a highly engaged target. These brands succeed when they are far enough away from significant competitors that the leaders ignore them because craft brands stay hidden away.

Competitive Strategy

Craft brands build themselves behind a micro-benefit, including gluten-free, low fat, locally grown, organic or ethically sourced. These craft brands take an antagonistic approach to the rest of the category, portraying every other brand in the category as old-school, overly corporate, unethical, flawed in the manufacturing or the use of ingredients. Many times, these brands take a very aggressive marketing stance, calling out the other brands as unethical or stupid. Craft brands believe it is better to be loved by the few than liked or tolerated by many.

Five Guys

A fantastic of example a craft brand is Five Guys Burgers, which uses fresh, high-quality beef and a commitment not to begin cooking your burger until you order it. The portions are more substantial than typical fast food, and they charge super-premium prices. Five Guys have gone in the opposite direction to most fast food restaurants, whose meals seem frozen and microwaved. Five Guys has expanded rapidly with word of mouth helping the brand earn a reputation as “the best burger.” Now that Five Guys has become a global brand, McDonald’s has to figure out an adequate competitive response.

Dollar Shave

Another excellent example of a craft brand is Dollar Shave, which launched as an online subscription model for razor blades. Dollar Shave uses smart sourcing and a direct-to-consumer distribution model. This efficient model eliminates costs and allows the brand to sell razors at a fraction of the cost you pay for Gillette. For consumers, the price of razor blades has gotten out of control, no matter how much innovation the leaders try to portray. Dollar Shave’s advertising openly mocked Gillette, yet it started in such a small niche, so Gillette ignored them. While year one sales were only $30 million, without a competitive response from Gillette, Dollar Shave continued to grow year-by-year, until Unilever recently purchased the brand for $1 billion.

Marketing warfare rules for success

  • The speed of attack matters. Surprise attacks, but sustained momentum in the market is a competitive advantage.
  • Be organized and efficient in your management. To operate at a higher degree of speed, ensure that surprise attacks work without flaw, be mobile enough.
  • Focus all your resources to appear bigger and stronger than you are. Focus on the target most likely to quickly act, focus on the messaging most likely to motivate and focus on areas you can win.
  • Drawn out dogfights slows down brand growth. Never fight two wars at once.
  • Use early wins to keep the momentum going and gain quick positional power you can maintain and defend counter-attacks.
  • Execution matters. Quick breakthrough requires creativity in your approach and quality in execution.
  • Expect the unexpected. Think it through thoroughly. Map out potential responses by competitors.
  • In a red ocean world, you need to own your territory efficiently and ruthlessly beat your competitors.

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

A Brand Vision should scare you a little, but excite you a lot!!!

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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Every brand plan should start with a brand vision of where you want to be in the long term. Yet, too many brand leaders try to write their brand plans so quickly, they go directly to strategies and action plans. They never think far enough out (e.g. This is a one year plan) but rather just focus on HOW to win NOW with their get-it-done attitude.

But, if a brand vision answers “where could we be?” and the brand strategy answers “how can we get there?” then how could you ever write the strategy without knowing the vision. How can you write how to get there, if you don’t know where “there” is?

Imagine leaving the house, without knowing where you’re going.

Think of the brand vision as the end-in-mind goal of an ideal state where you would feel completely satisfied that you achieved it. To get to that idealized state, we always ask the question:

“If you woke up on January 1st, ten years from now, and you were in a great mood because of what was happening on the brand, then what are the three biggest things on your business that you would you have accomplished?

At first, we keep it as a “straw dog” vision, with 3 simple bullet points, knowing we can always word-smith it later. But we have found that we have to ask this same question 5+ times, because normally the first few answers are complete B.S., filled with corporate rhetoric, cool statements that look good but say very little and lines that try to please your boss rather than provide the authentic direction of where you could be. 

Does having a brand vision statement pay out?

Companies that have vision statements have a better sense of where they are going. And the proof that it pays off:

  • A Harvard Study across 20 industries looking at businesses showed that companies with vision statements saw their revenue grew more than four times faster; job creation was seven times higher; their stock price grew 12 times faster; and profit performance was 750% higher.
  • Newsweek looked at 1000 companies and found companies with vision statements had an average return on stockholder equity of 16.1%, while firms without them had only a 7.9% average return.
  • “Built to Last” showed that for companies with vision statements, that a $1 investment in 1926 would have returned $6,350 compared to only a return of $950 for comparable companies without a vision.

A brand vision helps to frame the overall brand plan

“Where could you be” should be a stake-in-the-ground that inspires and pushes you, while motivating others. It should scare you a little, but excite you a lot. Think of the Vision as the end in mind achievement towards your purpose. Some call them Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). Even if it’s a one year plan, think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful. Ideally, balance the statement in the qualitative (want) and quantitative (measurable). It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused. It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—supporting why you got into this business.

Things that Make a Good vision: 

  1. Easy for employees and partners to understand and rally around
  2. Think about something that can last 5-10 years or more
  3. Balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)
  4. It’s ok to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it’s important for framing the vision.

The watch outs for vision statements:

  1. It’s not a positioning statement.  Almost positioning neutral  Let the positioning come out in the strategy.
  2. Make sure we haven’t achieved it already.  If you are #2, then don’t put “be #2”.
  3. Don’t put strategic statements. Vision answers “where could we be” and not “how can we get there”
  4. Try to be single-minded: Tighten it up and don’t include everything!! Can you say it in an elevator. Can you actually remember it? Can you yell it at a sales meeting?

Your brand vision scare you a little, but excite you a lot. 

There is no value in having a brand vision that is easy to meet. I once had a client tell me their vision was “to be the #2 brand” and I said “what are you now” and they said “we are #2 now”.  I said “this was the easiest project I’ve ever worked on”.  Having an easy vision  won’t push you, stretch you or inspire you to work harder. A funny story: when my son was in 9th grade, his teacher asked on the first day “what grade do you hoped to achieve in the class?”  My son put a D. When I asked him why, he said “I like to over-achieve”. I would rather he put A+ and miss it, than a D and over-deliver. Imagine if he had an A- at the mid-term, the stretch vision would have motivated him to work even harder or change his habits to reach that stretch goal of an A+. Even if he fell short, he would have achieved an A. It’s better to narrowly miss a stretch vision that pushed and inspired you to work harder than to have an easy goal you cheerfully achieved. 

Below are a few examples of brand visions that will hopefully inspire you.

  • I love the Nike vision of “Crush Adidas”, written in the 1960s. I’m sure when they wrote that vision, it seemed somewhat insurmountable (scares you a little) but certainly provided a single-minded focus (excites you a lot) and steered them to actually crushing Adidas by the early 1980s, forcing Adidas to make a necessary come-back.  
  • Princess Margaret Hospital is a cancer hospital with a beautiful and inspiring vision to “conquer cancer in our lifetime”. This speaks to the ongoing on-going battle against cancer, but speaks to the purpose (the why) that everyone connected to the hospital lives and breathes everyday.
  • Lexmark took the inspiration even further by getting the employees to write the brand vision, because they are the brand. The idea of “customers for life” helps inspire and focus everyone who works for Lexmark. 

vision 2.001A well-articulated vision can really make a difference for employees, giving them both a challenge and focus to what they do each day. For service driven companies, where people are the brand it becomes essential.  Adding in brand values and even service values can help people in knowing what they should be doing each day and how they should be doing it. For a product driven brand, it can help all drive focus for all those working around the brand whether that’s ad agencies, R&D, sales or operations.

A brand vision has to stretch you, the point of uncertainty that you can actually meet it.

Slide1To see how a Brand Vision helps to frame the brand plan, read the following presentation: 

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders. Click on any of the topics below:

To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at: 

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham@beloved-brands.com

2015x gmr bio.001

How to build an Innovation Plan that fuels brand growth

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Never let innovation for a brand be something that happens randomly. It should fit strategically under the brand. At Beloved Brands, we believe the best brands build everything that touches the brand around a Big Idea, that guides the 5 magic moments to create a beloved brand, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment and the brand experience.5 moments.001

When we take the 5 brand connectors above, we start to see how the big idea should guide every part of the organization, the promise is the positioning, the brand story becomes the marketing communication, the innovation helps frame what R&D should be focused on, the purchase moment connects the sales team to the channel strategy while the experience impacts the operations and culture of everyone in your organization.

idea map.001

Taking that one step farther, we can see how the idea drives every part of your organization. If any employee connected to a brand, is not focused on their role in delivering the big Idea, they are not doing their jobs properly. Everyone should be looking to that brand idea as the beacon for how to focus their work.

big idea mgmt of the org.001

Innovation has to fit under the Big Idea. In nearly every organization, R&D is a separate function reporting up through the President, with the R&D head usually being a peer to the CMO. As the Brand Leader, beneath the CMO, you need to influence, manage and even direct your R&D counterparts to ensure they are focused on your brand strategy, We recommend every brand should have a 5-year Brand Strategy Road Map (see below) that has a combination of key elements of the brand plan such as vision, purpose, strategies and tactics matched up with the 5 connectors under the Big Idea. Slide11

The Innovation Plan

For most brands, your plan should have a separate innovation strategy that looks at new products, processes, methods and claims. The Innovation Plan falls under the Brand Plan and the strategies should align to the Brand Strategic Road Map. To build an effective Innovation Plan, we recommend that you explore the following: 

  1. The strategic role of innovation
  2. The art of being different
  3. Building an Innovation process

1. What’s the strategic role of Innovation 

As you’re looking at your brand strategy, you need to look at the brand from all sides. Here are four questions to be asking that force you to choose four possible solutions to each.

Slide7

  • What is your current share position in the market? Where you rank is a great indicator of how much power you can command in the market. You have four choices, using Marketing Warfare (Trout and Ries) you are either the Leader, Challenger, Niche or a Guerilla. The challenger type brands should to look at innovation as a strategic tool to break through with consumers and help separate itself from the leader. Conversely, the leader must quickly match every innovation the challenger puts forward to thwart them from gaining a competitive advantage.
  • What is the core strength that your brand can win on? Most brands should have a focus to what they win on, either winning on product, idea, experience or price. Product driven brands should focus on superiority, ensuring you invest in product Innovation to stay ahead of competitors. Conversely, experience brands should look at process innovation focused on making the experience even better–speed, simplicity and added service. Idea brands should build the innovation in support of building the idea, making sure that you continue to focus on “being different”. And for price brand, the innovation should drive cost out of the system.
  • How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?Consumers move along a “Brand Love Curve”, as they become more connected to Brands, their feelings and behavior changes. We believe that brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage. Where you are on the brand love curve should frame how you look at innovation. Brands at the indifferent stage should be looking to innovation as a tool to create some point of difference in the consumers mind, at the Like It stage you should use innovation to help separate the brand and create a following, and then as the brand moves to the Love It stage use innovation to build an emotional connection and turn your product into an experience. Finally, for a brand at the Beloved stage, you can use Innovation as a way to surprise and delight the consumer, as well as using innovation to attack yourself to improve yourself.Slide1
  • What is the current business situation that your brand faces? As your plans are designed to move your brand, you need to understand where they are before you can decide where you want to move them.

2. The art of being different

The classic launch formula we have all seen: do the basic product concept testing, hope for amoderate pass. Then meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year, and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do. Re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily. Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad. Tell the agency you’reexcited. They’ll tell you they’re excited as well. Ask for lots of options, as a pre-caution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want. Just hope the agency clearly understood the 7-page brief. Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide who wins. That way, no one can blame you. Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice. Throw in a web site to explain the 19 reasons why we launched. Maybe even a game on the website. Ah, we have our launch.

With the current economy, shouldn’t we be taking more risks to stand out and not playing it safe right down the middle of the road?

Push yourself to be different. The most Beloved Brands are different, better or cheaper. Or not around for very long.

Think about 4 possible types of launches:

  1. Good but Not Different
  2. Not Good and Not Different
  3. Different but not Good
  4. Good and Different

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  • Good But Not Different (the launch outlined above): These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar. However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all. So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat. This option offers limited potential.
  • Not Good and Not Different: These are the safest of safe. Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good. They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market. But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically. What appears safe is actually highly risky. You should have followed your instincts and not launched. This option is a boring failure.
  • Different but Not that Good: Sometimes we get focused on the product first: it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need. So we launch what is different for the sake of being different. It does poorly in testing. Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching. But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference. And it fails. The better mousetrap that no one cares about.
  • Good But Different: These don’t always test well: consumers don’t really know what to make of it. Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life. But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”. It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand. This option offers long-term sustainability.

3. Innovation Process

It’s important that you make innovation part of the culture, with
regular brainstorming, consistent stages of approval and a certain diligence and oversight on decisions. While innovation takes creative energy, it should never be a random process (unless you are 3M)

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  • Identify New Opportunities: It’s crucial that you are constantly listening, observing and identifying consumer needs, market trends and pain points that need solving. We recommend a regular brainstorming process to ensure you have more ideas in the pipeline. Include a cross section of the organization, outside agencies and a process for creativity to ensure that you diverge to allow the group freedom for new ideas and then converge against the best ideas. Using the ideas, build concepts that you can use with consumers–a balance of qualitative and quantitative research. You want to identify  uniqueness, potential size of the opportunity, own-ability/strategic fit, and any consumer feedback that might help optimize or twist the idea. This must be a constant and regularly scheduled mining of ideas.
  • Create an innovation pipeline: We would suggest you build a 5 year pipeline of ideas. Short term ideas should go through concept refinement, in market testing and a stage-gate decision process with management. Stage-gate decisions include approval of the  execution plan and milestones from production to launch. To have a robust pipeline, you need longer term ideas that may still be in need of further concept refinement or potential technology discovery through your R&D team.  
  • Go to Market Implementation: Depending on the importance of key innovation, you should consider putting your best people on the team. With an important launch, the difference between good and great can make a huge difference. There are lots of heavy lifting on the back-end, including naming, logos, packaging, production, channel plan. From there, you need to build marketing support: advertising, presentations and in-store support. With each launch, you need to eventually hand over to a launch team, including marketing, sales, operations.

The best Innovation is creatively well planned, not randomly disorganized

Slide1Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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Do “Blue Ocean” opportunities really exist? Or is it all just “Red Ocean”?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

fedex-blue-ocean-strategy-1-638People love brainstorming “blue ocean” ideas where they’ll talk about how to create their own uncontested market space and make competition irrelevant. I’ve participated in those sessions and admit they are a blast. It’s a great tool for opening up business minds that might be stuck, get them out of the usual and explore where else you could go.
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At Beloved Brands, we always start with the consumer so that we ensure we are meeting the needs of consumers rather than blindly putting things out into the marketplace that no one wants. However, the second check is the competitive nature of your positioning to make sure I’m not blindly putting things out that someone is already doing. Murder and Strategy have one thing in common, they both start with opportunity. Yes, finding those blue ocean strategies, can create opportunities.However, the reality is that most brands play in a highly competitive space where every gain you make, comes at the expense of someone else, who is also constantly trying to win. Netflix has dramatically impacted network television and movie theatres, Uber is experiencing fights across North America with Taxi companies and Municipal governments and Amazon is fighting against brands selling direct. While you might use Blue Ocean to create these type of ideas, you have to use Red Ocean when you start to run these businesses. Be prepared that anytime you take a dollar away from someone, they will fight back.

How to win in a Red Ocean world

Brands have four choices:  better, different, cheaper of not around for long

The key is to find a unique selling proposition for your brand.  You don’t always need to find a rational point of difference as long as there is room to be emotionally unique.Slide04

Map out everything your consumer wants–all the possible need states. Then map out all the benefits that you and your competitors can do better than anyone else–both functional and emotional zones.  You want to find that intersecting zone where what you can do best matches up to a need state of the consumer. Then find a way to serve that need state to the best of your ability and transform it into an even bigger deal than first meets the eye. Avoid the intersecting zone where your competitor is better than you and please avoid that zone where you and your competition foolishly battle in an area that “no one cares” about. The battle ground zone is where both you and your competition can satisfy the consumer need at an equal rate. To win in this situation, you need to get creative and find ways to out-execute or find some emotional connection that changes the game and makes you the clear winner.

Competitive Warfare

At the start of any strategy definition, you should ask “where are we?” Here are four questions to be asking that force you to choose four possible solutions to each.

  1. What is your current share position in the market?
  2. What is the core strength that your brand can win on?
  3. How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?
  4. What is the current business situation that your brand faces?

This article focuses on question one which speaks to where you rank in the market, which a great indicator of how much power you can command in the market.  You have four choices, using Marketing Warfare (Trout and Ries) you are either the Leader, Challenger, Niche or a Guerilla.

  • Leader (defensive): Leader of category or sub-category defending their territory by attacking itself or even attacking back at an aggressive competitor.
  • Challenger (offensive): Challenger’s attack on the leader to exploit a weakness or build on your own strength.
  • Flanking: An attack in an open area where the Leader is not that well established.
  • Guerrilla (Niche): Go to an area where it’s too small for the Leaders to take notice or are unable to attack back.

The leader uses defensive strategies

Defensive strategies should be pursued by the leader. Not only the market share leader, but the perceived leader in the consumers’ mind. Attacking yourself is the best defense. Identify and close leaks in service, experience or products. Introduce new products superior to your current. Challenge the culture to step it up to continually get better and stay ahead of the competitors. Can’t be complacent or you’ll die. The Leader blocks all offensive moves. Keep an eye on your competitors moves—and adjust your own brand to ensure you defend against their attacks. Attack back with an even greater force than the one attacking you. Demonstrate your brand power. Leverage all the brand power you’ve mustered to maintain your positional power.Slide1

The challenger brand uses offensive strategies

The best offensive attack is to actually find weakness within the Leader’s strengths. Turn a perceived strength around is very powerful. Attack a weakness might be insufficient. Be careful of the Leader’s Defensive moves. Anticipate a response with full force—possibly even greater than yours. Avoid wars that drain resources and hold same share after the war. Attack on as narrow of a front as possible to ensure your resources are put to that area—which might be more force than the leader puts to that one area. Narrow attacks are effective when the leader tries to be all things to all people—enabling you to slice off a part of their business before they can defend it. Leapfrog Strategy, technology and business models are game-changers in the category.Slide2

The flanker brand stays clear of any battles

The flanker strategies go to uncontested areas, in the safety where the leader is not competing. Make sure you are the first in this area. Speed and surprise can help win the uncontested area before the Leaders take notice. Make your move quickly and stealthfully. Follow through matters, to defend the area you’ve won. Others may follow—whether it’s the leader trying to use their might or copy cats looking for an early win. You can win with new targets, price points (premium or value), distribution channels, format or positioning. Flanking, while lower risk of attack from the leader, is a higher risk with consumers because innovation is always riskier because consumers might not like the concept.

Guerrilla warfare wins where no one notices or cares

Pick a segment small enough that it won’t be noticed and you’ll be able to defend it. Be aggressive. Put all your resources against this small area, so that you’ll have the relative force of a major player. Be flexible and nimble. You’ll need to enter quickly to seize an opportunity that others aren’t noticing, but also be ready to exit if need be—whether the consumers change their minds or competitors see an opportunity to enter. Explore non-traditional marketing techniques to get your brand message out and your brand into the market quickly. Because you’re playing in a non-traditional market, you’ll be given leeway on the tools you use. For Guerrilla brands, it is better to be loved by the few, than liked or tolerated by many.Slide1

Marketing Warfare Rules for Success

  1. Speed of attack matters. Surprise attacks, but sustained speed in the market is a competitive advantage.
  2. Be organized and efficient in your management. To operate at a higher degree of speed, ensure that surprise attacks work without flaw, be mobile enough.
  3. Focus all your resources to appear bigger and stronger than you are. Focus on the target most likely to quickly act, focus on the messaging most likely to motivate and focus on areas you can win.   Drawn out dog fights slows down brand growth. Never fight two wars at once.
  4. Use early wins to keep momentum going and gain quick positional power you can maintain and defend counter-attacks.
  5. Execution matters. Quick breakthrough requires creativity in your approach and quality in execution.
  6. Expect the unexpected. Think it through thoroughly. Map out potential responses by competitors.

In a red ocean world, you need to efficiently own your territory and ruthlessly beat your competitors.

Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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