When I was ten years old at a summer camp I was leading in the potato sack race. To check on my competitors I looked over my shoulder and suddenly tripped and fell. I came in last place. Even the slowest person, Marsh Mellow Matt beat me. It was humiliating. But in the end I gained a good learning experience.
When a bargain-brand product attacks your premium-brand space, is it still healthy to look over your shoulder? Will you trip over too?
In a robust economy it’s relatively easy to maintain profitable growth of a premium-brand product. Conversely, in today’s economy, the competitive forces are testing the best of us. We are entering a new paradigm of business and the days of conspicuous consumption are quickly receding. Since 2007 over 8 million jobs have been lost. We have chronic unemployment at 10%, or in reality its 17% when you add the people who gave up looking for a job. As fear, insecurity, and the need to be frugal enter the consciousness of consumers, companies are responding by introducing lower price bargain-brand products. What’s a premium-brand to do?
There are three strategies a premium-brand can consider; (1) Introduce your own bargain-brand, (2) Innovate a new value product category (3) Or, maintain status quo. Let’s consider the ramifications of deploying your own Bargain-Brand.
As Jacqueline Kennedy once said, “I don’t react, I respond.”
There’s a saying, “Never fight a pig because you’ll get muddy and the pig will enjoy it.” The same goes for a premium-brand looking to protect its market share against a bargain-brand. Every day we see new bargain airlines, bargain consumer products, bargain cars, bargain food, and bargain electronics. Be careful of the panic reaction when you deploy short term tactics in price discounting and couponing. It may only deplete profits. You can hold the line, but can you afford customers who defect to lower price brands. As Jacqueline Kennedy once said, “I don’t react, I respond.”
Seek your uniqueness
There are no right answers, but a journey of discovery will help determine your strengths, weaknesses, and uniqueness. In a recent book by Dr. Caroline Leaf, called, The Gift In You, this PhD. Researcher discovered there are seven layers of thinking processes in our minds. The seven layers of thinking processes are: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Math/Logic, Visual/Spatial, Music, Kinesthetic, and Linguistic. Starting from the most dominant thinking process, when a new thought enters our mind it will loop into the seven layers in a different sequential order. For example, someone who thinks first in music will be able to read between the lines to give meaning to it. While a logic/math dominant thinker performs pattern recognition in huge numbers and reasons in a precise order. We all see the world differently and think differently. We are all unique and so are our companies and the way we collective process our thinking. As such it’s fruitless to be like someone else such as Steve Jobs. None of us can think like him and nor do we want to. We must learn to be ourselves by knowing our uniqueness and using it to your advantage.
Are you an elephant or a cheetah?
As Shakespeare once said, “To thine own self be true.” In other words, do you have the competencies to compete as a Bargain-Brand?
When launching a new product you’ll have to adjust and adapt quickly. Is your company a cheetah that can move quickly and adapt to consumer and market changes? Or, are you a slow moving elephant that makes decisions at a sluggish pace? A slow moving elephant should think twice when competing against fast moving bargain-brand cheetahs.
GM was slow to introduce Saturn to compete against the Japanese, but Intel was quick to respond to constant AMD attacks. At first, Intel’s bargain-brand chips (Celeron) performed poorly, but they responded quickly to the market and beat AMD at their own game.
Will you divide and conquer yourself?
Julius Caesar’s strategy to overcome the enemy was to divide and conquer. When launching a Bargain-Brand, you might be dividing your resources and placing your entire organization into a weak position. Without sufficient resources, people, and focus, both your premium and bargain brand products could become diluted and fail. If the Bargain-Brand fails then you’ll have the added cost and time of cleaning up plus the cost and time to rebuild the Premium-Brand.
It cost GM $15 Billion to launch and maintain the Saturn division. Delta Airlines launched Ted Airlines and lost billions too. These two elephants didn’t understand their uniqueness nor able to response quickly to market changes. Rather they copied the competition thinking that would satisfy the market.
On the other hand, fifty years ago, Anheuser-Busch was facing a low-price assault from regional players which opened up a whole new market category. Anheuser-Busch responded by opening up another company that was completely separate from the parent company; perhaps you’ve heard of Busch Beer.
Are you looking at your customers or just your competition?
The famous basketball coach John Wooden won more college basketball championships than anyone else. Part of his success was to never allow one player to be compared to another. Rather, each player was judged by his own skills, performances, and productivity. Companies trying to copy Bargain-Brands don’t have the same competencies, people, collective thinking processes, and experiences like their competition. Look at Steve Jobs and his string of successful products; iPod, iPhone, iTunes, etc. Therefore, don’t copy your competition, rather seek what is good for the customer and use your uniqueness to develop your product.
Know thy customer
This is a key time to study your customer to determine their true needs and the perceived value of your offering. Advances in Neuromarketing have discovered that traditional marketing research can fall short in truly understanding how a customer receives your message. Each year billions of dollars are spent on traditional market research and still 80% of new product launches fail. Neuromarketing will give you insight on the emotional needs of your audience and how they will perceive your messaging and marketing.
The power of Neuromarketing starts with the engagement of our seven senses; (1) Taste, (2) Smell, (3) Hearing (4) Touch, (5) Sight, (6) Humor, and (7) Intuition. To make it all work one must understand the power of association that directly impacts our emotional brain and how past experiences are recalled when we encounter a brand experience. Walk into a Whole Foods Store and you’re bombarded with a cornucopia of beautiful food, fresh baked bread, brewed coffee, and desserts turned into art. You’re flooded with emotions of mom, home, security, abundance, and happiness. The experience is frequently joyful and you’re willing to pay premium prices for their products.
The power of association will engage our senses to recall positive experiences that we will tie to the brand. Called somatic markers, they represent a total compilation of emotions, negative associations, and positive associations. When a woman is given a light blue box with a white ribbon, the Tiffany brand and blue color evoke strong feminine emotions. When we think of a well branded product, such as Coach, Chanel, Harley Davidson and Tiffany, many of us experience an emotional and somewhat sensual positive response. A good brand tied to Neuro-marketing should offer:
o A great experience that exceeds customer’s expectations
o A clarification of the value of the product
o A decision by the prospect to consider purchasing it
How we associate products with past experiences can determine our purchasing considerations. Mr Lindstrom in Buyology highlighted a few examples such as;
o Light blue for a woman can be associated with engagement, marriage, babies, and fertility. Pink is associated with luxury, sensuality, and being feminine.
o Color will increase brand recognition by 80% and represents up to 50% in the decision making process to choose a brand product.
o People will buy more out of love (53%) versus sex (26%).
o Be authentic, transparent, and real. We buy from people we can relate to.
Don’t let your Bargain-Brand cannibalize the profits of your Premium-Brand.
If you decide on launching a Bargain-brand be sure you are capturing the right revenue. If one part of your target audience is not profitable with your premium-brand and your bargain-brand can capture that profit, then go for it. On the other hand, if your Bargain-brand is going to cannibalize your premium-brand profits then reconsider your options.
It’s essential that your bargain-brand have a different perceived value, messaging, and pricing. Years ago Kodak came out with a bargain-brand film that had little distinction from the premium brand. Customers went for the lower price product cannibalizing profits from the premium-brand. On the other hand, when P&G purchased Luv’s Diapers brand, it repositioned it as a bargain-brand. Their Pampers brand was given greater features and advertising thus creating a higher perceived value.
Must Develop a Difference in Perception and Value
If you offer a bargain-brand, then your goal is to offer two products with much separation in value and messaging. You’ll want to consider using Neuromarketing research techniques. It is essential that the premium product maintain its true value benefits while the lower-price brand act and look like a bargain-brand one. By acting like a bargain-brand, you’ll be able to cut costs on marketing, support, operations, and production and thereby creating the gross margin to compete effectively on price. You may want to use a hot button here to connect people to your article on Neuromarketing.
When Anheuser-Busch rolled out Busch Beer they created a whole new company and identity. They invested in new distribution, new trucks, and new sales people to ensure that the Premium-brand and Bargain-brand were not confused but optimized.
Don’t recreate the wheel or build a new organization unless there’s a market for it
GM invested $15 Billion in Saturn and it failed. Is your goal to market a Bargain-Brand or build a new company?
Consider your resources, sales volume, and gross margins. Your goal is to make a profit. If your Premium-brand cannot serve another large market, then a new organization, such as starting up a discount airline division or Busch Beer may be an answer. On the other hand, if your premium-brand can cover the market then re-consider your options. As I mentioned earlier, GM spent $15 Billion on the new Saturn division, when their existing product lines at Buick and Chevy reached the same target audience.
The Final Strategy to Consider: Innovate a new product category
A recent book called Blue Ocean Strategy stated that it is sometimes better to innovate a new product than to compete in blood thirsty waters or Red Ocean. Look at the crowded fields of electronic consumer products, automobiles and food. When you launch a new product in these categories how do you stand out?
Conversely, companies will innovate new products developing a new category where there is no competition; hence Blue Ocean. Years ago Sony launched the Walkman. Apple introduced the iPod and iPhone. An example in Blue Ocean Strategy was the Casella Winery from Australian who wanted to launch a new wine in a very crowded and snooty category.
A strategy based on innovation will look at different customers with shared commonalties. In the crowded wine business, more wineries did not think of looking for low budget beer drinkers. The Casella winery saw things differently and believed beer drinkers would want wine if the purchase decision was made simple and fun. Out came Yellow Tail wine in simple red and white versions.
A blue ocean is created when a company achieves value innovation that creates value simultaneously for both the buyer and the company. The innovation (in product, service, or delivery) must raise and create value for the market, while simultaneously reducing or eliminating features or services that are less valued by the current or future market.
The lesson I learned in the potato sack race was easy, keep your eye on the goal line not what your competition is always doing. John Wooden’s success was doing the best he could possibly do every day. As you consider your premium brand, think about the best you can do every day with it. As any typical SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and PESTEL analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Environmental, Legal) you should consider:
Are you an elephant or a cheetah organization?
Will your Bargain -Brand cannibalize your Premium -Brand profits?
Do you have the resources to run two brands simultaneously at a profit?
Are you able to clearly define and communicate the different unique selling proposition for each brand?
Will the customer perceive the differences?
Will your current Premium-Brand cover this market? Or is the Bargain-Brand a new demographic?
Lastly, do you innovate a new product to create a new category and target audience?
As Jacqueline Kennedy once said, “I don’t react, I respond.” Panic and fear should not be part of your tactics, but a well thought out response that optimizes your resources, strengths, and uniqueness in meeting the needs and wants of your customer.