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Does Your Specialty Brand Need A Lift?

by Sal Fiordelisi , 21.02.2012

Building A Brand With Retailers & Consumers Takes More Than Snazzy Ads And Presentations

We see this a lot—and probably you have, too. You find yourself in a seemingly impossible situation. The company can’t get traction with top retailers. You don’t have big marketing budgets like your competitors. Top retailers are engaging with you less and less—or maybe you can’t even get a seat at the table, because the biggest competitors have “sku ratted” out everyone else. You find yourself on the outside, looking in.

Capturing the attention and gaining traction with top retailers and your target consumers often means more than finding a new sales leader or creating breakthrough consumer communication. It marks an important time to look in the mirror to see whether the brand and company really has what it takes to win. Can it effectively compete with the “big boys”—the ones with the broad portfolio and the deep pockets to support their brands? Is your brand truly unique and relevant? Does it need a facelift? Do you have the manpower and marketing savvy to really compete?

Becoming A “Challenger Brand”

Today’s economic environment has made it exceedingly difficult for small and mid-size businesses trying to establish their specialty brands. Consumers are less willing to try new products given tighter household budgets. Simultaneously, brand manufacturers are being challenged to reduce costs and spending, while ensuring the value in every dollar spent.

Yet we know it is not always the biggest companies with the deepest pockets that can transform a category. Forward-thinking specialty brands still do it, even in these tough economic times. Recently, Fage and Chobani ignited a Greek yogurt revolution in the dairy case, despite formidable global competition and higher price points. Monster Cables redefined several sleepy electronic accessories categories with a focus on premium technologies, outperforming companies ten times its size. From “green” cleaners to organic foods, small brands find ways to gain an edge and establish themselves as challenger brands and category thought leaders.

The key is to develop a “change agent” mentality for the brand—creating a fundamental, cutting-edge point of difference that can set the brand apart from the others.

Where To Start?

Use a simple, 3-step model to help clients find their unique point of difference, and redefine their approach to become true change agents.

1. Review your brand strategy. The first step toward driving your brand forward may be to take a step back. Conduct a comprehensive review of the landscape to identify where and how your specialty brand fits and plays in the category. An in-depth assessment across the 5C’s (consumer, customer, category, competition and company) can reveal where you are strong and where you are vulnerable, and may begin to uncover opportunities for the category and the brand. At GfK, we often conclude this step with a research roadmap which prioritizes key insight gaps that need to be filled over time.

2. Create your brand vision. Define a strategic vision for the brand as well as the development of an annual operating plan. The strategic vision is typically for a 3-5 year time horizon which includes both a portfolio roadmap as well as an organizational resource blueprint. Don’t go at this alone—enroll cross-functional leaders and your marketing team to strengthen your plan and ensure buy-in. The operating plan should include a brand plan across the 4P’s (product, packaging, promotion and pricing) as well as channel/customer plans focusing on priority customers to achieve financial targets.

3. Enable your people. Enroll and rally the organization to execute with excellence. Enabling the organization is all about providing clear performance goals, leveraging the strengths of your people, and continuing to build necessary capabilities through hiring, training and strategically leveraging third party expertise. Establish a scorecard to track performance versus objectives as well as measuring return on investment (ROI), so that the full team can rally around success, and quickly course correct where necessary.