Saturday, January 15, 2011

The 5 Most Difficult Branding Decisions - #5 Branding a Late Entrant

Over my years as a marketing guy, I’ve come across a lot of branding problems for clients. I’ve looked at issues for Fortune 500s companies and start-ups, for-profits and charities, and Canadian firms and international organizations. I thought it would be both fun and insightful to share my experiences and teaching. Tonight will be part 1 of a 5 part series I will call "The 5 Most Difficult Branding Decisions".

#5 Branding a late entrant:
Marketing text books often play up the importance of being first. They call it the first mover advantage and list a bunch of reasons for it- (preferential shelf space, ability to generate more free publicity, first choice of selecting partners etc). While all of this can be true, a real battle, particularly for consumer branding relates to what’s going on in the consumer’s mind. When I talk to my class about this, I sometimes start off with a quiz. Let's do one here.

1. Who was the first president of the United States?
2. Who was the fourth?
3. Twentieth?

The correct answers are Washington, Madison, and Garfield. But if you are like most people, you got Washington, maybe got Madison, and think that Garfield is a cartoon.

In the off-chance that you are a history buff and got the correct answer for Garfield, let’s make the quiz a bit harder. Who was the first American woman in space? Answer Sally Ride. The second? Judith Reznik. But I’m betting you got Sally but not Judith- who also died on her second ride into space in the ‘86 Challenger explosion. By rights, Judith should have received more "mind space" (pardon the pun) - but nope, for most of us she didn't.

Here's an easy one. Who won the most Olympic gold medals in the last summer Olympics? I bet you answered Micheal Phelps (which is correct). But who won the 2nd most? Who cares? (Except for the guy's parents). Ries and Trout have given similar examples in their book “The Battle for Your Mind”. But let’s get some 2011 perspective on why this is. In 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics published an article saying that the average consumer may be targeted with up to 3000 advertising communications a day. Over the last 5 years this number has gone up as marketers have new ways to reach consumers (e.g. smart phones, ads on applications, more sophisticated internet advertising, fragmentation of media etc). Furthermore, the average consumer also is exposed to tens of thousands of brands as soon as he/she enters a mall or supermarket (A typical supermarket has around 45,000 SKUs). The point is this. It is a brand jungle out there. Accessing the increasingly jaded consumer by breaking through advertising/brand clutter is tougher than ever before. We just saw how much easier it is to “own” some mind space if you are the first. Of course being first is not a prerequisite for success (Google followed Yahoo, Northern Lights, Excite, Infoseek, Webcrawler, Altavista, Lycos and others- and still prevailed) but if you are not first, you have to be significantly faster, stronger, bigger, craftier - or have to spend a lot more money to buy your way into the consumer’s mind.


  1. I LOVE THIS POST!!!!!!!

  2. I'll wait to see the other 4 to comment on the overall most difficult brand decision rankings!