There are multiple perspectives on ‘growth’. We are at a point wherein the number of perspectives have outgrown their practicability and their ability to truly have a meaningful impact on a brand.
The intention of this piece is not to add to these growing list but to make sense of growth as an ever evolving dynamic for brand success. To understand growth, we need to accept a universal truth — growth stands for different things at different stages of brand evolution. But the overarching objective is to build a consumer base, and at the same time holding on to the existing ones.
The conundrum that every brand builder faces is how to define growth when the overarching objective is the same? The solution to this conundrum is infusing growth as a principle into different brand building objectives. You can have growth infused into building awareness, creating preference, generating trials, triggering repeat purchase and creating a pool of loyalists. By doing so, you can create a different kind of consumer for your brand at different stages:
- Growth in awareness — An ‘early stage’ consumer base requiring more education / knowledge
- Growth in preference — A ‘mid stage’ consumer base requiring a trigger to make the jump
- Growth in trial — A ‘late mid stage’ consumer base expecting excellent brand performance
- Growth in repeat purchase — A ‘late stage’ consumer base requiring validation of their choice
- Growth in loyalists — A ‘late late stage’ consumer base requiring brand versatility (for their evolving set of needs)
At the end of the day you are expecting a consumer to start at the first level (awareness) and end up at the last level (loyalists). But at every stage, a brand is going to lose a substantial chunk of them due to more efficient growth strategies employed by its competitors (from both within and outside its market segment).
Let’s now attempt to translate the different growth principles at different stages of the brand evolution process into tangible elements.
- Growth in awareness — Achieved through growth in two dimensions of a brand’s communication strategy — Media selection and efficiency
- Growth in preference — Achieved through growth in two dimensions of a brand’s positioning — Relevance and differentiation
- Growth in trial — Achieved through growth in two dimensions of a brand’s marketing strategy — Distribution (availability) and an attractive value-for-money equation
- Growth in repeat purchase — Achieved through growth in two dimensions of a brand’s performance — Sustained performance through innovation or widening product applications and a superior (2nd stage) value-for-money equation
- Growth in loyalists — Achieved through growth in a singular dimension of a brand’s essence — Ability to successfully fulfil higher order emotional needs
Let’s not get confused with the outcome of growth, which always has and will be an increasing consumer base. Without this a brand cannot survive. This is true for a big mass market brand to a small, highly niche, specialised brand. The challenge and the beauty is identifying and defining growth principles at different stages of the brand building process.
If we just take one stage and explore it in a bit of depth, it leads to some fascinating insights. If growth in media selection and efficiency is a fundamental principle driving awareness, then a brand builder is presented with a wide and bewildering array of choices. The type and number of media channels selected will be driven by consumer tastes, which intrinsically ties it to a dynamic that is beyond the brand. Consumption of digital media was not triggered by a brand, but digital brand advertising is an outcome of digital media consumption. As we cannot game the stock market out of its underlying need for efficiency, we also cannot game digital media consumption to become subservient to a brand’s strategy.
The arguments to achieve media efficiency center around ROI, wherein the truth lies in selection. An efficient media selection strategy will eventually lead to efficiency in media spends. The more the efficiency grows, the closer the brand is to the prospective consumer’s media habits patterns. The avenues through which a brand builder can achieve growth in efficiency is countless (varied permutations and combinations). But the end objective should always remain growth, which requires patience (and possibly the subject of a separate article).
If a brand builder focuses on achieving the optimum avenues of growth at different stages of building a brand, then the somewhat pointless debate on what defines ‘growth’ for a brand should cease. The idea is to grow the effectiveness of the strategies employed at different stages, rather than focusing on the endpoint, which is always the consumer.