Managing a market leading brand can be tough. Everyone else is after a chunk of your sales. You need to defend your brand against the imitators and against the disrupters. Carefully treading the line between innovating to stay ahead and not changing things so much that you lose all those loyal consumers.
But if that feels difficult, managing the brand as competitors succeed in stealing your market share, as your brand drops from the top slot is even more of a challenge.
Your analysis will certainly tell you quite accurately what is happening, but you will still be left trying to work out why and what you need to do to reinvigorate your brand and regain market share.
One thing is clear. Consumer perception of your brand relative to the competitors is not as good as it used to be. Your task is to rebuild consumer perceptions relative to the competition, to improve preference for your brand.
Consumers don’t buy a brand because it is the best, they buy it because they believe that it is the best.
Consumer perceptions and preference are emotional responses to the brand, its communications and their product experience. If you are to recover market share you need to understand consumers’ emotional responses and the drivers of these emotions. Consumers don’t by your brand or your competitors brand because it is the best, they buy it because they believe that it is the best.
Identifying your product and communications needs comes down to understanding the consumers’ emotional journey with your brand and with your competitor brands. Recognising the essential elements in the differences between these emotional journeys and how you can improve the emotional journey of your brand through your communications and product delivery to create the best response in the greatest number of consumers.
It sounds quite straight forward, but if it was easy everyone would be winning.
In truth most brand teams focus upon the rational benefits in product development and then try to communicate these in an emotional way.
But consumers are not rational. As I have already said, they do not buy any product because it is the best, they buy it because they believe that it is the best.
While technical and rational improvements of the product may be beneficial, focusing on what makes the consumers believe the product to be better, rather than what actually makes, it better is generally much more effective.
However, if you simply ask the consumer what makes a product better, they will give you a logical, feature driven, answer. (We all like to appear knowledgeable especially in front of others in a market research group, and we strive to be helpful when asked for our help.). Unfortunately, such logical answers are of little help.
More detailed in-depth psychological analysis of the consumers’ emotional journey and the communications and experiential cues that trigger it is much more helpful. This will identify the real drivers of their unconscious emotional responses to the brands and thus what is really driving preference.
Then you can adjust your communications and your product development briefs to address the real issues rather than spending time, money and effort focussing on worthy but slightly off-target causes.
Chris Lukehurst is a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Understanding the connections between the consumer experience and emotional responses.