Growing Brands in Declining Markets


Managing a brand in a growing market is easy. Growing sales, profitability and market share in a declining market is more difficult.

This, however, is the challenge than many brand owners are facing today. This is the opportunity that will define the success, or otherwise, of many careers over the next few years.

When markets turn, whether due to macro-economic factors – consumers have less money to spend – or for more market specific reasons – the category is starting to feel out-dated – we have three choices:

  1. Give up, walk away, find a new job.
  2. Readjust all the old levers that we relied upon when the market was good and hope that something works.
  3. Think differently, out-manoeuvre the competition, reinvigorate the market, take more share.

Most ambitious brand owners I know opt for number 3. So here is a thought:

Every brand creates a change in mood for the consumer, (if it does not change their mood, then what does it do?). Consumers stop buying a brand when they start to consider the mood change delivered is no longer worth the cost. 

When this happens you have a choice: 

  • You can lower your price – reduce your margins, commoditise your market and start on the road to Brand Oblivion. 
  • Or you can deliver a mood change that your consumers are happy to pay for – re-invigorate and update your brand for today’s, and tomorrow’s, consumers.

The Consumers’ Emotional Journey

Your brand moves your consumers’ mood from point A to point B, but this is never a simple switch from mood A to mood B. The brand experience takes consumers from A to B via X, Y and Z on the way.

It is this Emotional Journey that is the essence of your brand. It is this Emotional Journey that differentiates your brand from its competition. It is this journey that your consumers are either happy to purchase or do not consider worth the cost.

When brand teams focus upon this Emotional Journey, they are focusing more clearly upon what the consumer wants from the brand. When they understand how the emotional journey is delivered by the communications and product experience, they understand better how they can use these as tools to deliver a differentiated and more attractive brand experience.

We have helped companies like Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, P&G, GSK… reap the benefits from this approach in some very challenging markets around the world.

So, stop focusing upon price or what your competitors are doing, and start focusing upon what you can do better to deliver great brand experiences to you consumers.

Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic.

Understanding the connections between the consumer experience and their emotional responses.