It's a Balancing Act
In a couple of the presentations I give to students in MBA MMR
programs, I discuss the Ten Step Approach in brand development. The ten
steps go from market exploration to market introduction. I'm frequently
asked if it is required to do all of the ten steps. My answer is absolute
"No." It is a balancing act between time, resources and knowledge. Seldom
do we start with a clean slate in our brand development. We usually have
some experience and information about the product category. It is the Brand
Manager's responsibility to assess the missing links in the brands development.
The approach usually depends on the personality of the Brand Manager and
the management's position on risk taking.
I fondly remember one Vice President at P&G who instructed his troops
to put 10 to 20 ideas into the market each year. Don't waste time developing
the ideas, let the market take the lead in developing the brands. As I recall,
about two years of his leadership was all the company could take. On the
flip side I have seen individuals within the Company take 10 to 15 years
developing an idea before putting it into the market. One of the fastest
time for me was 22 months from idea to market. However in our rush to market,
we missed a key segment of the market which was quickly picked up by one
of competitors. In another project, it took approximately two years from
idea to market was extremely successful. However, we were working in a category
that we really owned and had a great deal of experience with. In this roll-out
we actually conducted only one major consumer research project. That project
is the one project that I believe is necessary in all new ventures. The project
involved the brand in its final form complete with the final version of promotions,
name, message, pricing, formulation, and packaging.
I have found that Mr. Gerald Schoenfeld is a walking library of examples
similar to the above but across many companies. He tells the story of a
company that was working on a new after shave lotion. He recalls how they
tested everything down to the smallest detail such as the bottle, color,
name, price, concentration of perfume, etc. but never did they test all the
elements together. All the elements were not brought together until the brand
was placed into the market. It failed.
Gerald also cites a joint venture of two companies. One company would manufacture
the product and the other would market and distribute it. The development
of the brand dragged on and on because the marketing company wanted to test
all the elements involved in the brand. After considerable time the joint
venture fell apart and the manufacturing company just put one of the original
versions on the market. The result was the creation of a new product category
and a substantial market.
Gerald has some good advice for brand managers. He says "Blind product
tests are the worst mistake of all."
(Note: I disagree, they are good
for product development but not for market assessment. Blind testing, just
like paired comparison testing, is an excellent product development tool but
a poor marketing tool.) "Such market defying absurdities as Coke losing
out to Pepsi and Coors coming in second to such a humble brew as Schmidt's
of Philadelphia simply are not predictive of what happens in the real world
when the matrix of consumer perception and feelings comes together in the
request for a "Coke" or a "Coors."
I believe that if there is a test that all new ventures must pass, it is
the final test before market introduction. It is the test of market readiness.
That test should include all the dotting of the Is and the crossing of all
the Ts. A key element of the test should involve the purchasing of the brand
by the consumer using their money, not seed money.
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