“How Brands Grow” Challenges Conventional Marketing

I just read a very thought-provoking marketing book and needed to share.  It calls into question many of the accepted notions of marketing and, therefore, marketing research.  Here are a few highlights from my notes.  If you find these interesting, I highly recommend you read the book.

Kotler is wrong!  

So says Byron Sharp and the researchers at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute who pull no punches in taking on the established marketing thinkers of today.  In their book How Brands Grow: what marketers don’t know, they boldly call out the common method of product differentiation and target marketing.  They use market studies to support their claim that growing brands are the brands that focus on reaching all the buyers in a particular category, not just a segment as many brand managers are trained to do.

These researchers maintain that it is the light users, not the heavy users that drive most growth in a brand simply because there are so many of them.  For example, if 60% of a brand’s users are light users and each one used just one more time, total brand purchase rises dramatically.   Therefore, the authors maintain that loyalty programs are misplaced and millions, even billions, of dollars have been wasted on them because loyalty programs target those who are already buying.

Sharp and his colleagues maintain that it is a brand’s distinctives that make a brand easy to recognize and easy to buy that truly driver brand growth.  Since consumers use branding as mental shortcuts for making purchasing decisions, the brand that has the most memorable distinctives (logo, colors, etc.) that get it noticed and remembered are the brands that win.

The book is thought-provoking and insightful.  Its a good read simply because the authors are not afraid to call out Kotler and others who they believe are simply wrong (and have been wrong for decades).  Their book also provides marketers with practical “recipes” for successful marketing and advertising programs.  If you are serious about marketing and willing to have an open mind that challenges traditional thinking, this book is for you.

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