How brands grow

Growth OMD

A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us from Communications Planning headed to the Telegraph’s offices for an up close and personal meeting with Byron Sharp, author of “How Brands Grow”.

I’ll cut to the chase. There are a lot of numbers in this book so don’t say you weren’t warned. Statistics majors will love it but it can be a challenge to take a lot of his rationale on board first thing in the morning. But don’t give up.

The book is broken into short, easy-to-read chapters and covers the big three areas of marketing: consumer behaviour, brand performance and advertising.

The key points that are worth thinking about and would benefit from further debate are:

• Growing market share requires above all else increasing penetration particularly amongst those in the category who are light buyers or current non-buyers

• Successful brands are much more easily “available” both physically and mentally – so mass marketing deserves urgent reappraisal

• Advertising messages should have continuous presence rather than bursts as reaching your light consumers is more important than preaching to the converted

•  Most consumers within a category will follow the category norm (e.g. ice cream consumers), so segmenting them is an artificial and unnecessary thing to do

Sharp has courted a lot of controversy with this book because he addresses many ingrained best practice beliefs (value of targeting, the importance of differentiating your brand, and the equivalent value of loyalty with penetration).  It can be uncomfortable reading but is best approached with an open mind; I particularly liked his Einstein quote that “despite stumbling over the truth most men dust themselves off and walk past it pretending it was never there”.

I think it prompts a raft of questions and would benefit from a case by case/ relativist approach and I would recommend this book for all communications planners – particularly those new to the industry.


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