The bottom line is simple. In developed markets, many consumer products categories are not growing. And the growth of private labels across many categories will continue to cause the total pool of branded products to decline. The only way to make your brand a winner is tosignificantly outperform your competitors.
But our research shows that less than 5% of brands are able to grow and out perform their competition over the long run. However, there is some good news: not all brands are doomed to fail.
We have developed a process called the Bain Brand Accelerator to help consumer products executives identify why brands are not growing faster and mobilize their teams to act. The process starts with deep analysis to find the insights that can make a difference in reinvigorating brand growth—everything from clearer category definition to nuances in shopping behavior.
The next step involves using those insights to guide a series of critical strategic decisions: determining where to play, defining the right brand posi tioning and product offering, and designing a winning plan with the right mix of media, pricing, promotions and shelving options, among other considerations.
The final step focuses on execution—putting in place the organizational capabilities that allow the company to deliver on its new strategy day in and day out.
Here are three examples of top consumer brands that used this process to identify problems and hone their strategies. Their experiences show that the path to success begins by looking for and understanding the critical nuances in consumer behavior.
Find the best way to reach consumers
A major juice company was struggling to expand in its core market. Consumers were buying less and opting for lower-priced segments. A marketing effort aimed at what it thought was a core segment of loyal users failed to reverse steadily declining sales.
The company performed a “repertoire analysis” to learn why consumers were not using more of its brand. A repertoire analysis (repertoire being the set of brands purchased by a consumer or shopper within a given category) helps companies examine the roots of consumer loyalty. The results produced an unex pected insight. Although consumers were heavy users, they weren’t loyal to the brand: 60% of sales came from consumers that alternated brands.
The company revised its advertising strategy, shifting its resources to point-of-sales activities to win the battle in stores. The juice company’s redefined strategy successfully turned around a losing brand. Sales in its core market shot up 2% to 5% in each subsequent quarter.
Know how shoppers use your product
Another top food company was the undisputed leader in its category, with a strong base of brand loyalists. But sales were flat despite multiple initiatives to generate growth.
Identify your true competitors
The final example involves a major biscuit company. Sales of its top-selling product eroded after several years of solid gains and healthy margins. At the same time, private label brands made inroads into the category. The company waged a full-blown battle against private labels. But sales still declined.
An analysis using the Brand Accelerator exposed the truth: private labels weren’t stealing consumers. The company had cannibalized sales of its core biscuit product by introducing smaller secondary launches—smaller bites, family packs and new flavors. Consumer research also revealed that the biscuit maker had failed to continue marketing efforts that had anchored its brand clearly to a specific usage occasion: a “post-lunch bite for kids.” As a result, competitors had stolen significant market share.
The insight that it was losing the brand battle to branded competitors—not private labels—gave the company a clear direction for a new growth model. It shifted its focus from fighting private labels to winning back consumers through more active—and well executed—brand marketing. By rebalancing its resources and efforts, the company returned to growth with an 8% annual increase in the first two years after implementing its new strategy.
Even in the most difficult situations, companies can accel erate their brand growth by chal lenging the underlying assumptions that drive their strategy. By diving deeply into consumer and category data and using proven tools, they can update insights and build a new, more relevant strategy for growth. But success can be achieved only if the entire organization is fully aligned behind the new strategy. Given the numerous challenges facing the consumer prod ucts industry, this is an approach to growth— or sometimes survival—that few companies can afford to ignore.