10 Emergency Brand Building Questions

Jul 01, 2011


Unfortunately, the result of corporate politics, decisions-by-committee, and reliance on past experience means good-old common sense isn’t called upon nearly enough.
Similar to the old quotation about war and truth, it seems that "the first casualty of marketing is often common sense." In the heat of a marketing battle, when choices must be made and decisions are filled with risk (career, political, and otherwise), it's common wisdom that often prevails, a product of corporate culture, groupthink, and the we've-always-done-it-this-way syndrome.


Al Topin
The problem is, as you know, common wisdom is often dead wrong. From assertions that violent movies lead to violent acts (not so, says a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research) or that advertising is dead (let's hope not), the fact is that just because you think it's so doesn't mean it is.

Which may be why relying on common wisdom at product launch time can lead you right down a path to disaster. According to Mintel research, a company that tracks many industries, of the 250,000 new products launched each year, 85 percent to 95 percent of them fail. Many of them are from reputable companies like yours, launched by smart people like you. And many are failures, despite growing industry sectors such as Hewlett-Packard's recent smartphone line, the iPAQ. Last year The New York Times reported that in a market that is exploding, Q1 2010 sales of iPAQ were down $57 million from the year before.

So what goes wrong exactly? While there are a million books on the subject and many companies offering to analyze failure for a fee, I suggest the reason is much simpler: We often abandon common sense for common wisdom. Unwritten rules, past experience, unrealistic enthusiasm, and political compromise can dominate corporate decision making. So step by step, meeting by meeting, the simple proposition of launching a product that fills an unmet need gets lost.

Keeping common sense at the forefront of planning can help brand teams ask the right questions, challenge prevailing assumptions, and have the courage, in the case of a potential failure, to call the baby ugly before the marketplace does. And how does that happen? Putting your plan to the following test is a good place to start.

1) Who is setting the sales goals?

While both groups are working toward corporate goals, it can seem like senior management and the marketing/commercialization teams are motivated by opposing forces: short-term commitments to shareholders versus long-term brand building. The result can be a disparity in expectations and disappointment on both sides. A perfectly solid product can be branded an instant loser if expectations are unrealistic or not aligned.

So put on your common-sense hat and take a realistic look at your market, your product, your label, your customer, your sales force, and your marketing budget. Then work with senior management to set goals you can hit.

2) Have you found the "moments of truth" in your target customer's decision process?

As a physician or healthcare professional considers a protocol or algorithm in approaching their patient's issues, a marketer should find where in that protocol lies their brand's "moments of truth." At what point can you influence that script, that purchasing contract, or that patient request? Common wisdom may hold that efficacy data is the critical driver of a new script ... until research reveals that cost has become a barrier. That's a different moment of truth for the prescriber requiring a different set of strategies from you.

Deliver the right message at the right time and you multiply the value of your brand. Leave it to chance and you waste an opportunity.