How Brands Grow, by Byron Sharp
Welcome to the Hugoversity library, where each month we’ll be publishing a PR and marketing book review to inspire our students to keep learning and boost their knowledge.
The first book off the shelf is How Brands Grow, by Byron Sharp, first published in 2010, which has been reviewed by Head Girl Charlotte. So, what did she think – and what lessons has she learned?
Going for growth
Sharp’s book is an attempt to answer that age-old question; is marketing an art or a science? Sharp clearly veers more towards the latter, making a number of compelling arguments to support his viewpoint.
He starts with the theory that growth mainly comes from the acquisition of new customers, rather than driving increased loyalty from existing clients.
We always felt that this was the case, but it was interesting to read more evidence to support the theory, along with learning more about the Double Jeopardy Law, where brands with higher market share have more buyers than brands with lower market share, as well as having more loyal buyers.
It is vital for a brand to develop an acquisition strategy in order to grow, as opposed to simply encouraging loyalty among existing clients. In fact, one of the key take-aways we took from the book was that that loyalty schemes don’t work. They don’t encourage new buyers, and instead just offer a discount to those who were going to purchase from you anyway.
Another of Sharp’s key points is that brands must ensure they are available to customers, both mentally and physically.
In terms of mental availability, Sharp highlights that brands just are a tiny part of people’s lives. Everyone has attention overload; we don’t have the time nor capacity to assess every option. The typical supermarket stocks over 30,000 products – a brand must do something spectacular to be noticed.
Physical availability means making a brand easy to buy. Even if you remember it, if it’s not available locally when you need it, a potential sale is lost. The bigger the brand, the greater the likelihood it will be available everywhere – you can by Coke in pretty much every high street, Panda Cola not so much.
Here at The Pack, we have always tended to focus more on the mental availability side to get the brands we work with noticed, but, reading Sharp’s findings, we’ll definitely start to tie in the idea of physical availability in our client strategies.
One of Sharp’s arguments that we are in complete agreement with is the idea of distinctiveness (easy to identify) being more important than differentiation (setting yourself apart from the competition by highlighting certain features).
Sometimes brands may try to differentiate themselves by saying, we’re trustworthy, we’re available 24/7 or similar. However, this is broadly the same as their competitors will be saying, so they’re much better off working on building a distinct brand.
We’re so on board with this – that’s exactly why The Pack always focus on building a strong, memorable brand.
Our own experience bears this out; Harvey & Hugo stands out due to the dogs being recognisable. Charlotte may not have been a huge fan of being called ‘the dog lady’ early on when establishing the brand, but at least it helped identify the business!
It all ads up
Sharp’s final finding may not come as a surprise to anyone who’s headed out to buy the latest iPhone or even a new flavour of crisps; advertising works.
Some of the biggest organisations around the world spend two per cent of the world’s GDP on advertising, and 40 years of data across a wide range of categories has provided solid evidence that it drives sales among those exposed to it.
Of course, not every ad sells. Some copy is more effective than others, and, interestingly, that copy doesn’t have to be rational to be persuasive – it’s all about emotion, reaching people’s hearts as well as their minds.
Sharp also highlights that you have to keep at it; it takes continuous, consistent exposure to build a brand. Sometimes the true effect of advertising is only noticed when you stop advertising and the sales drop.
The golden rules
In conclusion, Sharp outlines his seven golden rules for successful marketing.
1. Reach – Continuously reach all customers with broad communications.
2. Be easy – Ensure the brand is as easy to buy as possible.
3. Get noticed – Be distinctive and use emotions, reach hearts as well as minds.
4. Build brand memory – If you are launching new brands, it is a good idea to link it back to existing concepts.
5. Create and use distinctive brand assets – Create brands that stand out and clever tag lines.
6. Be consistent – You need to keep telling the same old story time and time again, but in new and engaging ways.
7. Stay competitive – don’t ever give a customer a reason NOT to buy.
What we learned
It all comes back to the question of if marketing is a science or an art?
Sharp believes it’s the latter and this book provides a summary of how to build a brand based on scientific practice, at the same time as myth-busting some popular marketing theories. How Brands Grow offers us evidence-led rules for growing a brand, concluding that the key to successful marketing is all about availability -– both in the mind and in the store.
While we agree with many of Sharp’s key points – and will definitely take on board his thoughts about physical availability – we firmly believe that good marketing is a mix of both art and science. That’s why the perfect combination is to use art to create a distinctive brand and creative PR, supported by tried and tested marketing strategies and researched-based science to implement campaigns.
If you need help creating a distinctive brand, throw us a bone on 01325 486666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you stand out from the crowd.
Related links: Just What Is Your Brand?