We have all been there on our brand growth journey (maybe several times) when our brand reaches a revenue plateau. These times are generally met with a bit of panic (Oh, [insert appropriate 4-letter word]) mixed with an utter lack of confusion (Why is this happening and what do I do now?) and a big dose of trepidation (This is going to be so hard…). This is when you start combing through your P&L spreadsheet, analyzing every number that could possibly be a lever to adjust. But this is only part of the story as these numbers are highly influenced by how your brand is being consumed, which ultimately impacts demand. Understanding why there has been a change in consumption will help you clarify what to do next to drive and prepare for demand. To avoid a graduate thesis, I am going to hit on key drivers, but feel free to reach out to discuss in more detail.
Based on my 20+ years of building brands for one of the biggest consumer products companies in the world, I found that the “why” is generally the result of the following drivers: 1) Relevancy, 2) Reach, and 3) Redundancy. Let’s address them individually, but keep in mind they are interrelated.
There are three aspects of relevancy that need to work together in order for your brand to resonate with your consumer target: 1) The right message, 2) At the right time, 3) With the right context. If business has stalled, it could be your message has worn out, or maybe seasonality (summer habits and practices are different than winter) has impacted when and where your consumer is engaging with content and through what channels, or maybe competition has eroded your points of differentiation. Remember, your consumer has a diverse ecosystem that influences their decision making and it is constantly shifting according to their experiences with what works/doesn’t work, who they can trust, what is going on in their lives and what is going on in culture. So, stretch your communications strategy and think about how you can transcend the functional benefit and get your brand talked in life where there is more opportunity for scale.
If you have reached a plateau, you may have run out of runway with your current consumer target with the relevancy angle you are communicating. So, you either need to address “Relevancy” (see above) so you can penetrate more of your target, or you need to consider how you can incorporate a secondary consumer target. This needs to be data driven and will likely require additional insight work to uncover the new target (be as specific as possible) and develop your relevancy approach. Avoid the pitfalls like just widening the age-range without changing your approach. Remember, in trying to speak to everyone, you could end up speaking to no one.
There are two sides to this coin: 1) You need enough frequency to break-through the clutter, to feel familiar...maybe even popular, but 2) After awhile, the message starts wearing out (back to “Relevancy” again) and you get relegated to noise. Analytics will help you determine the realities here. If your frequency is optimized, you may just need more “ways-in” or “bandwagons” (tangible engagement points that form around passion points) to increase access to your brand. As an example, consider how Bulleit Bourbon started as a “word-of-mouth” brand promoted by bartenders in NYC and San Fran speakeasy style bars and has strategically created more access points through channels like Indie film festivals and partnerships with tattoo artists to create crafted labels. The trick is keeping it authentic and going where your consumers are.
So, experiment, learn, refine, repeat…and find that next foot hold that starts the ascent once again up the mountain of brand growth.
Anne’s Note: As always, I hyperlink to brands I love so I can share the love with you.