Required Reading: Building a Brand Requires Getting Leaner
To compete effectively, brand leaders and marketers need lean processes that can identify local needs and develop differentiated value propositions quickly, according to global brand builder Luis Pedroza. In Lean Brands: Catch Customers, Drive Growth, and Stand Out in All Markets, Pedroza urges an approach that quickly analyzes the environment, creates meaningful positioning, and brings brand strategy to life on the ground. CRM editor Leonard Klie recently discussed this further with him.
CRM: You advocate for lean processes to build brands. What does this mean, and how does it apply to marketing?
Pedroza: We operate in a complex, rapidly changing world. User needs are continuously evolving as more consumers around the world enter an emerging middle class and advances in technology spread information faster than ever. This dynamic environment requires marketers to be lean—to learn quickly, act quickly, and simplify brand communication. The best companies create easy-to-understand brand communication that inspires stakeholders to become advocates for the brand.
What can environment and local needs reveal?
Whether selling to domestic or international markets, you can’t simply offer a one-size-fits-all product. National, regional, and cultural differences influence what consumers value and how they decide on a brand. Global business leaders must analyze regional and market needs to create adaptable product platforms. Existing product sales will also benefit from reprioritizing brand communication to emphasize what local consumers want. Compelling global marketing requires a balance between adaptation and standardization.
You also suggest “ninja-style testing.” What does that mean?
Ninjas practiced an ancient form of guerilla warfare. These fast-moving, small-scale fighters were experts at conducting recon on larger enemies before ever engaging in a fight.
When launching a start-up or entering a new market, brand builders often find themselves under-resourced compared to more established competitors. In these situations, lean marketers can benefit from ninja techniques. Instead of hiring expensive research companies, marketers can conduct intercept interviews and small-scale ethnographies to gain firsthand insights. Another ninja technique is co-creation, when you rapidly develop prototypes alongside end users and industry experts to get instant feedback and validation. Because co-creation sessions can be relatively easy to organize and execute, you can repeat them with new recruits until you can validate your value proposition or decide it’s time to pivot.
You also suggest “asymmetrical warfare.” Why?
When companies launch brands or enter new geographies, they often face established competitors that have scaled up and fortified infrastructure to support value propositions. These larger, slower-moving competitors have expensive assets and systems that cannot change quickly. New companies don’t have to anchor their thinking to what has worked in the past. They can leverage emerging thinking and disruptive technology to gain competitive advantage.
How should companies get inside competitors’ heads?
If you study champions of business or sports, whether it’s Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk, they all believe in deeply understanding the competition before engaging in a fight. To get inside the heads of competitors, set aside your beliefs and assumptions and put on your competitor’s hat. Define the problems (not products) your competitor is solving for consumers. Then ask yourself what resources are required to produce and distribute those solutions. Finally, seek to understand why the competitor chose to solve the consumer problem in this specific way. By answering these questions, you can construct a blueprint to understand your competitor at a more granular level.
What other advice do you have for companies going global?
Look beyond where big, multinational companies are focusing their efforts. Most companies are aware of the massive sales opportunities in megacities like Shanghai, Mumbai, and Mexico City. Growth opportunities in emerging cities like Chennai, Bogota, and Luanda are often overlooked.
Next, identify products and technologies in foreign markets that can be introduced domestically. Infrastructure and economic constraints in developing countries have inspired innovative solutions that can be reapplied in developed markets to satisfy specific target segments better.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
When developing a new product or entering a new market, always begin with a marketing strategy. Adopt a lean methodology for gathering insights to test a differentiated value proposition. Then bring your strategy to life using emerging technology. Inspire stakeholders to become advocates by distilling your brand positioning down to a simple story.