5 Timeless Strategies To Create Consumer Markets
The whole world is in lockdown. India is shut for 21 days, and social media is bursting with stories, videos and songs about hoarding food, beverages, Maggi and rolls-upon-rolls of toilet paper. The very idea of not being able to buy things is leading to mass panic.
Right from the moment we wake up to the moment we sleep, we use products and services that help us become more productive, get healthier, enjoy, learn, connect and stay entertained. In the morning, we have a hot beverage that jolts us awake. We go for a workout and go through the paces with a personal trainer. We eat a breakfast that is rich in protein but free from gluten, artificial sweeteners and preservatives! We sink into plush leather seats in our car and the lemon mint car freshener tickles our senses pleasantly without overwhelming us. Our car is equipped with enough horsepower to cover the distance from Mumbai to Pune in a blink, but without compromising on safety. We make sure our kids continue to learn even during holidays, thanks to online learning classes. We have moisturizing soaps for bathing, and germ-killing soaps for hand washing. The irony is that even Marie Kondo, who evangelizes minimalism, is selling products in her Kon-Mari shop!
The best products and services that have changed the way we live, eat, learn and spend our time do so by adding true value to our lives. We don't just vote with our wallets, but also vote with our time and attention. Companies have added real value to consumers by giving consumers what they needed instead of only what they wanted, and in doing so, have created entire markets and industries that never existed before.
Creation of new consumer markets begins with an Insight; an insight that upends how consumers think about the world
Creating a new market does not require a special super power or a path breaking foresight. All it requires is deep innovation and moving away from a myopic view by letting competition define the business you are in. Here are five timeless strategies that marketing greats have used to fundamentally add value to consumers and have ended-up creating large and profitable markets that have benefited an entire ecosystem of shareholders, employees and vendor partners.
Measure The Market Differently
The mere act of defining the market differently from the traditional and universally accepted view will change how you create, hire and sell. The key questions to focus on are in numerical terms, is there a different way to measure the market we are operating in?, and definition wise, can the market be defined differently?
Coca Cola defined its market not as Share of Cola Beverages, but as Share of Throat. This act of redefining the market from the point of view of a `basic need' as opposed to a `product description' broadened the playground for Coca Cola. They no longer focused only on winning share of a small pie from arch rival Pepsi Cola, but in-stead innovated and acquired beverages from water to juices, sports drinks and milk-based drinks. An expanded definition of the market expanded the mindset of opportunity for Coca Cola employees & leaders and led to the company becoming the No.1 beverages giant globally.
On the other hand, measuring the market differently can lead to greater focus for an organization. A timeless example of this which is often repeated is when Steve Jobs returned to head Apple, he redefined the market simply and with a consumer need perspective, into a 2X2 matrix. This act of simplification, as history proves, saved Apple from extinction by focusing the organization and resources around the big `must win' battles.
Don't Just Make A Product, Add Fundamental Value
Think of the famous adage by Henry Ford (and I am paraphrasing here) when he said `if I had asked consumers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse'. Ask your-self; What are we really selling? It is easy to mirror features and benefits of competition products. But it is more non-obvious to build a product that solves fundamental problems for the consumer. This often involves finding the fundamental needs that your product or service will fulfill.
The key questions to focus on are What product/service loses when you win and vice versa?, and Who is the buyer, consumer, influencer? Home Depot upended not one, but two industries and the same time created an entirely new way of spending time for the consumer. Two industries served the home improvement need. First was hired contractors that came with the know-how and skill of home improvement, but were expensive, required constant monitoring and frequently over-ran budgets and deadlines. Second was hardware stores, where home owners who could not afford to or did not want to pay home contractors purchased tools and materials for self-improvement projects.
Home Depot very carefully designed a product and service offering that enabled consumers to substitute both industries at the same time. Their well-trained sales personnel offered specialized knowledge of home improvement and helped bolster the confidence of home improvement enthusiasts. In addition, Home Depot also sponsored in-store clinics that teach customers home improvement skills like carpentry and plumbing. Home Depot addressed the key motivation of hardware store buyers of lowest prices by eliminating frills and creating a self-service warehouse format that lowers overheads and generates economies of scale.
By targeting an influencer instead of the purchaser, Philips light bulbs created a whole new high value market. Traditionally, corporate procurement managers purchase light bulbs on the sole attribute of per unit cost. But Philips learnt that CFOs and Public Relations professionals could be strong influencers in the process. Lamps contained environmentally toxic mercury, causing a dual problem - high cost of disposal and possible negative publicity. So in 1995, Philips introduced the Alto, an environmentally friendly bulb that is cheaper to dispose of and can also be promoted as an environ-mentally friendly purchase. Philips was able to create a whole new high value B2B market by just adding value to influencers.
Don't Just Communicate Product Benefits, Create Desire
Signal the extraordinary value of your product into something that your audience not just understands, but desires. The key question to focus on is What are the basic needs, dreams and aspirations your consumer holds dear? and how can the product or service fulfil it credibly? Branded soap owes its success to Christianity. Until the 1870s, only hot water was used for bathing. To popularize soap, consumer goods companies drew on religious language and started linking the usage of soap to the adage that `Cleanliness is next to Godliness' and made it known that only good Christians clean themselves with soap. What is more; they even named their soap `Ivory', from Psalm 45: `All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of ivory palaces whereby they have made thee glad'. The first soap ad also appeared in a Christian weekly. There could not have been a stronger desire that could have propelled soap usage.
Sometimes, creating desire means making it more difficult for the consumer. Betty Crocker's Ready-to-Bake cake mix failed in the market because housewives found it so easy to bake a cake with this cake mix that they felt guilty. In a flash of brilliance, the makers of Betty Crocker added new instructions to the same recipe. A housewife now had to add two eggs and whisk into the mixture until the mixture was fluffy! This elbow grease eased the housewives' guilt and the sales soared.
Stay Top Of Mind
Companies that have created markets have not just embedded themselves in what the consumer watches, thinks about and reads, but they have in fact created entire markets of entertainment pursuits for consumers and then embedded themselves into these mediums to be able to stay on top of mind with consumers. Such are the lengths that some enduring brands have gone to, to grow their sales and impact in the consumer's life.
Because women preferred to be entertained while they did housework, soap makers invented Radio and TV Programming to sell soap! That is why serial dramas came to be called `Soap Operas'. What better way could there be to keep reminding consumers to buy a particular brand of soap. P&G was one of the first companies to sponsor daytime serial dramas on the radio in the 1930s to advertise their products to housewives. Since the radio production industry was in its infancy, P&G even took-on the task of starting a pro-memorability creates enduring markets. For instance, what would God put-up on a hoarding if he bought one? Would he have a sense of humor? How about even a sarcastic and thought-provoking sense of humor?
In 1998, the Smith Agency in Florida, created an advertising campaign to reach people who used to be faithful to a religion but had drifted away. The ad agency came-up with a humorous, non-denominational series of quotes from God, run on billboards Wherever you go, there I am; I don't question your existence; Don't make me come down there; If we don't communicate, you haven't got a prayer; Keep using my name in vain, I'll make rush hour longer; You think it's hot here?; That Love thy neighbor thing, I meant that; and Congrats on the wedding, now invite me to the marriage to name a few.
Making Them Feel Your Purpose Is All That Matters
Embedding your brand's purpose into the consumer's world view guarantees the consumer will buy into your product if only to demonstrate unity with your purpose. In the 1960s, Bill Foster, President of The Hawaiian Fashion Guild, started promoting the colorfully designed, light weight Aloha Shirts to beat the heat in the summer months and to support the textile industry. Over time, a creative, informal and casual way of life embedded itself into these Hawaiian shirts! So anybody who wanted to get into a casual state of mind donned these shirts.
Pantone has traditionally been a creator of color books used by designers only. Pantone broadened its appeal by launching The Pantone Color Institute, a consulting service that predicts global color trends and advises companies on color in brand identity and products. Every year, Pantone predicts a color of the year and works with installation artists to create art installations that reveal the color of the year. It is a great way to get the average consumers feel connected to color and the magic it holds the very purpose of Pantone.
Creation of new consumer markets begins with an Insight; an insight that upends how consumers think about the world. Creating new markets is difficult, and on this path, one meets more people who say this have never been done before than people who say let's try it, it might just work. If you find the nugget that might spark a new market creation, go for it; the only thing you will regret is not trying it in the first place.