Views from the Hills by R. E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail

It's a Balancing Act

In a couple of the presentations I give to students in MBA MMR programs, I discuss the Ten Step Approach in brand development. The ten steps go from market exploration to market introduction. I'm frequently asked if it is required to do all of the ten steps. My answer is absolute "No." It is a balancing act between time, resources and knowledge. Seldom do we start with a clean slate in our brand development. We usually have some experience and information about the product category. It is the Brand Manager's responsibility to assess the missing links in the brands development. The approach usually depends on the personality of the Brand Manager and the management's position on risk taking.

I fondly remember one Vice President at P&G who instructed his troops to put 10 to 20 ideas into the market each year. Don't waste time developing the ideas, let the market take the lead in developing the brands. As I recall, about two years of his leadership was all the company could take. On the flip side I have seen individuals within the Company take 10 to 15 years developing an idea before putting it into the market. One of the fastest time for me was 22 months from idea to market. However in our rush to market, we missed a key segment of the market which was quickly picked up by one of competitors. In another project, it took approximately two years from idea to market was extremely successful. However, we were working in a category that we really owned and had a great deal of experience with. In this roll-out we actually conducted only one major consumer research project. That project is the one project that I believe is necessary in all new ventures. The project involved the brand in its final form complete with the final version of promotions, name, message, pricing, formulation, and packaging.

I have found that Mr. Gerald Schoenfeld is a walking library of examples similar to the above but across many companies. He tells the story of a company that was working on a new after shave lotion. He recalls how they tested everything down to the smallest detail such as the bottle, color, name, price, concentration of perfume, etc. but never did they test all the elements together. All the elements were not brought together until the brand was placed into the market. It failed.

Gerald also cites a joint venture of two companies. One company would manufacture the product and the other would market and distribute it. The development of the brand dragged on and on because the marketing company wanted to test all the elements involved in the brand. After considerable time the joint venture fell apart and the manufacturing company just put one of the original versions on the market. The result was the creation of a new product category and a substantial market.

Gerald has some good advice for brand managers. He says "Blind product tests are the worst mistake of all." (Note: I disagree, they are good for product development but not for market assessment. Blind testing, just like paired comparison testing, is an excellent product development tool but a poor marketing tool.) "Such market defying absurdities as Coke losing out to Pepsi and Coors coming in second to such a humble brew as Schmidt's of Philadelphia simply are not predictive of what happens in the real world when the matrix of consumer perception and feelings comes together in the request for a "Coke" or a "Coors."

I believe that if there is a test that all new ventures must pass, it is the final test before market introduction. It is the test of market readiness. That test should include all the dotting of the Is and the crossing of all the Ts. A key element of the test should involve the purchasing of the brand by the consumer using their money, not seed money.

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