5 Keys to Marketing Success in Developing Markets

October 12, 2011

Almost 20 years ago, I first set foot in developing China, and into the early boom years of that country’s remarkable transformation. As the first Marketing Director for Procter & Gamble China, over the next 3 years I saw the incredible vibrancy, growth and opportunity of a developing market firsthand.

Since then, I’ve led organizations with businesses in virtually every major developing market around the world. While no two markets are precisely the same, they share many important features when it comes to Marketing success or lack thereof.

So, it’s natural to reflect: what have I learned as a Marketer from those experiences?

5 Learnings from Developing Markets

1.  Walk the Street – When I got to China in 1994, it was like landing blindfolded in an emerging market. There were no TV ratings or market share data beyond Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai—which collectively accounted for <5% of the Chinese population. What to do?

Walk the street. Once a month, we would get on a plane and travel to a secondary provincial city and walk the streets, visiting 15-20 stores a day, talking to the merchants about what sold, what didn’t, and why.

Walking the Street to see Tide in China

Sometimes the best market research is simply getting out and talking to lots and lots of real people. That’s how we learned that sachets, or small 5-10g bags of detergent for once a week use, would never work like they did in shampoo.

2.  Go Local – Expanding global brands into local markets can be daunting. Stories of branding disasters fill the chapters of International Marketing books as lessons on what not to do. Yet localizing your brand is crucial to success, and this goes beyond the name and advertising.

P&G’s early China success was driven by deep distribution. In the top 200 cities, they divided each city into a checkerboard and assigned a salesperson with a 3-wheel bicycle to cover each square. In rural areas, they hired college students for the summer to ride motorcycles to rural villages to give away free samples and educate retailers on the location of the nearest wholesale market.

At American Express, we learned that Russian consumers used U.S. dollar Traveler Cheques not for travel, but to hold cash safely at home—because they didn’t trust either the local banks or the ruble. Presto: we created American Express Secure Funds Cheques, and grew sales to almost $1B within 3 years.

3.  Expect the Unexpected – Of all my learnings, this is the most difficult to explain to people who’ve only worked in developed markets. Why? Because the things that happen in developing markets are often so far beyond the bounds of what you would experience in a developed market it’s just hard to imagine them ever happening. Sometimes a story is the only way to make the point.

Crest in China -- Even the Advertising was Counterfeited

Waiting for a flight in the Kunming, China airport, I once saw a TV ad for the Chinese Crest toothpaste. The only problem was that when the product “reveal” came in the ad, the brand wasn’t Crest, but rather a local brand which had stolen the Crest advertising and spliced in their own brand to the ad !

In developing markets, you have to be ready to overcome whatever obstacle comes your way—including fake Crest ads–which is why we had a saying in P&G China: “yo bon fa” or “it can be done.”

4.  Partner Wisely – In many developing markets, it is foolhardy, if not illegal, to enter the market without a local joint venture partner. Partners often have important government connections and relationships that are essential for the outsider to understand the local market regulations, etc.

I’ve seen both good and bad partners. Good ones can help get distribution for your brand, find marketing suppliers, help identify competitive threats and generally speaking, get things done.

Counterfeit Tide in China

Bad ones can damage your brand. For example, one Chinese joint venture partner sold our Tide packaging to counterfeiters—damaging not only our top line revenue, but also our brand experience with consumers–who after washing, only got a bunch of still dirty clothes.

5.  Stay the Course – Developing markets are, by definition, developing. This means that +10-15% growth on a small base is, well, still small. Sometimes, people will ask:  is all of this hassle really worth it? Well, as any mathematician knows, compounding adds up fast.

P&G started up in China in 1988 – 8/8/88 to be precise – a very good day in a culture that reveres lucky 8’s. By the time I left China in 1997, almost 10 years after entry, P&G sales were just south of $1B—of the almost $36B of total company sales—big in the absolute but small as a percentage of company revenue.

Developing Markets: Long Term Focus Pays Big Dividends

But now, 20+ years on, P&G routinely reports China double digit sales growth as a key driver of their global sales. Developing markets take time to develop, but when they do, they have real impact.

Developing Market Lessons Learned

The fundamentals of Marketing in developing markets are no different than developed markets: understanding consumers, developing a superior value proposition, and communicating it with consumers in a relevant and highly persuasive manner.

What’s different is “how” you do these things, and how many non-Marketing factors like joint venture partner selection, lack of data, and unexpected actions by regulators or others can disrupt your best laid plans.

But for me, there’s nothing that compares with the buzz of launching a great brand in a developing market, and seeing it grow into an iconic and lasting part of the commercial landscape. Which is why the next time in China, you can bet I’ll be looking for Tide in the local stores.

Follow Randall Beard on Twitter

Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by RSS reader

Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by e-mail



Digitizing the 1st Moment of Truth

June 7, 2010

When I was the Marketing Director for P&G China, our Regional Head, A.G. Lafley (later the P&G Chairman and CEO), used to come to Guangzhou, China every quarter. Part of the “review” ritual was going on in-home visits and store checks. Naturally, these visits were less about CEO learning and more about making an important point to the local organization: the consumer is the boss.

Critical Marketing Consumer Touchpoint: In-Store Experience

The entourage trooped from kiosk to kiosk, always focused on issues like: Are we in stock? Are we shelved appropriately? Is pricing in-line with objective? And so on. Part of the ritual was the CEO making sure to take unannounced detours—just in case the stores looked too good to be true. But, of course, the core of the “1st moment of truth” was about physical in-store conditions.

In-Store Experience + Digital Information

No more. Increasingly, the future of the 1st moment of truth appears to be some combination of the in-store experience coupled with the digital world. Ask yourself this: how many times have you stood in front of a store shelf comparing products, but really wishing you had more information—any information—before making a decision? There’s clearly a big consumer need for relevant information at the store-shelf.

Today, there are a series of Smartphone apps which do exactly that. UPC driven, these apps bring social media to the store-shelf by helping consumers consider user reviews, social responsibility ratings, and other peer feedback—right at the 1st moment of truth.

UPC apps: Digital In-Store Experience

Why Is Digital at the Point of Sale So Important?

First, as I wrote in an earlier post “When Will Mobile Marketing Get Moving?,” it’s projected that by 2012, Smartphone usage in the U.S. will surpass that of feature phones. This means that before very long, most people will be able to download and use the apps at the point of sale. Scale is close at hand.

Second, these apps will increasingly include Social Media features so that you will be able to read product specific feedback from friends, family and peers—just before making your purchase decision. This could be enabled by Facebook Connect, built into the App itself, or by virtue of a separate Google Sidewiki application.

Facebook Connect: Allows Users to Interact With Brands In Real Time (Image from Mashable.com)

Finally, there are opportunities for these apps to create advertising applications that are geo-location or product specific. Since your GPS enabled phone will know where you are, and your UPC snapshot will communicate your category and brand of interest, this will provide a hugely relevant set of data for advertisers to use for targeting.

Apple’s recent announcement of iAd, coupled with their model of sharing ad revenue with app developers, are set to make advertising driven apps a whole lot more appealing and likely. It looks like app driven advertising is here to stay.

3 Digital Moment of Truth Apps

So, the trends are all in favor of these apps that marry the shopping experience with real time, important purchase information. What are some of the most interesting early apps in this space?

  1. ShopSavvy – How many times have you stood in front of a store-shelf considering buying a product but unsure as to whether it’s a good deal or not? 81% of Americans use their mobile devices while shopping — so they can find out. Around the longest, ShopSavvy has huge potential to play havoc with retail pricing — according to Ad Age, ShopSavvy reported more than 42 million scans last month. With ShopSavvy, you scan a product’s UPC, and the app then tells you the prices at other competing retailers (both in-store and online) for the exact same item.  If it is cheaper elsewhere, they’ll go buy it—retailers are sure to love this app.
  2. Sticky Bits – Launched in March 2010, Sticky Bits enables users to take a UPC photo and attach “bits” of content to it, creating a social page for the brand and UPC. Think about this for a minute: every product with a UPC can potentially have its own social media space—with all of the positive and negative potential that represents. Users can write reviews, attach comments, and generate any kind of user generated content they think is appropriate for the product.
  3. Good Guide – Consumers increasingly want to buy brands that not only work, but make them feel good about their purchase decision. A big part of this is knowing that the company operates in a socially responsible manner. Good Guide enables consumers to spot check your brand’s social responsibility with scores across the product’s health, environmental, and social impact. Good Guide simply continues a trend toward Brands needing to operate in ways that are more open and transparent.

Good Guide App: Product Knowledge for Eco-Conscious Consumers

The 1st moment of truth is set for big changes. The combination of the physical world shopping experience plus social media at the point of purchase promises to change the shopping landscape in a way that nothing has in a long, long time.

I haven’t talked with A.G. Lafley about this change (although I did talk with him recently), but I think I know what he would say: “the consumer is boss.” Meaning that the 1st moment of truth – what the consumer does at store shelf – is becoming even more important with the introduction of digital content.

Follow Randall Beard on Twitter

Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by e-mail

Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by RSS reader


Why “Easier” is Better for Your Brand

April 19, 2010

Is “easier” better for your brand? Consider this excerpt from the article “Easy = True” by Drake Bennett

Imagine that your stockbroker…who’s always giving you stock tips–called and told you that he had come up with a new investment strategy. Price-to earnings ratios, debt levels, management, competition, what the company makes, and how well it makes it, all those considerations go out the window. 

The new strategy is this: Invest in companies with names that are very easy to pronounce. This would probably not strike you as a great idea. But, if recent research is to be believed, it might just be brilliant.”

If making it easier to pronounce the name of a company can influence stock market performance for the better, can making your marketing “easier” for consumers build your brand and Marketing ROI? 

Cognitive Fluency

A relatively new topic of research in the world of psychology these days is “cognitive fluency.” It’s the study of how the ease or difficulty in thinking about and understanding a topic influences our attitudes and preferences toward it. As a research topic, psychologists are learning that cognitive fluency affects our thinking in subtle, yet important ways. Many of which are very relevant for communicating with consumers. 

Apple Advertising — “Easier” in Action

Let’s take a real world example: the Apple iPhone. With the iPhone, Apple had a tough task: communicate the incredible multiplicity of apps so that consumers would immediately understand the ease and simplicity of accessing them to solve basic everyday problems.

iPhone TV Advertising - Simple & Effective

Now think of the Apple iPhone TV advertising. What I think of is simple, easy and wow. Showing the ease of using the iPhone, tapping cool new apps, and solving practical problems brings their value to life in a way that makes complicated and complex-well, easy. 

The Broader Advertising Landscape

In my experience, simple and easy to understand ads tend to be more effective. The impact of making something easy to understand has been show in research to influence consumer preference and choice. For example, Novemsky et al. demonstrated that even something as simple as fonts can make a difference; fonts which were easier to read doubled purchase intent versus more difficult to read fonts. 

Cognitive fluency suggests that making your Marketing easier to understand results in making it easier for consumers to do what you want them to do — consider and buy your brand. There are multiple angles you can take for making your brand easier. Or, just by making it your Marketing centerpiece as Staples has with their “Easy Button.” 

Staples Easy Button - Marketing & Cognitive Fluency

5 Areas to Make Your Marketing “Easy”

1.  Brand Equities – Every brand should have both strategic and executional equities.  Strategic equities include brand benefits and reasons to believe, while executional equities are the distinctive executional assets the brand wants to own (e.g. McDonald’s and the yellow arches; Bounty and the Quicker Picker Upper, etc). 

Once defined, brands should work to build strategic and executional equities into distinctive assets that distinguish the brand from competition through repetition and variation.  Repetition is important because it makes your brand more familiar and, as cognitive fluency learning shows, more familiar equals easier. 

McDonald's Yellow Arches: A Distinctive Brand Equity

2. Visual and Auditory Cues — Another smart way to build brand familiarity and make it easier for consumers to identify your brand is through visual and auditory cues. A great example of a visual cue is the Pantene “hair flip” that communicates “shiny hair,” which has been part of virtually every Pantene ad for the past decade. 

Auditory cues are also important, as I wrote in a previous blog post “Why Your Brand Needs an Acoustic Identity.” Can you imagine the Olympics without the Olympic theme music, or a United Airlines ad without “Rhapsody in Blue?” Of course, when done well, visual and auditory cues can also become executional equities. 

3.  Congruent Context – Ease of understanding is also related to context. The more congruent a brand’s ad with the program content it sits within, the easier it is to relate to the ad. A Slim-Fast ad in the The Biggest Loser is easier to understand and remember than a Slim-Fast ad in another TV program about a different topic, even when the demographic make-up of the audience is the same. Why? The Biggest Loser viewers are thinking about weight loss, and so, it’s easier for them to digest the Slim-Fast ad message. 

4.  Packaging – Even packaging can make consumers’ lives easier. Ease of finding a package in store is a key metric many CPG companies use to evaluate packaging impact. The easier it is for consumers to find your package, the more likely it is that they’ll actually consider and buy it. 

Packaging - Critical to the In-Store Experience

5.  Pricing – Many companies have moved to “value pricing” with low everyday prices and modest merchandising discounts. Making it easy for consumers to understand your true value includes pricing strategies that don’t distort the real value. 

Easier is Better

Of course, the list above is only a starting point–almost any part of your Marketing Mix and customer experience can be made easier. Most CMO’s and Marketers would agree that easier is better. Yet there’s an awful lot of Marketing that isn’t simple, transparent, or easy. 

Why? My guess is that Marketers, like anyone else, need to think that what they’re doing is challenging and difficult. And the truth of the matter is that it is–great Marketing is hard. And one of the reasons it’s hard is that so few Marketers focus on making it “easy.” 

Follow Randall Beard on Twitter 

Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by e-mail 

Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by RSS reader


Understanding, Identifying and Building Distinctive Brand Assets

March 15, 2010

This post is part of a continuing series of guest posts. Jenni Romaniuk is an Associate Research Professor of Brand Equity, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, University of South Australia.

***********************************************

This post is a summary of an Ehrenberg-Bass Institute corporate member report written in conjunction with Nicole Hartnett, Research Associate at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.

Distinctive assets are non brand-name elements that are able to evoke the brand in the memory of consumers.   Some of the most famous examples include the Nike ‘swoosh’, the Aflac duck and Mastercard’s priceless advertising.  All of these elements are able to represent their brand name without needing any other prompting.

Aflac Duck - Distinctive Brand Asset

Many creative elements have the potential to become distinctive assets including: logos, slogans, colors, shapes, typefaces or fonts, characters, celebrities, jingles and/or music, sounds, advertising style, tastes, textures and scents.

However merely using one of the elements described above as part of your brand identity does not necessarily mean it is an ‘asset’ for your brand. For an element to be an asset, it needs to meet two criteria:

Uniqueness To what degree is your brand only linked to the element? When consumers link multiple brands to an element, brand confusion ensues. Ideally, marketers want to develop brand assets that are unique in their category.

PrevalenceHow many consumers link your brand to the distinctive element? The more consumers that are able to identify your brand based on the asset, the stronger and more valuable the distinctive asset becomes.

The Nike Swoosh Is Prevalent and Unique

Simply put, distinctive assets are more creative alternatives to directly showing a brand name, and they help create a larger brand footprint when elements are used in conjunction with the brand. Marketers can use non-word elements such as color, visual images, and sound to provide a multi-layered process for entry into consumer memory. On the consumer end, brand assets simplify brand identification outside of the advertising context, for example on-shelf or as a retail outlet.

How does an element become a distinctive asset?

To develop a distinctive asset, marketers need to make a commitment to consistent co-presentation of the element and the brand name across all consumer touch-points. Then, consumers must learn to associate the element with the brand.

Whether a brand has already developed distinctive assets or is embarking on creating elements, the main question marketers need to answer is: “Do consumers recognize my brand?” Throughout this process, keep in mind that for an element to be a distinctive asset it must evoke the brand, without prompting, for close to 100% of consumers. Only then can the distinctive asset be considered strong enough as a unique brand identifier. Ultimately, distinctive assets can replace the brand name in marketing initiatives.

I have created the Distinctive Asset Grid to enable marketers to classify their brand’s distinctive elements.  The grid is divided into four broad quadrants, which each represent the current state and future potential of a distinctive element.

If an element falls in the quadrant labeled …

Use: It is a strong distinctive element that evokes the brand from memory for the vast majority of consumers. Distinctive assets that fall in the “Use” quadrant are highly differentiated from those of competitive brands. Therefore, assets in this quadrant can be used to replace the brand name in advertising.

Invest: The element has unharnessed potential: it meets the most important criteria and it is highly unique to the brand.  However, not many people are aware of the asset (low prevalence) which restricts its ability to be used in place of the brand name. To further cement the element, it should be co-presented with the brand name.

Avoid: If the asset falls in the “Avoid” quadrant, marketers should be wary of using the element as an alternative to the brand name. Otherwise, the element may bring competitors to mind for consumers.

Ignore: An element in this quadrant is best unused in its present state. The exceptions are elements that are at the beginning of their development, as the majority of new elements have low prevalence and uniqueness. However, if an element’s uniqueness and prevalence have not developed after receiving proper marketing support, then the asset should be reconsidered.

Finally, some FAQ:

1.  Are there any drawbacks in using distinctive assets for brand identification?

While distinctive assets represent some opportunities, they also present some risks.  If you use the brand name to identify the brand in advertising, all who notice the brand name will know that it is that brand that is advertising.  However, if you only use a distinctive asset to identify the brand, and it is not 100% unique and prevalent, there will be some people who see the distinctive asset but don’t think of the brand name.  These are wasted exposures.

2. Do distinctive assets have to have a meaning for consumers beyond the brand name? (or is it better if they do?)

There is good reason to be cautious about selecting elements with strong meaning to develop as distinctive assets.  Firstly, the strong meaning will hamper the brand’s ability to attach the brand name to the distinctive asset.  This meaning will be evoked in consumer memory when the element is presented, which will then dominate and interfere with the development of links to the brand name.  Secondly, you can’t control the consistency of this past meaning.  Finally, what if the core meaning of the brand changes over time in response to consumer or market trends?  The distinctive asset will also need to change, negating the value of past investments.

*****************************************************

For more information on this research, contact Jenni: Jenni@MarketingScience.info

Jenni Romaniuk’s research interests are Brand Equity Metrics, Brand Salience, Distinctive Brand Assets, Brand Name Execution, Advertising Effectiveness and the influence of Word of Mouth on consumer behaviour, particularly in Television program viewing.  Her work has been published in European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Business Research and Journal of Marketing Management.  Jenni is also past editor of Journal of Empirical Generalisations in Marketing Science (JEMS): www.empgens.com

The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute is a world-class research institute that delivers real scientific knowledge and dramatic discoveries to corporations all over the word including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Turner Broadcasting. To learn more about the Institute visit www.MarketingScience.info

Follow Randall Beard on Twitter

Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by e-mail

Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by RSS reader