linked in facebook twitter rss

  • Interbrand
  • Brandchannel

your chance!
your chance!
Building Your Brand’s Ecosystems of Products
also of interest...
  Chris Heile Brands: Taking a Narrow View
by Chris Heile
January 5, 2009

The vast majority of consumer brands fall into the small to mid-sized category. Far too often, however, they try to “act big,” following the same marketing formula as mega brands with many times their budgets.


Moderately sized brands are lured into mass media awareness campaigns because they’ve been told that higher share of voice equals higher sales. However, they’re then competing with all media advertisers, where only the biggest brands succeed in mass and all others have little to show for their effort and expenditure.

A brand’s real opportunity for growth is through deeper connections with narrower groups of highly-engaged customers. Target (or niche) marketing, of course, is not a new idea. But new tools and techniques triggered by advances in customizable technology and the growing segmentation of consumers into communities has taken targeting to a whole new level. These, in turn, are enabling a new concept called “narrow branding,” in which brands present themselves in very different ways to different groups of consumers.

Narrow branding is a deeply subversive concept. It challenges cherished ideas about brand consistency and standards by enabling consumers to shape and mold the very essence of a brand.

But for those willing to shake off old assumptions and look at a more customer-centric approach to marketing, narrow branding promises big benefits.

The New Consumer

Today’s consumers are savvier, more informed and better connected than ever before. They share information, express their opinions and influence each other’s decisions in ways that traditional mass media can’t comprehend.

To succeed, brands must be adaptable and constructed around the lives of consumers. They can’t present themselves in a single, unswerving way. They need to focus on individual targets whose aspirations drive the promises, the attributes and even the visual language of the brand.

Narrow branding understands this. It starts with conventional segmentation, breaking down consumers by groups that share common lifestyles and interests. Then it completely reimagines every aspect of the brand—the brand experience, product mix, usability, distribution, content and media—as though the entire brand was originally conceived and built for each consumer segment.

Though narrow branding may at first seem counterintutive, it does not veer away from brand identity. Rather, it embraces the positive qualities of the brand, sharing them in more detail with customers.

Think of it as brand personalization. More narrowly defined brands meet consumers at their level, allowing them to influence and feel ownership in the brand. They are purposely inconsistent in order to achieve relevancy with specific customer segments. They take advantage of adjustments in packaging, product placement and messaging to grow core groups of enthusiastic and loyal customers.

Traditional mass media, of course, doesn’t allow much room for customization. A 30-second spot or print ad is a pretty solid, immutable. This is not as true for digital communication, which can be altered to reflect changes in the consumer environment at will.

Narrow branding is ideally suited to this world. Technology enables marketers to identify and customize entire brand experiences for specific audiences, then “engage” in a much longer and more proactive discussion with consumers than traditional mass media ever could.

The SeaPak Success Story

The SeaPak Shrimp Company is an example of a mid-sized brand in a low-involvement category (frozen foods) that achieved the necessary level of customization and engagement.

SeaPak adopted narrow branding to customize every aspect of its consumers’ brand experience, including products, packaging, distribution, media, content and messaging. Specifically, the company identified two core—yet completely different—lifestyle consumers: those who live to cook and those who cook to live. Then it set about to create a separate, narrow brand for each.

The live-to-cook lifestyle is a far more involved customer. They have a passion for cooking, discovering new recipes and preparing unique meals for family and friends. SeaPak surrounded these shoppers with content that enabled their passion, including special access to famous chefs through online Q&A events, original seafood recipes from Food Network chef Robin Miller, customized monthly e-mail campaigns with chef recipes, wine pairings and prep advice. In addition, products, packaging and distribution are customized for this target, with higher end unbreaded seafood products, upscale packaging and placement in the store near the fresh seafood case, where these consumers typically shop.

The cook-to-live group is more concerned with achieving balance, spending more time with family and less time in the kitchen. So for this segment, SeaPak placed brand emphasis on quality and ease of preparation. Products for this segment are focused on quick-baked breaded items, less full meals and more quick dishes and appetizers. Distribution and packaging also reflects this approach, with brighter, more casual packaging located in the core frozen section of the store. Content and messaging is focused on quick and unexpected usage occasions, preparation on the run and couponing.

SeaPak transformed itself into two narrow brands that appealed to two very different consumer lifestyles. The results: an increase in engaged consumers exceeding 300 percent. More importantly, narrow branding created a sales lift of more than 15 percent in a category that was in decline.

It’s a lesson that brands of any size can learn: it’s not necessary to bombard the highest-funded marketing campaigns to have the largest impact.

Narrow branding enables brands of any size to evolve and stay relevant with the consumer, providing all brands a distinct foothold in what has been traditionally a big brand world.

   Chris Heile is the vice president of marketing and advertising for hyperQUAKE in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 commenting closed Add Social Bookmark bookmark  print
 suggest topic  recommend ( 69 )  email

Brands: Taking a Narrow View
 It's an interesting theory. Only in theory, mind you. However, i think it's missing the point of what a brand is - even confusing it with a process called 'marketing'. A brand is what directs all communications of the business or company. It helps give a form of consistency to everything the company does. If a company starts sending out difference 'faces' to different audiences it risks watering itself down. It might pay off in the short term with a slight increase in sales, but long term the brand equity is at stake. Why risk it? Take a look at Porsche. Once upon a time they were unique - offering thoroughbred sports cars. But now they offer SUVs too. They've severed the bloodline and now watered down a brand that they've worked hard at building for decades.The concept here isn't a bad idea by any means. It's just misleading calling it branding. All of what's written here is just take of the marketing mix with a different label. And now i've run out of characters! Thanks! 
the big ragoo - January 12, 2009
  brandchannel brandspeak archive   2014  |  2013  |  2012  |  2011  |  2010  | 2009  |  2008  |  2007  |  2006  |  2005  |  2004  |  2003  |  2002  |  2001
Nov 13, 2009 Employees Are the Brand -- William Arruda
  Brand outward by looking in.
Oct 16, 2009 Branding Airports -- Brian Rodino
  Why branding airports will fly.
Oct 7, 2009 The Demise and Rise of Branding -- Denise Lee Yohn
  The basics for branding through bad times.
Sep 14, 2009 A New Sustainable Language for Business -- Melissa Davis
  Why sustainability has 28 million definitions.
Aug 31, 2009 How Can Your Packaging Become Disruptive? -- Ted Mininni
  Get shelf-help with disruptive packaging.
Aug 17, 2009 Four Opportunities to Strengthen a Brand Community -- Lara Lee
  The keys to resolving hidden tensions online.
Aug 3, 2009 Why Packaging Matters More than Ever -- Ted Minini
  Now is the time to keep design in mind.
Jul 20, 2009 Branding Beauty in an Ugly Economy
  How cosmetic brands can look good in a bad economy.
Jul 6, 2009 Continuity in Brand Packaging: When is it Important?
  Why the past belongs in packaging.
Jun 22, 2009 Build Your Brand from the Inside Out -- Morgan Daloisio
  Engage employees as brand proof points.
Jun 8, 2009 How Can You Mend a Broken Brand? -- Michael Stone
  How licensing allows broken brands new life.
May 25, 2009 Painful Economic Contractions Can Be a Good Thing -- Claire Ratushny
  Brands live and die in a recession.
May 11, 2009 Put Your Message in the Moment: What Can and Can’t Be Said Now -- Mark Thomson
  Allowing consumers behind the branding curtain.
Apr 27, 2009 Economy Spells Opportunity to Evaluate Brand Portfolio -- Larry Lucas and Jorge Aguilar
  Take a tough look at hard assets.
Apr 13, 2009 Achieving Accountable Marketing: Six Critical Value Levers Must Be Pulled -- Michael Dunn
  How accountable marketing adds value.
Mar 30, 2009 Get Back to Basics. Win Back the Trust. -- Ted Mininni
  How to build faith in unbelievable times.
Mar 16, 2009 Time for a Brand Stimulus Package -- Kevin Randall
  How strong brands react to a weak economy.
Mar 2, 2009 Get Real -- Claire Ratushny
  Brand survival in a recession.
Feb 16, 2009 Goya is Big, But Not Great (Yet) -- Larry Lucas and Jorge Aguilar
  Goya must connect with more than taste buds.
Feb 2, 2009 How Strong is Your Brand? -- Denise Lee Yohn
  How brands can thrive in an economic dive.
Jan 19, 2009 A Dimensional View of Experiential Marketing -- Gavin Finn
  How virtual branding creates real loyalty.