Old Dogs, New Tricks: What Mature Brands Can Teach Emerging Brands


"Transforming a brand into a… leader doesn't happen overnight by simply writing new marketing and advertising strategies. It takes effort to identify a vision that your customers will find credible and aligned with their values." – Simon Mainwaring

Most of what we know about marketing comes from mature products or brands. Why? Because infinitely more data exist for mature brands than for new or emerging brands. The old dogs have the corner on the market because they are familiar, known, trusted, and predictable. Plus, they have reams of data to support their position in the market.

Data is King

Mature brands capitalize on their data dominance by turning it into the lion's share of shelf space, choice advertising spots, and frequent press coverage. Think about the marketing prowess of brands like Budweiser Beer, Diet Coke, Levi's Jeans, and Ford Mustang. These brands have dominated for decades despite serious competition from all sides. They continue to clip along with enduring fan loyalty as well as new fan development (e.g., the Millennial market). Why? Because they are trusted and continue to evolve with the needs of their customers.

In contrast to the data-rich environment of mature products, new products live and die in a relatively data poor environment. Thousands of new products emerge each year only to be quickly withdrawn from catalogues and retail space. Consumers may not even notice that a new product has come and gone.

This happens to new products from both mature companies and startups. Often it has more to do with the product development strategy than anything else.

For new products to gain any traction in the crowded marketplace, they must demonstrate that they solve a real problem, experienced by real people. In our experience, the majority of product development efforts are led by engineers and technical people, whose focus is on a technically-elegant product design that maximizes features, functions, and efficiency. They focus on the product and what is achievable, not the customer and what is desirable. As a result, the voice of the customer typically is under-represented.

Do it Differently

In our work with more than 150 brands over the last two decades, we've seen a lot approaches to product development and marketing. One company whose go-to-market approach stands out for us is Microsoft. Microsoft is a mature company, but they treat the marketing of their new products (e.g., Bing, Windows Phone) very differently than their established products (e.g., Windows, Microsoft Office). 

In some ways, Microsoft acts more like many of the startups we know. They don't fall into the trap of thinking that "marketing is marketing", "ads are ads," or "press releases are press releases" when they launch a new product brand in their portfolio. They don’t let their marketing style for mature products affect their new product launches. 

More often than not, we see companies separate product development and marketing until its time to launch the product. However, Microsoft brings marketing and sales into the process much earlier. As a result, they avoid some of the pitfalls that come with a more sequential process of developing products before marketing. This ensures that the voice of the customer is heard at the forefront of the ideation stage and not as an afterthought. 

At Eidson & Partners, we know that if you aren't listening to your potential customers early on, you are at risk for creating something no one will buy. As we explored in a previous post, market research is only a few clicks away, so there's no excuse for developing your product in a vacuum.

Trust Still Rules the Day

While many new brands that emerge from the startup community tout a disruptive approach that bucks the trends in traditional marketing, there are still some lessons to be learned from the old dogs. For one, building a credible brand that consumers TRUST is vitally important. Trust in a brand is built when a company listens to and understands their target audience, creates an emotional tie, and is distinct from their competitors. Most of all, a brand needs to be focused on solving the problem of the customer, not just repeating the benefits and features of the product. 

At Eidson & Partners, we believe that the objective of new product marketing is to create brand credibility. When our clients keep that in mind from start to finish, they don't experience the typical pitfalls associated with product launches. 

"At the end of the day, a brand is a promise, and consumers assess brands through the lens of that explicit or implicit promise."

– Pete Blackshaw

Mature brands have established a rapport with their customer base. They've made a promise and followed through time and time again. If new brands want to join the Old Dogs Club, they must learn to build that trust by listening to their customers from the beginning, and delivering what they want with commitment and consistency.

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