What Can David Teach Goliath? Startup Wisdom for Mature Brands


Be nimble, be creative, be agile. Take a risk…  act like a startup.

This advice for clients comes from Rob Schuham, the Chief Innovation Officer at Match Marketing Group (MMG). MMG’s major clients — Ford, Adidas, and Samsung, among others — have listened, and the result has been some of the most groundbreaking campaigns ever to hit the market.

It is true that established, mature brands control the market because they are familiar and trusted. However, startups and emerging brands are pioneering some exciting and innovative techniques. And many mature brands are starting to pay attention.

Product Novelty and Timing

As consumers, we trust companies like Apple and Starbucks because we know they will produce a consistent, quality product that we have already come to love. While their brand is consistent, it is also predictable, and it is this predictability that emerging brands are using to their advantage.

In 1993, Steve Ells had the idea of opening a restaurant where “you could eat delicious food made of the finest ingredients quickly and affordably.” In a market space dominated by McDonalds, KFC and Taco Bell, Ells saw the opportunity to present consumers with something different and unique — something called Chipotle.

Other fast food brands were starting to be characterized by greed and inhumane farming/agricultural practices, so Chipotle positioned itself as a much more personal, healthier, and humane option. Chipotle’s newness, coupled with Ells’ impeccable market timing, catapulted the business into realms Ells never imagined. Chipotle grosses $2.2 billion a year and opens six new locations every day across the United States.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that established companies like Apple or Budweiser should disrupt their brand and alienate their current client-base, but they can't get complacent. While their brands may control the existing market, there always remains the possibility for fresh ideas and improved concepts. Looking at the market with a much more “startup-esque” attitude can lead larger corporations to opportunities they would not have discovered otherwise.

Danielle Schlanger at Business Insider explains:

“Slate's Matthew Yglesias compared Chipotle's burrito to Apple's iPhone; though Steve Jobs didn't invent the cell phone, he substantially raised the quality of the existing model with the iPhone, and happily noted that consumers were willing to pay for a superior product. Same goes for Chipotle's burrito.”

Get Personal

As brands mature and companies grow, the client base increases and workloads multiply exponentially. Growth and expansion are vital, producing more sales, more profits, and greater brand recognition. However, they also mean less face-to-face interactions with those consumers who helped you launch your brand. And, customers today are both highly complex and extremely intolerant of blanket sales approaches.

Cassandra Hayes, a social media-marketing specialist, writes in a post for SocialBro:

“Customers’ expectations of personalization have soared. Now your average customer expects real personalization and a real relationship. Smaller businesses have mastered this by transferring the techniques of face-to-face relationship building to the social environment.”

Emerging brands make their customers feel relevant by using Twitter and Facebook to create relationships, whereas large corporations often find social media tedious and painful. Evolve24, a Maritz research company, notes that over 70% of questions are being ignored by brands on Twitter. However, emerging brands recognize the value and importance of each individual customer, and they do their best to engage them.

Zappos, an online shoe seller that sold to Amazon in 2009, introduced a “like-like” option when marketing their brands. “Liking” their company on Facebook ensured customers access to exclusive content — making them feel distinct and valued. Not long after, mature brands such as Starbucks took notice and increased their interactions with customers as well.

Ilya Pozin at Forbes points out that Starbucks has introduced a similar interactive marketing campaign.

“[Starbucks] launched ‘Tweet a Coffee’ to engage customers and build awareness of the brand. Not only do they provide giveaways, but Starbucks always creates content that encourages its fans to like, comment, and share.”

To keep hold of their established consumer bases, mature brands must make an effort to appease the large degrees of personalization demanded by today’s consumers.

The Customer is Always Correct….So Listen!

Ever heard (or used) this: “Sorry to hear that, we’re looking into it for you” or “Your request is being processed and will be answered as soon as possible”? The days of automated and insincere attempts to please consumers are over. One major advantage emerging brands have is the ability to rapidly interact with their customers. The majority of emerging brands understand that people want a similar response online or over the phone to the one they would get in person.

Mature brands often turn to automation in situations like these. But Hayes cautions,

“The argument is that [automation] enables you to invest more time in one to one service where it matters, but you have to remember that it is the customer who decides where and when it matters, and where you should invest your time. If they have brought their query, it is with the expectation that they will get a personal response.”

Emerging brands build trust and customer loyalty by providing immediate feedback to those in need. Jay Baer at ConvinceAndConvert reports that 42 percent of consumers expect an answer to an inquiry within the hour. Like emerging brands, mature brands need to challenge themselves to improve “sign off procedures,” which allow designated employees to rapidly interact with valued consumers. Customers expect individualized responses from brands they trust, and the little guys tend to be quicker to respond than the giants.

At Eidson & Partners, we understand the importance of building credibility and trust in your brand. Mature brands can learn a lot from emerging brands when it comes to resisting complacency and remaining on the cutting edge of the markets they operate in. There's a reason David beat Goliath: his agility, speed, and impetuous desire to succeed beat out the mass and force of his opponent.

Take note, giants.

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