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Guest Times: Is Byron Sharp’s view really all that different?

Karan Kumar, Head, Brand & Marketing, Fabindia, shares his take on some of Byron Sharp's pronouncements directed towards brand growth

Karan Kumar

I recently got into this discussion on marketing, half way through which I was asked on what my opinions were on Byron Sharp's view of the new principles which he proclaimed directed brand growth. I must confess I had none quite simply because neither had I read his views nor was I even (and embarrassingly so) aware of Mr Sharp in the first place. Stirred by unbearable curiosity, I made it my business to read through some parts of his work which I must confess left me asking more questions rather than getting me to agree more instinctively to what he professed.

Therefore, what I am sharing below are my views – my individual take as it were on some of his pronouncements, four key ones more specifically.

  1. Growth comes from new users and not by driving loyalty:

I couldn’t get myself to agree with this in its entirety because as I see it, growth is delivered by a combination of both – with neither one paling in importance versus the other. There is no doubt that the mouth of the funnel must always remain wide and well-fed. But what about stopping the leakage (in some case, massive ones) that leads to brand quitting? An effective rewards and advocacy programme is an important tool in keeping your current customers engaged and repeating – both with higher bill value as well as enhanced frequency. Brand marketing needs to deal with both challenges and in my judgement, around a quarter of brand marketing budgets must be dedicated to drive repeat purchase on the back of sustained engagement – primary objectives of brand loyalty and advocacy programs.


  1. Brands need to drive physical and mental availability (distribution and salience):

I agree with this concept with the caveat that both of the above need to be driven only after keeping the targeted audience in context. That is the key principle that helps drive both efficiency and effectiveness of marketing campaigns – twin indices that should govern all brand investments. To illustrate what I mean I cite the following example. Would Parle G and Parle Platina target the same audience? I suspect not. Therefore, the nature of distribution (channels x markets) as well as choice of media for communication (platforms x weights) for both will necessarily have to be different. If Parle Platina were to be distributed and communicated in the same manner that the distribution and marketing plans for Parle G warrant, that approach would be a grossly inefficient reflection of both business planning and marketing imperatives.


  1. Distinctivity is more important than differentiation as it is the former that drives salience:

In my assessment, I think two very different concepts are being confused with each other in this argument. Differentiation is what drives consideration and subsequently, preference. Distinctivity on the other hand is more to do with the creative vocabulary with which the brand communicates how different it is from the others. Both are different from each other while being equally important. Brands become distinctive through their purpose, positioning and their vocabulary of communication. Admittedly, consumers buy from among a (changing) repertoire of brands, but they choose to buy one versus all available. The one that they choose to buy is the one that has stood out, or in other words, presented itself as more relevant to the consumer, with its relevance anchored in its differentiation.


  1. Advertising works by refreshing and building on past memory structures:

Quite frankly, I have mixed feelings on this one and I will tell you why. At one level, I have no qualms in agreeing with the fact that advertising must build on past, especially on any previously successful or iconic campaigns. Yet at another level, if this argument was to be respected, it would mean that neither would any new brands get established nor would any new piece of potentially iconic and successful communication be attempted. The key point therefore to me is that all advertising (or rather story telling as I would rather prefer it to be) should aim to create and deliver impact – one that drives consideration and which leads to brand preference. Good story telling will in any case drive salience, be it by way of the marketing monies that support its broadcast or organic sharing, which is the true testament to the creative prowess of the core idea and the manner in which it has been crafted.

So while Byron Sharps references on a lot of data to come up with his "new rules", I have always believed that data tells only those stories that it's master wants it to tell. And as fashionable as it maybe to proclaim otherwise, the basic rules of segmentation and differentiation, driving consideration to build pretence are still as relevant today as they have always been.

As equally are the twin challenges that brand marketing has always faced – to both add new franchise while retaining the ones who are currently invested in the brand. It is these twin challenges that need to be met across all brands and categories in the pursuit of demand creation and higher value capture, the holy grail of all marking tasks and objectives.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)


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