Never Do This When Competing with Big Brands


Competing against big brands?

Let’s accept it.

Competition among diverse competing brands is never a battle among equals because different brands are of different sizes. And size matters.

The big ones have better perception, better pen habit, better availability and most importantly bigger promo budget. Hence, the deck is heavily stacked against the smaller ones. Big ones enjoy all the benefits and smaller ones have to fight with the big ones with much lesser budget. And the outcome is often predictable, the smaller ones gets crushed.

Is there any way smaller brands can survive this battle of unequals?

Yes there is a way. Identify and build on that one area where you can be mightier than even the mightiest.

Before I explain, let us take a look at the current scenario.

When you compare the promo budget of different brands you will see pies of different sizes. But deeper look will reveal that percentage disbursement inside each of the pie is almost identical for big and small brands. In other words, the brand manager who is managing a smaller brand with much smaller budget spends his money in the same proportion as his big competitors who are doing it at considerably higher budget.

When you try doing everything that your competitors do but with much lesser budget, you are forced to try hard to reduce the cost. Eventually, you end up in compromising on both, quality and quantity. When field compares your campaign material with that of your competitors, they start feeling inferior. And this is where half of the battle is already lost. In the market place none of the elements of thinly spread marketing mix is able to create the desired impact. Your entire campaign gets simply overshadowed under high decibel campaign of your big competitors.

This is where guerrilla marketing comes in play. But to do it effectively first you need to identify an area and work your way towards being mightier than the mightiest of your competitor and STOP doing many things that you are doing at present. For many, it may appear scary decision. But believe me, it’s the best alternative you have. The reward for your sacrifice will be manifold increase in your resources that you can deploy in the chosen area.

Many years back, a nutraceutical brand from one of the division that I was heading started showing stagnation. We found that a new entrant from a relatively small sized company was growing leaps and bounds and causing all the damage. They were claiming to provide same nutraceutical with different formulation. But the whole claim had no scientific basis. Then how come doctors were believing their story? It was a mystery to me till I interviewed their product manager. They had mastered one area and that was the gimmick.  Everyone from the marketing team and also their promoter would get involved in the ideation for gimmick. They had developed a large set of vendors who had the capability of executing their ideas. With this they were able to grab complete attention of the doctor and create profound impact inside the clinic. They knew that with their meager promo budget they just can’t afford to do all the conventional things that the whole industry does. They made their mark by channelizing their resources in one single area.

While all your competitors are busy being jack of all trade by diffusing their resources too thin, you choose to master one. And this is how you are taking your brand to the level of sustainable competitive advantage. You don’t get sustainable competitive advantage when you start doing something new because if it works, the whole industry will start copying it. And it will no more remain sustainable. But when you create competitive advantage for yourself by stopping to do something, competition finds it extremely hard to emulate you as it involves stopping doing something that they had been doing since ages.

Whenever I have discussed about this with marketers, most of them don’t want to give it a second thought. There are few who agree with me at conceptual level, but don’t want to take the risk of upsetting the apple cart.

In final analysis it is not the knowledge of principles of strategy and marketing that gets you the results. You get the results only when you take action on the basis of these principles. It calls for a high degree of conviction and unshakable courage.

 “I have a complete conviction on what you say, but I have to take into consideration the mindset of my field.” This is the response I sometimes hear.

I have just one thing to say. If you have the desired conviction, you have to spend time with your sales team, put your arm around them, influence them and align them. Whether it is external customer or internal customer, as a marketer is it not our job to influence their minds?

Do you have any personal experience where you did something similar to what we discussed and it paid off? Please share, I would love to hear it from you.

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