How brands (like Optimel) grow

Optimel has been in existence for almost 20 years. It is a successful dairy drink in a tough market. A market in which innovation is very important to remain successful.

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How Brands Grow | Blauw Research

To give the brand a boost, Optimel and Blauw began to work together on the How Brands Grow concept of Byron Sharp, to gain clarity about what Optimel should invest in to continue to grow as a brand.

Why Byron Sharp?

'How Brands Grow' is a controversial book. It contains things which clash with what we learned about marketing (Kotler) and how we practise marketing. It takes a bit of getting used to. But once you've read the book, you can't ignore it.

Here are a number of highlights from the book:

So much about loyalty: Customers are loyal, but not necessarily monogamous. So don't invest in loyal customers, but in new customers.

Growth is in the long tail: Focus on non-customers and light users. That is to say, the light users group is much bigger than the heavy users group.

Waste is not waste: Don't select, but go for the greatest possible range in one go. Don't worry too much about waste. Try not to reach a specific target group as often as possible, but the largest possible group at least once.

Be distinct, not different: Brands are similar, so go for familiarity. It is not wrong to be better, or different to your competitors (it just doesn't work out that often, brands are very similar to each other in people's eyes), but the most important criterion is: is it distinctive?

Here, you see all the same birds, but one is instantly distinguishable. It isn't any different; it's distinctive because it's doing something different.

I love my mum most: Naturally, you love your mum the most in the world, because she is YOUR mother. That's also how it works with brands. The brand that you use is the one you value the most. Attitude follows behaviour, not usually the other way around.

Physical availability

Byron Sharp also talks about physical and mental availability. In terms of physical availability, as a brand you must ensure that there are as a many opportunities as possible to purchase your brand and as few barriers as possible. Make it easy to buy. That sounds very logical, like an open door, but it isn't. Because a whole bunch of brands think (or thought) that they didn't need to be listed in Action, because that harmed their image.

Mental availability

Mental availability is all about how you sit in the mind of the consumer. It revolves around two components:

  • Distinctive Brand Assets: brand elements (meaningless in itself) which people specifically link to your brand (logo, colour, jingle, shape, font etc.). Major brands have more and/or stronger and more unique brand elements.
  • Customer Entry Points: say 4 o'clock, say… cup-a-soup. Better not explained. CEPs are moments, situations, to which you want to be linked as a brand, moments at which you want them to think of you.

Optimel: from theory to practice

Marieke Rentmeester (Optimel and Vifit brand leader): “It is 'getting used to' discovering that your brand is actually just like other brands. You try to derive your common purpose and so on from a unique proposition and a unique target group.

At Optimel, the assumption was that our Light users had a different profile to heavy users. But they weren't so different, especially in terms of their attitude toward sugar, fat and sweeteners, for example.”

“And branding became a bit of a dirty word within the organisation. Now we focus heavily on it. The brand and the brand elements must be in sharp focus, and they are even incorporated into people's personal objectives. Because we discovered that our brand assets are linked to the brand much less uniquely than we thought.”

This happens when you let people draw an Optimel pack without an example:

A confrontational exercise to check how your brand sits in the mind of the consumer.

This clearly showed 0% every time. Furthermore, the definitive significance of this changed, 0% fat, 0% sugar, 0% = did not fluctuate…

The 0% is therefore definitely a brand asset, but it was evident from further research that this was also strongly linked to other brands, which copied or stole that 0%.. This means that you can never communicate your 0% independently, without your brand name or other assets, otherwise you are advertising your competitors.

The ‘T’ in the logo was a surprise. Optimel had never viewed this as a true brand asset, but it became evident from research that this asset has much more potential. People sometimes stood up spontaneously to imitate that T, the movement of the puppet.

This analysis also exacerbated the portfolio discussion in terms of to the position of Vifit and Optimel (two Friesland Campina brands) in relation to each other. In terms of brand assets, they are very close to each other and also to the consumer; these brands are more or less the same.

Customer Entry Points: looking at the brand differently

As a marketeer you always focus on: core values, positioning, image etc. That's also important but a great advantage of Byron Sharp is that you view your brand differently. Looking at Customer Entry Points is the way to ensure renewed growth, the route to giving your brand a boost. In the case of Optimel, there existed a long list of moments and situations which consumers link to the brand. At first, they were not so happy about this... because that means there is no specific moment that the consumer links to Optimel.

So is their positioning not keen enough? If you look at it from Kotler's point of view: are they a grey mouse, stuck-in-the-middle? No, Optimel appears mainstream. Stuck in the middle is nothing, and mainstream is just enough. A few of these entry points were nevertheless placed centrally to commercials and advertisements. For example, Optimel is now going to place more emphasis on certain snacking occasions.

Byron Sharp's insights provide a new boost to Optimel's growth.

The concept has an impact at all levels. Just look:

  • Macro: Do the rules in the book also apply to the Optimel brand, their category, their market? Yes.
  • Meta: Look differently at your brand, at marketing. Not stuck in the middle, but luck in the middle. Branding is important again.
  • Strategic: With the entry points, Vifit and Optimel are now better distinguished from each other.
  • Tactical: More focus on entry points when it comes to positioning. Optimel is investing in building a few brand assets, such as that T.
  • Operational: Optimel checks all advertisements closely for brand assets.