Recent brand research report by Global Communication Group Young & Rubicam revealed that these days consumers are increasingly less loyal to a brand that they used to be before (the percentage of brands that consumers consider trustworthy plunged from 52 percent in 1997 to 22 percent in 2008). The report indicated that consumer are more willing to switch to a new brand if they are offer something that is of a novelty or with a higher benefit.
The business world is changing more than ever. Leading brands are still holding their positions for a long time but the opportunity for challengers to take market share is more open. The issue is whether they can make the most of their competitive advantages to grab this opportunity.
There have been some proven strategies that can make sense.
Create a new category
The law of category says that if you can’t be the first in a category, set up a new category that you will be the first in (22 immutable laws in branding written by Al Ries & Jack Trout).
When first store of Subway was opened in 1965, Mc Donald has operated for nearly 20 years and the most powerful market leader in fast-food chain globally. in 2011, Subway officially surpassed Mc Donald in terms of number of store (33,749 vs 32,737). This remarkable achievement is attributed to Subway’s prudent competitive strategy. In stead of competing directly with the giant in providing hamberger, Subway originated “fresh” submarine sandwich that is normally made in front of customers. This “new category of hamberger” is served in non-traditional and unusual locations like appliance stores, zoos, high schools or automobile showrooms.
In Vietnam, Pho is a special Vietnamese delicacy that is conventionally served in humble eateries or event in open-air cells in any sidewalk. Pho 24, by contrast, is served in well-furnished restaurants approaching people who enjoy eating in a good amenities. This new brand marked a new concept of Pho eating and become the leader in this submarket.
To be the leader in a submarket
The notion of being the leader in a submarket is to capitalize on the most competitive PODs that make brand unique and stand out. It is noticeable that being the leader in a submarket rather than in a niche market that is somewhat ignored by leading brands. The brand owner need to make sure that they have sustainable PODs that can protect their market share from leading brands’ attack.
You want to improve your English and you are looking for a foreign English language centre in Vietnam? you are easily exposed to leading names such as Apollo, Langua Link or British Council. Have you ever heard about ACET name? if you have not, no surprise at all. ACET is a unfamiliar name for majority of normal people in the general English language market. However, this brand is the top-of-mind brand for those who plans to go study oversea. This brand is renowned to be the best trainer of IELTS certificate that is inevitable to study in Universities of English-speaking countries. In other words, while ACET brand is a David in general English language market but they are genuinely a Goliat in a specific submarket.
Similarly, Honda is the market leader in Vietnam motorbike marketplace but Piaggio brand is taking the lead in the segment of high-class motorbike; Nokia is still holding the biggest market share in genegal. However, Blackberry is the top brand for businessmen and Iphone is the leader in smart phone segment.
The law of the opposite
Unless a brand is substantially powerful in resources, it is unwise to attack directly leading brands. And even a brand is physically superior to a leading well-established brand, that is hardly successful to break the consumer perception that you can do better.
In June 2011, new-born Vietnamese aircraft brand Air Mekong happened to be under the headline of newspaper. Reason? this brand was chosen by Hollywood golden couple Brad Pit & Angelia Jolie when they took a flight to Phu Quoc island on their family holiday. Why they did not use other aircrafts? what special is Air Mekong? very simple! . This brand’s business strategy is to provide non-stop flights on niche routes to remote areas (Phu Quoc island is one of them). Well done! they did a right thing – doing different is a good direction to challenge the market leader.
In today flat world, the competition is increasingly fierce. On the other hand, opportunity is open to everyone. The matter is how you are skillful in using your weapon no matter how big and how small you are.
Nguyen Duc Son
Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates