Insights | January 20, 2019

Are You a Brand Builder or a Product Pusher?

Every business owner wants to build a brand that enjoys long-term success, but chasing short-term results can set your marketing back more than you may realize.

By Braden Douglas

When I ask this question to owners and marketers, they all want to say Brand Builder. It’s the more noble option in their minds. Just like a used car salesman doesn’t like the reputation that goes with their job, marketers want to be associated with brand building and not pushing products onto consumers.

The truth is, not every business needs a Brand Building strategy. Most should but not all. More interestingly, owners and marketers don’t usually realize when they’re operating like a Product Pusher. The need for short-term results clouds their decision making and they fall into the trap of being driven by the demands of retailers, distributors, sales team or brokers who want immediate sales. These decisions don’t reflect negatively in the short-term and so the erosion of brand equity and brand affinity with consumers is not usually noticed.

Here’s how to know the difference between the two styles:

Brand Builder vs. Product Pusher

  • Purpose Driven vs. Profit Focused
  • Would change the product to meet its purpose vs. Change their purpose to match the product
  • Provides solutions to consumer needs vs. Provides solutions to consumer wants
  • Long-term equity-building vs. Short-term revenue gains
  • Focused on loyalty vs. Focused on trial
  • Invest in knowing their customer vs. Implementing on gut feel
  • Tactics build advocates vs. Tactics drive awareness

There are some cases where Product Pushing strategies are needed, but these should be for specific short-term objectives and shouldn’t be relied on to achieve long-term results. The addiction to the Push strategy can be difficult to break too if you start to build capabilities to a specific volume amount. Once this occurs, price discounting, deeper feature prices and coupon activity start to become regular tactics. I remember at Frito Lay when “3 for $5” deals on Lay’s chips were like crack to the sales team and retailer. They loved the burst in volume, but it started to devalue the brand and train consumers to only buy when it was on a deal. Breaking that habit took a lot of courage and some pain but the stronger brand position and emphasis on long-term profitability was much better for the company.

You know when a Brand Building strategy is working when demand is sustained and growing while price remains stable or even when prices rise. Word-of-mouth and referrals become the dominant source of leads and new customer acquisition. You also start to see consumers using your brand and wanting to be associated with it, typically through social media. Authentic and organic market demand is the holy grail of marketing.

Being a Brand Builder takes an intentional strategy that needs buy-in from all major stakeholders within the firm. It’s a longer-term strategy to build equity that creates organizational value and will enable new products to have a greater chance of success. Product Pushing can be fine for some but just know the trade-offs you’re making.

Talk to me or CREW if you want to go deeper on Brand Building strategies. It’s what we love.