Competition, believe it or not, can be good for your brand. Competition tends to broaden a category, which increases the size of the market. The more companies there are out there promoting a category, the more convinced people become that they need that product category. From there, it is up to you differentiate your product and aim squarely and psycho-graphically for your target. And one more thing: If your quality is better than the competition’s, you have got a good shot at winning back the customers who defected, anyway.
The holy grail of brand leadership that you are searching for can only be attained by owning a category. If you are the leading brand; the best competitive strategy is to fight competing categories, not competing brands. Your goal is to own a category. The ultimate value of a brand is directly related to whether or not it stands for a category. Lowe’s has encroached upon Home Depot’s territory in recent years, and Home Depot no longer stands for the category “home improvement warehouse.” Home Depot is struggling.
Brand strength depends on category strength. Long-term opportunities lie in categories, not brands. That is why it is important to promote the category. Do not just promote your brand. If people decide they no longer want high-end coffee, Starbucks brand loses much of its brand equity, and will have to dramatically diverge or die. But Starbucks, wisely, continues to promote the category—the high-end coffee experience. But be prepared: Over time, some categories die. The brandscape is littered with dead categories.
If the category is dead, create a new one.
Thought is the catalyst of change. Launch a new brand with the goal of shaping behavior and introducing new thinking. The marketplace changes so rapidly that fresh insight is currency.
Be a thought leader. Contribute new thoughts to your industry. Infuse old processes with innovative ideas and have the confidence to promote them. Thought leadership engages consumers and motivates them to listen to you.
Thought leadership is a vital driver of brand leadership, and ultimately, of business success. The brand that maintains thought leadership rules its market niche. In an information-driven economy, the thought leaders will be The Leaders.
How fast is a brand supposed to grow? Brand growth usually takes patience and steadfast dedication to purpose. Brands that take off at warp speed often burn out, lose relevance and turn out to be fads. (Seen any Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers lately?) Properly executed and managed, brands can evolve over time to become more dominant. Slow-growing hardwood trees outlive fast-growing softwood trees.