This is the first of a series of weekly posts introducing key themes from the new brandbgym book, Grow the Core: How to Focus on Your Core Business for Brand Success. We start by looking at the question, "Why grow the core?"
Marketers have been told to "innovate or die". They've looked longingly at the spectacular success of Apple in stretching away from their core in computers to launch the iPhone, iPod and iPad. And there's not shortage of help on the subject, with 40,000+ books on Amazon about innovation.
So, why bother growing your core business?
Well, innovation might be the topic that grabs all the headlines and gets brand teams most excited. But when it comes to driving profitable growth, having a strong core business is the key to success. Research from Bain shows that the vast majority of "sustained value creators" focus on leadership in one core business (see below).
Growing your core makes what is strong even stronger, both in terms of your brand and business, and it does this without adding any complexity. A good example of this is the excellent work done by easyJet to improve on-time departures and introduce reserved seating
On the business side, growing the core increases economies of scale, as you are selling more of the same stuff. From an organisational standpoint, the company is honing the skills and competences where it is most effective. And from a brand view, you are refreshing and reinforcing the attributes that made you famous.
The risks of brand stretching
In contrast, stretching into new markets risks dilution of core brand equity as the brand has to communicate multiple benefits. It also creates fragmentation of the brand’s sales, with these being spread over a larger number of smaller products. It can also provoke a dangerous decline in the core business, owing to resources being diverted to support the ‘new toys’. Marketing budget is taken away from the core and the best talent in the team gets distracted from the core business.
The brand stretch graveyard is full with examples of brands unsuccessfully trying to stretch beyond the core, such as Levi's Suits, Axe/Lynx shavers and Cosmopolitan yoghurt.
How to grow the core
Grow the Core focuses on three drivers you can uses as a practical toolbox on your business.
The first driver is using distinctive marketing to create ‘fresh consistency’. Consistency comes from creating and amplifying distinctive brand properties that work as a unifying force. Freshness comes from waves of marketing activity that deliver ‘new news’, including communication, product and activation.
The second driver is increasing distribution to make the core avail- able in more places, using both existing and new channels. Importantly, these first two types of core growth both help you sell more stuff, ‘SMS’ for short. They require no additional products or services, but rather increase revenue from what you already have.
The third and final growth driver is core range extension, both through new packaging formats and products.
Look out for next week's post that will focus on the first of the core growth drivers, distinctive marketing.