So, your item is in Walmart or other retailers, but sales growth isn’t what you’d hoped. Perhaps fewer shoppers are aware of your brand, or the competition is fierce, or your marketing budget is modest. In short, you’re not sure how your current marketing choices are working. Join the club—famed ad man John Wanamaker once said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half”.

A recent series of best-selling books titled How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp pierces the clutter, laying a course of action for brand owners and marketers worldwide. How Brands Grow is a manifesto for evidence-based marketing: building brands based on what works in practice, rather than what should work in marketing theory. Guest blogger Jim Hauskey of Happy Egg Co. shares his take on How Brands Grow, and his company’s experience applying the principles.

Sharp outlines seven evidence-based rules for unlocking growth with brand marketing…and he busts plenty of costly marketing myths in the process. We’re looking at you, segmentation, differentiation, reach-and-frequency, and brand personality.

Most people want relationships… I just want a burger that looks like the one in the commercials.

For example, there is little evidence consumers want ‘relationships’ with brands, or that brands should create ‘meaning’ in consumers’ lives. Brand commitment and brand loyalty are just wishful thinking, and brand positioning (in terms of creating a differentiated ‘brand personality’) may not drive results, based on evidence Sharp presents.

How Brands Grow  states that what works in branding is surprisingly simple:  Make your brand easy to buy. “Easy to buy’ means maximizing its physical availability and creating a memorable set of distinctive brand assets: sensory and semantic cues such as colors, packaging, logo, design, and tag lines that make the brand easy to like, memorize and recall.

Want loyalty? Get a dog.

One more lesson from scientific analysis of marketing data is that you don’t need to complicate your life with costly shopper retention/loyalty programs – because they don’t work and have no impact on growth.  Shopper loyalty is largely a myth. Consumers are at best promiscuous loyals who flit fickle-like between alternative rival brands based on availability. For example, 72% of Coke drinkers also buy Pepsi. Likewise for brand commitment – people buy brands out of habit, not commitment.

The evidence-led path to growth is simple. You’ll earn market penetration by getting more new brand users into the habit of purchasing your brand. And forget marketing designed to increase purchase frequency, it doesn’t work (Sharp says the difference in market share can nearly always be explained in terms of differences in market penetration, not purchase frequency).

Counter to what our marketing professors told us, we should focus not on current, heavy users, but on the light and occasional users who account for much of our sales and growth potential. These are the users we must steal from our competitors! The heavy users are already buying about as much of our brand as they can.

7 Rules for Brand Growth

How Brands Grow gives seven scientifically-derived rules for brand growth.

  1. Continuously reach all buyers of the category (communication and distribution) – avoid being silent
  2. Ensure the brand is easy to buy (communicate how the brand fits the user’s life)
  3. Get noticed (grab attention and focus on brand salience to prime the user’s mind)
  4. Refresh and build memory structures (look for and use existing links in consumers’ brains to make the brand easy to notice and easy to buy)
  5. Create and use distinctive brand assets (use sensory cues to get noticed and stay top of mind; examples: the brown color for UPS; the shape of KFC’s bucket; the “gong” at the end of every Taco Bell ad)
  6. Be consistent (avoid unnecessary changes, while keeping the brand fresh and interesting)
  7. Stay competitive (keep the brand easy to buy and avoid giving excuses not to buy — for instance, by targeting a specific group to the exclusion of others)

A Case Study for 
Evidence-Based Brand Growth

Happy Egg Company, a marketer of shelled eggs, uses these concepts to great advantage. The brand has an “always on” strategy with its in-store signing and digital advertising. The idea is to be seen by as many shoppers as possible, every day. Just about everyone buys or at least eats eggs; so, by staying visible to as many people as possible (high reach, but lower frequency) the company is building broad memory awareness of its brand – especially among buyers of the competition.

This egg brand has picked a few distinctive assets: its distinct yellow carton, unique name/logo, tagline, and the same strong, memorable claim in nearly every communication. They pound those assets home in every package, in-store sign, ad, PR event and even trade materials. Repetition builds memory structures in shoppers’ brains, which are easier to pull from when a shopper is standing in the egg aisle, ready to make a choice among other similar options.

Also, Happy Egg’s new ad campaign features people of various ages, demographics, personalities and interests. By keeping its potential shopper base visually wide, just about anybody can picture themselves as part of the brand. Again, this is counter to past marketing theory, which taught brands to zero in on a very-specific demographic target market and build a focused “relationship” with that shopper group. Science and market growth studies show this doesn’t grow brands.

Oh, and Happy Egg Co. is growing its brand revenue at a 60% clip over the last two years.

Our guest blogger, Jim Hauskey, is Director of Marketing at Happy Egg Co. in Rogers, Arkansas. Contact us today for a free consultation.