When I was a kid growing up, my dad was in advertising in NYC. He used to read Fortune, Forbes, Business Week and The Wall St. Journal. He called the Journal ‘the business Bible’.
That was then; this is now. My favorite business publication today is Fast Company. The current issue (June) features ‘The 100 most creative people in business’. It’s worth reading. Number 23 on the list is Sarah Robb O’Hagan. Aside from having a very long name, she’s also the current President of Gatorade.
HOW GATORADE MADE A BRAVE TRANSFORMATION.
In 2007, Gatorade was slumping. During maternity leave, Robb O’Hagan dug deep into the stats around current customers. She discovered that 15% were high school athletes. Marathoners and weekend warriors comprised another 7%. So that was just 22% of all customers. But here’s what truly mattered: those were the people that loved the brand the most.
Robb O’Hagan decided it was best to essentially ignore 78% of her base, and focus on the core evangelists. She repositioned the brand as one entirely devoted to ‘athletic prowess’. She went to her boss and said ‘We have to start saying no to a lot of stuff retailers are asking us to do, and that Wall St. is asking us to do, and we just have to serve the athlete and act like a sport-performance company.’ Her boss at Pepsi said yes. 2011 Gatorade sales exceeded $3 billion – up 9% from the prior year.
YOU HAVE TO FIND THE BEST SPECIFIC NICHE FOR YOUR BRAND.
Too many brands think they can sell to just about anyone. It may come down to basic psychology: everyone wants to be loved by as many people as possible. But if you want to succeed in today’s marketplace, you have to find your niche. And then you have to wrap that niche around your brand like a flag. And wear it proudly.
Start by determining who the core of your target really is. You’ll have to do some research. Talk with your most enthusiastic evangelists and see what they have to say. I mean really. Call them up, and ask. Reward them for their time, because this information is more valuable than you know. Use online surveys, too. Then build your strategy upon what you’ve learned.
It comes down to this: Do you want a brand that stands for something distinct and powerful? A personality people can be passionate about? So they tell their friends, and create something that thrives in the new social economy? Or would you rather have a brand platform that’s so general and safe that nobody will ever get too excited? It really is up to you.
In case you want to read it, here’s the link to the entire article on Sarah in Fast Company.