Breaking the rule and acting fast - Strategic Brand Management

The MBA example also illustrates another issue: to build a brand one must quickly reach the critical size to create barriers to entry (such as top-of-mind awareness). By breaking the two-year rule, Insead was able to produce twice as many graduates as a US school of the same size, and so to reach the critical size of alumni who act as its referees within companies in half the time.

Recently it made a strategic move by doubling the number of graduates produced per year, thus accentuating its market share and increasing its productivity (the number of students per professor). It also decided to capitalise on its now well-known brand to open a branch in Asia.

Many lessons should be drawn from the above examples:

  • The first is that all brands start by being non-brands, with zero awareness and image. However, they were based on an innovation that succeeded. Starting a brand means finding a disrupting innovation.
  • Second, creating a market is the best way to lead it. This is the well-known pioneer advantage. However, to be able to create a market, one must break free from the conventions and codes that create herdism in the marketplace.
  • Third, time is an essential ingredient of success. The winners start first and move fast so as to rapidly create a gap from the incoming competition.
  • Fourth, it is important to reach the critical size rapidly, to reinforce that gap from the competition. This creates more resources for advertising, communication and word of mouth.
  • Fifth, a brand is not a producer’s brand or a retailer’s, as is often heard in marketing circles: it is the customer’s brand.

A brand epitomises values, but as we know, value lies in the eyes of the beholder, the customer. It is essential to be market focused and ask, what is the value curve of the target? Then comes the question how to address this value curve better than the existing competition. The best way is to create a disruption (Dru, 2002), to break the conventions of the market.

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