Diary of a CMO: What is The Blueprint for Brand Growth?

It’s the newest thinking from Kantar that solves the chicken and egg dilemma of marketing.
02 July 2024
Mary Kyriakidi

Global Thought Leader, Brand Guidance

Do attitudes drive sales? Or is it that sales drive behaviours that drive more sales?

Let’s fast forward to early September when iPhone 16 will have just launched. I’ll re-enact two versions of the same event:

Version #1: I am happily queuing for iPhone 16, it’s more premium than my current device and I’ve got to have it. 

Version #2: I’ve been queuing for two hours, and I finally got iPhone 16 in my hands. It must be better than the one I’ve got. 

If real-life purchasing mirrors the latter version, a marketing team shouldn’t spend time or resources building a brand’s perceptions. Despite voices of protest from top academics in marketing, this is a doctrine our industry has heavily embraced over the last decade. 

Behind it was Byron Sharp and his team at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute. Radical and fresh in equal measure, their thinking swept us all off our marketing feet. Their findings urged us to make our brands available everywhere – in the mind, on the shelf, online - and shower them with their own distinctive assets, then they’d be chosen by consumers. Penetration was celebrated as a totem of growth, a claim that our Kantar data also certified and further quantified: “If you grow 1 penetration point, then you have had a good year.”, our reposted announcement read.  

So, big brands are big, but what really defines growth? One could only uncover this truth by analysing data over time, rather than at a fixed point. 

Marketing thinking is forever evolving.

“The trouble with market research” David Ogilvy once said, “is that people don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.” If you one-dimensionally rely on shopper or consumer panels for instance, you go looking for trouble as your market research results will contain some, but not all, elements of the truth. 

So, what did we do? We used attitudinal data from BrandZ telling us what people think and feel and behavioural data from Worldpanel showing us what people buy, what they actually do. By merging these two complementing datasets, Kantar scientists proved that the highest penetration today doesn’t guarantee future market share gains, it’s rather a favourable equity/size dynamic that does. They concluded that brands with more equity today than expected given their brand size are primed to grow…and grow faster. That penetration is an outcome (and not the single route to growth), that salience is a requirement (but not the only one), and that mental and physical availability are simply table stakes. These findings, that were the fruit of an analysis of more than 40,000 brands – more brands ever researched by an organisation in one go - put brand perceptions back at the heart of the marketing effort. 

Brands with more equity today than expected given their brand size (Future Power) are primed to grow and to grow faster. 



So, what’s the secret behind a brand destined to grow?

The average marketer has come to grips with people’s indifference to brands and likely has Sarah Carter’s ‘consumers don’t give a sh*t’ Post-it note on their (home)desk. A reality that is somewhat tricky to reconcile with their company’s presumed prerogative for growth and their own personal ambition for professional success. 

Cue Kantar’s Blueprint for Brand Growth diagram and the snapshot of findings that derive from examining brands from the consumer perspective. ‘Be meaningfully different to more people’ the large font provocation on the royal blue background reads. Because when people have strong, mental connections with your brand, they are more likely to buy it (again and more frequently), possibly even for a higher price. This is our growth driver and what the world’s strongest brands tend to have in common.


We’ve observed that their CMOs then tend to engage in three interconnected activities – our growth accelerators - that make the biggest difference: These are:

1. Predispose More People: Invest in advertising and experiences and give your brand a head start in the race to the sale. 
2. Be More Present, make your brand easier to choose…and convert that predisposition into profitable sales. 
3. Find New Space: Address more customer needs, appeal to more usage occasions, or gauge the possibility of opening new categories…then incremental growth will come. 


Don’t let gravity hold you back.

“Growth is rarely hostage to the marketplace” as our all-encompassing savant, J. Walker Smith, has counselled time and again, advising brands to concentrate on doing the right things instead of waiting for the marketplace to correct itself. A counsel that our BrandZ data has been unfailingly corroborating since 2006: strong brands not only outperform the rest and better improve margins for their shareholders, but they also weather any financial storm with greater aplomb. 

Admittedly, the growth paths can’t be identical for all - for many it will involve manoeuvring across macroeconomic factors, their country and category particulars. Still, there are behavioural traits that can contribute to success throughout. We have identified three - being Consistent, Connected and Optimised - that serve as critical enablers for every CMO managing a brand, at every stage, in every sector. 

The Diary if a CMO is born. 

For the next few months, we will raise and answer everyday challenges faced by the modern marketer. The stories narrated in our ‘Diary of a CMO’ will help you navigate through our most recent data discoveries and prompt you to make objective data-led decisions for your business. To follow though, you don’t need to resolve the chicken and egg dilemma of our header. Simply hold dear Sir John Hegarty’s words: “A brand is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world, a corner of someone’s mind.” Meaning that brand perceptions matter and they can most certainly trigger purchases.  

To understand how our insights and strategies can propel your brand to the top, Blueprint for Brand Growth page.

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