A Comparative Analysis of Kantar’s “Blueprint for Brand Growth” and Byron Sharp’s “How Brands Grow”

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Introduction

Note: I used the analytic capabilities of two AI tools (ChatGPT 4, Perplexity.Ai) to support my comparison.

Brand growth remains a pivotal objective and concern for marketers and CMOs. Two significant works that provide a roadmap for growing brands are Byron Sharp/Jenni Romaniuk’s “How Brands Grow” (HBG) and the new Kantar’s “Blueprint for Brand Growth”. The first is probably the research/book that has influenced marketing the most, in the last decade. It definitely has influenced my marketing methodology.

This article summarises Kantar’s blueprint and compare it with HBG’s principles, highlighting their similarities and differences. It is not a tentative to judge the two methodologies; the post starts purely from my personal desire to understand the new work and compare it with HBG, which remains for me a seminal moment of personal marketing growth and education.

Summary of Kantar’s “Blueprint for Brand Growth”

Kantar’s “Blueprint for Brand Growth” offers a comprehensive guide for CMOs to drive brand growth. It emphasises one growth driver and three main growth accelerators:

  • Be Meaningfully Different to More People: This growth driver highlights the importance of creating a unique value proposition that resonates with a broader audience. It stresses that brands need to be distinctive and relevant to stand out in the competitive market.
  • Predispose More People: This accelerator involves building strong, positive mental associations with the brand to increase its attractiveness and predisposition among potential buyers. Kantar suggests that understanding and enhancing brand equity can lead to sustainable growth.
  • Be More Present: This accelerator focuses on ensuring the brand is available and visible across various channels. It encompasses optimizing product range, distribution, pricing, and promotion to capture consumer attention and facilitate purchase.
  • Find More Space. This accelerator is about exploring and leveraging new avenues for brand growth. This involves identifying unmet needs, entering new categories, and expanding into new geographic markets. The goal is to extend the brand’s footprint and relevance in ways that resonate with existing and potential consumers. Win in these new spaces through Meaningfully Different Innovation, expanded distribution, and communications.
Source: Kantar’s Blueprint for Brands Growth

Kantar integrates attitudinal and behavioural data to provide actionable insights and supports its framework with data analytics and case studies. The blueprint also considers macroeconomic factors and market dynamics, offering a tailored approach to different brand contexts.

Comparison with “How Brands Grow”

Byron Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” presents a different, though complementary, perspective on brand growth. Sharp’s principles are grounded in empirical research and focus on broad marketing laws that apply across categories. Here are the main similarities and differences I’ve found between the two frameworks:

Similarities

Focus on Market Penetration:

  • HBG: Emphasises that brand growth is primarily driven by increasing market penetration, i.e., attracting more buyers. Reaching light and non-buyers is key. Quoting Andrew Ehrenberg: “Your customers are mostly other brands’ customers who occasionally buy you”. It’s often naively hoped that investing in current customers might bring greater return than seeking to expand the customer base. Actually, it works exactly the other way.
  • Kantar: Also acknowledges the importance of market penetration, stressing the need to attract more category buyers to grow market share.

Mental and Physical Availability:

  • HBG: Argues that brands grow by increasing their mental and physical availability, ensuring they are easy to buy and easy to think of.
  • Kantar: Similarly focuses on being more present, which includes enhancing physical availability and ensuring the brand is top-of-mind through meaningful differentiation.

Importance of Data:

Both frameworks heavily rely on data to derive insights and guide marketing strategies. Kantar merges attitudinal and behavioural data, while HBG uses empirical evidence from various categories.

Differences

Concept of Brand Differentiation:

  • HBG: Questions the traditional notion of differentiation, suggesting that most brands within a category are more similar than different. He argues that distinctiveness (using brand assets) is more important than being different.
  • Kantar: Emphasises meaningful differentiation as a critical driver of growth. Kantar believes that brands must be perceived as different and relevant to gain a competitive edge.
Source: Kantar’s Blueprint for Brand Growth

Strategic Approach:

  • HBG: Advocates for adherence to universal marketing laws and suggests that brands should focus on increasing penetration through consistent marketing efforts that build mental and physical availability.
  • Kantar: Offers a more tailored approach, considering the specific context and category of the brand. Kantar’s blueprint provides a flexible framework that adapts to different market conditions and brand situations.

Growth Accelerators:

  • HBG: Does not explicitly outline growth accelerators but focuses on broad principles like maintaining and improving mental and physical availability.
  • Kantar: Identifies specific growth accelerators such as predisposing more people, being meaningfully different and finding new spaces for growth. Kantar’s approach is more prescriptive in operationalising growth strategies.

Comparative Analysis in Relation to Company Size

Brand growth strategies can vary significantly based on the size of the company. Both Kantar’s “Blueprint for Brand Growth” and Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” provide frameworks for growth, but their applicability and effectiveness can differ for small companies vs. large enterprises. This section will highlight the similarities and differences in their methodologies with a focus on company size.

Similarities

Emphasis on Market Penetration:

  • Small Companies: Both methodologies stress the importance of increasing market penetration. For small companies, this means attracting new customers and expanding their reach.
  • Large Enterprises: The focus remains on growing market share by attracting more category buyers, although the strategies might involve more extensive and varied marketing activities. Specifically, based on Kantar’s Blueprint, while small brands grow mainly by converting category buyers, big brands have more potential in growing existing buyers and bringing new buyers into the category
Source: Kantar

Importance of Data-Driven Decisions:

  • Small Companies: Utilising data to make informed decisions is crucial for both methodologies. Small companies can benefit from data insights to identify growth opportunities and optimize their limited resources.
  • Large Enterprises: Large companies can leverage extensive data analytics to refine their strategies and maintain their competitive edge, aligning with both Kantar’s and HBG’s emphasis on data.

Focus on Mental and Physical Availability:

  • Small Companies: Ensuring that the brand is mentally and physically available is critical for small businesses to build recognition and accessibility.
  • Large Enterprises: Large companies need to continuously maintain and enhance their mental and physical availability to remain top-of-mind and easily accessible for consumers.

Differences

Approach to Brand Differentiation:

Small Companies:
  • Kantar: Stresses the importance of being meaningfully different to stand out in a crowded market. For small companies, this differentiation can help create a niche and attract a loyal customer base.
  • HBG: Suggests that differentiation is less critical than distinctiveness. Small companies should focus on building distinctive brand assets that make them easily recognizable.
Large Enterprises:
  • Kantar: Continues to emphasise meaningful differentiation, which helps large brands maintain their market leadership and prevent commoditisation.
  • Sharp: Large enterprises should concentrate on maintaining distinctiveness and broad appeal rather than deep differentiation.

Growth Strategies and Resource Allocation:

Small Companies:
  • Kantar: Recommends tailored strategies that focus on the specific context and category of the brand. Small companies should prioritize areas where they can make the most impact with limited resources.
  • HBG: Advocates for adherence to broad marketing principles, suggesting small companies focus on increasing penetration through consistent marketing efforts.
Large Enterprises:
  • Kantar: Offers a more flexible framework that can be adapted to different market conditions. Large enterprises have the resources to pursue multiple growth accelerators simultaneously.
  • HBG: Encourages large enterprises to continue focusing on market penetration and maintaining mental and physical availability, leveraging their extensive marketing budgets.

Focus on Brand Building vs. Performance Marketing:

Small Companies:
  • Kantar: Emphasizes the need for small companies to balance brand-building activities with performance marketing to build long-term brand equity while achieving short-term sales goals.
  • HBG: Suggests that small companies should not over-rely on performance marketing but rather build a strong brand presence that naturally drives sales.
Source: Kantar
Large Enterprises:
  • Kantar: Advises large companies to integrate brand-building and performance marketing efforts, ensuring that both long-term equity and short-term sales targets are met.
  • HBG: Recommends that large enterprises maintain a steady focus on brand building to sustain long-term growth and leverage their established market presence.
Source: Kantar

Adaptability and Flexibility:

Small Companies:
  • Kantar: Provides a detailed and adaptable framework that small companies can customise based on their unique challenges and market conditions.
  • HBG: Emphasises a more uniform approach based on universal marketing laws, which may require small companies to adapt these principles to fit their specific context.
Large Enterprises:
  • Kantar: Offers flexibility in applying different growth accelerators, allowing large companies to experiment and adjust their strategies based on extensive data and market feedback.
  • HBG: Promotes a consistent application of marketing laws, which large enterprises can implement broadly across their diverse product lines and markets.

Conclusions

Both Kantar’s “Blueprint for Brand Growth” and Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” offer valuable insights into the mechanisms of brand growth. While Sharp provides a broad, empirical foundation for understanding how brands grow, Kantar offers a detailed, data-driven approach tailored to specific brand contexts.

While both Kantar’s “Blueprint for Brand Growth” and Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” provide valuable insights into brand growth strategies, their applicability varies with company size. Small companies can benefit from Kantar’s tailored, differentiation-focused approach and Sharp’s emphasis on penetration and distinctiveness. Large enterprises, on the other hand, can leverage Kantar’s flexible framework and Sharp’s consistent principles to maintain and grow their market presence. By understanding these nuances, companies can better align their growth strategies with their specific needs and market conditions.

By combining the strengths of both frameworks, marketers can develop a comprehensive strategy that leverages meaningful differentiation, broadens market penetration, and ensures consistent brand presence. This holistic approach can help brands navigate complex market dynamics and achieve sustainable growth.

References

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