Traditional Brands as a Platform

Modern CMOs in more traditional organizations have the hardest job in business right now. Not only are they supposed to be the voice of the customer and expected to be up to date on the latest technology and behavioral trends, they are also solely in charge of growth for their brands and business. And growth for a traditional organization isn’t as easy as it seems.

  1. Current Offerings: As we’ve seen, the majority of industries is experiencing a flattening or decline in growth, leading to stalled or dying growth rates for many categories and brands. Pumping life into these brands is crucial to keep these businesses alive. After all, these very brands are the former successes that established many of these traditional organizations. 
  2. Category Innovation: Besides growth rates that are flatlining, there is a rise of insurgent brands, new business models and offerings nibbling away at valuable market share. It’s the CMOs job to identify innovations in their categories to fend off these insurgent brands and find incremental value and revenue to supplement the stalling brand growth. 

Put these two together and you have a nearly impossible challenge to overcome as a Modern CMO. What we usually see in these situations are knee-jerk reactions that fall back on old playbooks and strategies (i.e. incentivize products and spend money in advertising and media, add a variant to a current product to call it new, etc.). However, we’re seeing these tactics waning in success. 

Brand as a Platform Transformation for Growth

With the challenge above, we’ve seen tremendous success with traditional brands transforming into platforms versus products, services and advertising. This manifests itself into two categories of activity: Zero Waste Brand and Category Innovation. Both of which fall under the same spectrum of brand as a platform. 

Zero Waste Brand activity focuses on streamlining and optimizing activity around current brand offerings through the use of strategy and technology. 

Category Innovation focuses efforts on identifying white space needs from consumers and build holistic business models to solve for those needs, connecting product, service, customer support, retail and experience together in a way that fulfills the brand promise. 

These activities, working simultaneously will give traditional organizations the kickstart and sustained power to not only succeed in the near-term, but prepare for the always on long-term of the industry. 

Path to Brand as a Platform Transformation

Understand the Audience Needs & Trends

Knowing the audience is the most crucial aspect of any brand growth strategies, let alone transforming to a platform. The audience is not only the direct source of insight to hear about needs and wants, but is the creator of passive data to show you how they interact, consume and purchase products in your category.

  • Macro to Micro View: We need to not only see the high-level trends across our audience segments, but we also need to know how our loyalists, first time buyers and defectors interact with our brands and category.
  • White Space Development: Armed with a new view of the audience, we can find any white space needs that might be forming for the audience. This could be pain points in retail or distribution, customer service, complexity in purchase, etc. These areas of white space are the opportunities for brand growth. 
  • Technology Trends: Brand growth success lies at the intersection of audience, service and technology. We have to not only know what technology is doing now, but we have to be able to see what’s coming. Ray Kurzweil made a career out of this thinking. He built his ideas for the technology that will be here in 18 months, not for the technology that is here today. To stay ahead of the game, we have to stay ahead of trends.  

Map the Consumer Journey

Understanding the audience and trends is one thing, knowing how they currently interact with products and services in your category and their pain points is the next level in preparing for brand growth. Seeing a holistic map of what’s happening today and the ideal of what should be happening will give us the insight to make business decisions such as customer service, product development, technology implementation, etc. 

  • Current versus Ideal: To find the gaps in the service or relationship we need to have a clear view of what is currently happening. Then we need to match that against what the consumer truly wants.
  • Find Efficiencies & Waste: This exercise gives us the knowledge to find immediate opportunities to reduce or remove waste from the journey and eliminate any inefficiencies in our current processes. 
  • Optimize the Journey: Once we remove the waste from the system, we can build a roadmap of optimization to continually close the gaps in our customer journey. This also gives us the opportunity to find incremental value opportunities within the journey and audience needs.

Build a Roadmap for Tech Stack Implementation

The gaps in the user journey, fixing inefficiencies and to capitalize on new value opportunities will require the successful implementation of the right technology stack. This stack will be a combination of back-end infrastructure and data to remove barriers of friction and optimize interactions and relationships as well as front-end experiences to further engage the consumer making it easier to do business with your brands. The appropriate tech stack will evolve over time, but should be a strategy that allows you to realize short-term gains while preparing for long term success. 

  • Identify Tech Debt and Tech Gaps: The biggest opportunity for technology to make an immediate impact is to close the gaps in the consumer journey. If a transaction is too hard for a consumer or if customer service is hard to get, we can look to technology to remove these barriers for immediate successes while preparing for the long term.
  • Legacy, New or Borrowed: When building out the appropriate tech stack, we will run into legacy systems, processes and thinking. The appropriate stack will include a combination of legacy, new build or borrowed technologies, all working together to fulfill the brand across the holistic user journey. 
  • Short Term versus Long Term Roadmap: The great thing about the right use of technology is that it can create immediate gains for your brand or business. The successes it creates can, in effect, create incremental revenue to reinvest back into the tech roadmap. When crafting your tech stack roadmap, you should find those quick win opportunities to create reinvestable opportunities for long term growth. 

It’s never too late for traditional brands to make the transformation to a platform, but it does require a new process and new way of thinking. But as we’ve seen, the successes far outweigh the costs in terms of short term successes and long term growth. And the Modern Day CMOs can combat their impossible challenge with focused effort on optimizing the user experience through strategy and technology. 


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