Brand Religion


Shedding light on today’s marketing beliefs to build commercial tracking solution for brands today and tomorrow

The average lifespan of a company has dropped from 61 years in 1958 to a mere 15 years today. This reduction in lifespan can be attributed to the demanding environment brands and businesses are operating in. It is getting harder and harder for a brand to stand out. Brands are not only (more and more) limited in the use of claims, they are also under increased time pressure. They are being copied faster than ever, with these replicas even outperforming the originals. In this fast-pacing environment, established brands are being kicked off the throne by new market entrees.

So how can a brand avoid its own zombification, where just like zombies you may think your brand is alive but in fact it’s been long dead? Many books have been written capturing marketing theories, frame- works and models on how to create future-proof brands. Yet this abundance of visions and beliefs often results in two types of scenarios.

The first type consists of brands that are paralysed, which do not know what to do and as such are almost waiting for their own grave to be dug. The second type are the brands that are switching around panicking; they change frameworks as soon as someone comes along sharing a new set of beliefs or visions. Yet in this paradox of choice, focus is required.

Marketing visions and models bring this focus to brands and marketers. They provide them with a framework as for the drivers to grow their brands and on the dimensions and key performance indicators they should use to measure brand strength. Brands need to choose and follow what we like to call a religion. Because just like the definition of religion, we believe that brands should use these frameworks to guide them in everything they do and follow this with great devotion. If you ever took a course of marketing, you were probably introduced to the Philip Kotler’s principles. Think STP (Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning), the importance of differentiation and the creation of a USP (Unique Selling Proposition). He is the father of modern marketing and together with thinkers like Kevin Lane Keller, David Aaker… lay the foundation of what we could call the Classic Religion. And just like the classics in food and music, they are still of great value today. Many brands are still using their thinking as a framework to set up their marketing plans or branding strategies. Yet in this postmodern world we see that this Kotlerian thinking is challenged by new beliefs and visions which, as a matter of simplification, can be bundled in three main school of thoughts: the Penetration Religion, the Influencer Religion and the Relationship Religion.

  1. The Penetration Religion: This is a very recent school of thought inspired by Byron Sharp, professor of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia, who published How brands grow in 2010. The book and its sequel, published in 2015, introduce new marketing laws based on the analysis of behavioural and purchase data that challenge the Kotlerian marketing thinking.
    • Penetration is thy sole path to growth
    • Retention is an illusion
    • Thou shall treat all thy buyers as equal
    • Repeat repeat repeat
    • Thou shalt be everywhere

  2. The Influencer Religion: The Influencer Religion is the second school of thought to gain momentum in this post-modern world, especially since the rise of social media. The core idea is captured around the importance of influencer and word-of-mouth marketing and is inspired by books like Jonah Berger’s Contagious, Jennifer Aaker’s Dragonfly effect (who is in fact the daughter of David Aaker from the Classic Religion) and Steven Van Belleghem’s Conversation Company.
    • Conversations are thy sole path to growth
    • Though shall look for disciples
    • All thy activations should start with a conversation
    • Thou shalt create conversations with a purpose
    • Thou shall aim for positive recommendations

  3. Relationship Religions: The last school of thought, which we like to refer to as the Relationship Religion is inspired by Kevin Roberts, global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, who wrote Lovemarks and also by Susan Fournier’s work Consumer-brand relationships and by How Cool Brands Stay Hot by Joeri Van den Bergh, Managing Partner at InSites Consulting. Again, we will highlight five key beliefs that go hand in hand with this religion.
    • Put emotions at the core
    • Thou shall build a relationship with thy consumers
    • Thou shall craft thy DNA
    • Thou shall build to last
    • Though shall work for thy love

The pace at which change is colouring the business environment is faster than ever, putting brands under increased pressure to be better, faster and stronger. Yet in this world characterized by change, focus is needed. Marketing frameworks provide brands and marketers with this focus; a vision on what to emphasize and how to grow their brand. Although they are contradicting in some aspects, all religions have their truths. There is no right or wrong. The religion a brand should focus on depends on its focus, life stage, vision and view. Although a clear strategic focus is required, brands need to be careful not to be too rigid, as in time they may need to alter their strategy. To use the analogy of religions: extremism is dangerous. At InSites Consulting we do not stand behind one particular religion.

We have expertise in all these frameworks and as an agency we support our clients in their brand religion strategy, we build relevant commercial tracking solution that employ best in class techniques to meet your commercial need. We work with you to provide research solutions, methods and techniques in line with your focus. We think along and at times challenge our clients to make sure the right metrics are in place and the right techniques are used to measure brand strength and growth alongside the frameworks they use.

Want to learn more about which Brand Religion is right for you and which metrics go alongside this thinking? Let’s have a chat or organize a workshop with your team.

Download our brand religions paper here

Leave a comment