Accidental Success in the Market


I remember going to the road safety centre when I was in primary school and learning about safe driving. They said,

“There’s no such thing as an accident. We call them car crashes because they are always a result of someone’s mistake. Car crashes don’t just happen by accident.”

In a recent discussion, it was suggested to me that a particular brand had done well in  China “by accident”. The considerable success of the brand in question was not due to the actions taken by the brand team and the rest of the company in executing a focused plan to enter that marketplace. Rather, the brand and its team had been successful purely because consumers had come to the producer’s home region and pulled the product through.

It was clearly my colleague’s position that the brand’s team could not take the credit for their own success; that somehow the credit belonged to clever resourceful intermediaries recognising an opportunity in the market and playing the arbitrage. In this theory clever and resourceful micro entrepreneurs sought the brand out and resolved its effective distribution.

To say it was a point of contention would be an understatement.

You know what I say? Bravo!

Their brand and product clearly offered a solution to a consumer problem so effectively that the consumer sought them out and went to lengths to place them in a market where the company had limited access or distribution. In this instance the success was so great that it created a supply challenge.

Brand success doesn’t happen by accident. Success happens when intent, purpose and value all work together consistently and authentically to meet a need. Brand success is the result of clear messaging, which occurs through trustworthy, reliable and consistent behavior.

Sure, sometimes aligning of consumer trends with product offers can help boost profile, but the original offer has to resonate to have any chance of achieving this brand’s level of success.

In the same way, brand failure is often the result of not watching the road, or focusing too much effort racing the guy in the next lane, while tuning the radio, eating a hamburger, and checking your makeup in the mirror all at the same time. It’s no surprise – and no accident – when it all ends in a crash.

Asymmetry, Hyperconnectedness and the Elevator Pitch


We are moving into a fundamentally different world. The inherent asymmetry of market relationships is being hyper activated in this many-to-many world. It is our argument that this is a really big event in the function of market economies, just as the same emerging technologies are radically challenging the political landscape of democracies and dictatorships alike.

For enterprises and brands to be able to succeed in the new world order it will require real change to the internal distribution of authority. Everyone has a set of rules that inform their choices and decision-making. This is as true in business as it is in all other aspects of life. We are making claim for the role of the old-fashioned elevator pitch as the center of a brand’s rule set. And its essential value is not its extensiveness, but rather its purity.

The well-known elevator pitch has been a standard tool for marketing teams for years. Don’t know it? It goes like this:

You step into an elevator and bump into the CEO of a potential major client. You have the opportunity to present your offer. Could you succinctly communicate the core of your offer and your brand in the time it takes to ride the elevator up a few floors?

That is the elevator test, and as legend goes you need to be able to pass it, because if you don’t understand the core value of your brand’s offer, then how will anyone else? And why will they choose you over your competitors? The purpose of the elevator pitch has been to craft communication to the consumer, to hook them in to wanting to know more and to show you have a wealth of substance bubbling beneath.

The value of the elevator pitch, is that it uniquely defines your brand as the resolution to the consumer’s need. For the right consumer, the language, colour, form and content of every aspect of your brand should resonate deeply and positively. Your brand’s elevator pitch is what makes them all resonate and ensures that there is no dissonance in the signals your consumer interprets.

So far, and so good, but what makes this anything other than the old marketing trope?

  1. To begin with almost no one ever executes properly, and like the SWOT analysis its use is often abuse
  2. Most importantly though, in a world of social media, brands now live in a metaphorical elevator of entirely unpredictable exchanges

Back in the day, a brand lived in a one-to-many world where the central planning brand god could design a coordinated representation of every aspect of the brand’s core values. Now, in our many-to-many world of #independencesquare and #insertyoursuckybrandhere campaigns, a successful CEO simply can’t be a control freak. That consumer comment that became a campaign won’t stop while you workshop your response. And without a brand control mechanism a decentralized structure can see an ill-advised response from a customer service officer write off decades of goodwill.

The essential statement that passes the elevator test enables a brand’s responsiveness to the unexpected encounter with the consumer. Success depends on more than an immediate response; it requires a response that is consistent with the values and intentions of the brand. A widely and completely understood statement of what makes your brand unique allows the frontline managers of your brand to make coherent and timely decisions. This is the secret value of the elevator pitch.

Asymmetry is not a bug, it is an essential characteristic of the market economy that has only been heightened in our hyper connected world. A brand and a business strategy should fit hand in glove. Too often though, the pressures of the day mean those who lead organisations are focused on ‘what must be done’ to keep up in the game. While in the act of coordinating all those decisions it is easy to lose focus on exactly what it is that makes your brand special to the only individual that matters.

Universally, every individual has a future state of being they intend to achieve. This is as true for buyers of tinned foods as it is for those interested in sports cars or professional services. Every individual acts on their intentions, and the attainment of those intentions requires them to resolve the constraints that act upon them. In doing so, the individual becomes a consumer.

A business’ brand and strategy both play a role in resolving the constraints of particular consumers. Every brand is defined in a unique response to the specific constraints of their own history and their present choices. For example, money is money and equities are equities yet no two pension or superannuation funds are alike. The shareholders of Aston Martin may wish to be as dominant as Porsche or Ferrari, however they are no more likely to produce a 911 Turbo than they are to produce a Transit van. This is a product of their essential values we perceive as brand.

The symmetry of commitment and power are defining characteristics of all relationships. The importance of that is no greater anywhere than in the free exchange of markets. Any consumer’s commitment is to their intention and almost never to a specific solution. By comparison, a business is committed to a specific solution defined by their intention and constraints. Business executives are committed to a ceaseless series of choices. What they do to allow for that moment of consumer choice is extraordinarily complex, and the value of all that activity is entirely dependent on that single act of consumer choice.

There is an inherent asymmetry to the relationship. In the entire history of the modern sports car a consumer has been able to consistently understand why you chose a Porsche or an Aston Martin. During that time it had next to nothing to do with type of carburetor or the location of the engine. And yet, the overwhelming demand on management is for focus on the detail of production. Nonetheless, if you can’t immediately describe the essence of your company’s unique resolution to constraints faced by a consumer you are bound to fail in that asymmetric relationship.

Young mums in Shanghai, the global head of manufacturing for Big Digger Inc., and a self-funded retiree all have unique constraints to the world they seek. We can’t ever know the specific subjective and relative basis for the choices they make. If we hope to win the asymmetric battle of attention we need to be able to describe the essence of our brand character in one fluid statement. If you can’t do that, why should those you seek to influence be able to do so? To sustain long-term success that statement needs to consistently inform every action undertaken by everyone who is a party to your brand. To carry out its essential function in a hyper connected world that single statement will capture almost all the value your brand ever offers.

Brand Design In The Baby Space


Marque’d continue to be involved in a number of baby and child focused brand and design projects. These projects present a special challenge in achieving trust and acceptance from the consumer. This is due to the highly sensitive and emotionally significant subject – the flourishing of one’s own child. The instincts of a parent to protect their child are eternal and the dominant consideration when shopping for consumables in areas such as food, personal care, toys and equipment. The risk associated with the wrong choice comes with severe consequences, so consumers – parents – are on high alert, looking for anything out of place, anything dissonant that might signify a warning. For the producer and designer, designing to visually appeal to the consumer is one thing, but one cannot assume that an attractive product or packaging alone will do the selling.

The internet is overflowing with forums and blogs about parenting, offering anecdotal evidence about what is best for babies and what parents should avoid. There is so much feedback from numerous channels and the pressure to perform as a good parent can be overwhelming. Parents look for ways to verify the safety and reliability of a product by word of mouth, especially recommendations from family and close friends; professional endorsement and, in the absence of these key references, retailer endorsement and the cues from the brand and product itself.

Parents research products before buying on brand websites, cross referencing websites, product reviews, and forums. A recent PeopleShop study conducted by ARC found that toys and baby food are THE most researched products with 83% of those surveyed believing that, “it’s really important to buy a brand you trust.” Parents will research product ingredients on where and how they are sourced; possible side effects and their link to rare genetic deficiencies; and whether they hold any intellectual advancement properties. While this might sound daunting for the producer, it also offers opportunity for transparency to your brand’s benefit – provided, of course, your product is in fact good for baby.

Place of manufacture often plays a role in reassuring customers that your product has been made to the highest safety standards. The reputation of some countries over others for the production of baby formula for example is taken very seriously. Bellamy’s Organic’s addition of the Made in Australia logo to their export baby formula packaging highlights the importance placed on this information especially in Asia and for the Chinese market in particular.

Australian Made & Owned full colour logo

ECO. Modern essentials have ranged face and body care products primarily for women up until this year when they extended their range to ECO.Baby. Though the core range has always sourced natural and organic ingredients with some products certified organic, ECO. chose to produce their baby range as exclusively organic, certified by the national organisation A.C.O. (Australian Certified Organic), offering to the consumer an independent verification of the authenticity of their claims about the safety and purity of their ingredients. Retailer positioning in national family goods chain Target acts as retailer endorsement for the quality of the product.


The very rewarding result of successfully branding in the baby space is that when you win a customer you often keep them for life, and as long as you keep up your end of the brand promise, they often become an advocate for you to the next generation establishing that very powerful word of mouth recommendation to those who are most eager to receive it.