How to outsmart vs. outspend

Chris Marshall CEO | July 15, 2014

Outsmart vs. OutspendSpecialty brands are unique, and therefore they have the greatest opportunity to market themselves differently and more effectively than their mass counterparts.

They may be higher priced, higher quality, unique in their manufacturing process or harder to find than their competition. That means the need for an efficient marketing program is a must, and since outspending their competitors is often not an option, specialty brands have to outsmart.

So what does it mean to outsmart rather than outspend the other players in your segment? It means:

  1. understanding the enthusiasts for your category
  2. leveraging the strengths of your brand
  3. connecting with your customers
  4. turning your most enthusiastic customers into advocates for your brand

Category enthusiasts are key

Nearly every product category has a kind of “super consumer” – someone who is passionate and knowledgeable about an activity or lifestyle that your product can benefit. We call these people category enthusiasts. They want the best or newest or most interesting product in the category. Specialty brands tend to be on the leading edge of technology and innovation or made in a way that ensures the best quality for their segment, and therefore, they have a natural appeal for the category enthusiasts.

Category enthusiasts are usually experts in the category. They research more, and they seek information regularly: not just monthly or weekly, but daily and sometimes hourly. The category is important to them – they talk about it, they share about it, and most important, others look to them for their expertise and advise. They are the key influencers in a specific category and important to a specialty brand’s success.

Leverage the strengths of your brand

Specialty brands are often created out of passion and innovation – by both their developers and their fans. Often founded by devotees as a labor of love, they have origin stories, special features or ethical values that resonate with their target audience. The successful brands are authentic and leverage their strengths in a way that better connects people to an experience or otherwise enriches it. Generic products cannot match these advantages, no matter what the price difference. And massive marketing budgets cannot buy credibility for an inferior product.

Connect with your customers

Zero in on just who makes up your most important consumer segment – and where they shop, share and influence. Reaching these category enthusiasts in the most effective manner means leveraging owned and earned media before even considering bought media. How can your brand’s existing assets be used to connect with your audience where they are, to find the right channels and the right timing? Certainly social media, events, sponsorships – even packaging and store displays – will be key in conveying your message. But outsmarting also means looking at media and other paid marketing channels with an agnostic view.

Connecting with your customers through the right messaging is also crucial. Focusing on the passion and core truth of your brand and sharing that in an authentic way is critical to connecting with the all-important category enthusiast. You can’t fool them with spin. They know too much.

Part of outsmarting is “out-measuring.” Today, we have the unique ability to collect and continually measure data in real time, allowing us to adjust marketing mix and messaging to continuously improve results.

Creating brand advocates

The most effective way that specialty brands can outsmart versus outspend their competition? Create brand advocates. These are the category enthusiasts who buy your product and like it – no, love it – and want to tell the world about it, because they are experts; people listen to them and they want to share. When you create brand advocates, they become your greatest salespeople. Why are brand advocates important to your success?

  • They spend two times more than average customers and recommend or share two to four times more than an average customer (Deloitte)
  • A 12% increase in brand advocacy generates a 2x increase in revenue growth and boosts market share (HBS Press)
  • 92% of consumers trust “recommendations from people I know.” (Nielsen)

Trust is key in building advocates. Providing them with the tools to talk about your brand, share opinions about your brand or try your new brand innovations, and even more important, listening to them, will bring you great success in outsmarting instead of outspending your competition.


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