Why Reach and Consumption are Not always Brand Nirvana

Two of the key performance metrics in mass marketing are Reach and Consumption.  The assumption is that the more people are reached and the more frequently they are ‘hit’ with the sales message, the more they are to ultimately succumb and buy.  And the more and more frequently they consume, the higher the sales.  The potential is huge. After all, even Coca Cola is far from being consumed by everyone and certainly not at every occasion, as marketing professor Byron Sharp likes to point out (Sharp, 2010).

In the era of digital platform businesses reaching out as far and as often as possible has become even more of a mantra.  And it is done at almost any cost, it seems.  That’s because the likes of Amazon, Alibaba, or BlaBlaCar attribute their explosive growth and stunning valuations to so-called ‘network effects.’  Here is how that works for Facebook for example: The more people join and post updates, the more useful a social media platform it becomes for everyone who is already on it and well as those still considering to join… and for advertisers, of course. Once in motion, memberships and ad revenues can snowball.

When it comes to Ueber-Brands, the path to growth is not always quite that straight-forward, however.  They often seek to seduce people to pay a premium for something they could get more easily and/or more cheaply elsewhere.  There is no shortage of handbags, road-biking caps, small cars or printed T-shirts, after all  – even if Hermes, Rapha, MINI or Supreme would make you think there is.

Illustration from “The Reality of Purchasing a Hermes Birkin” by baghunter.com

To create allure beyond the material, these brands must create an emotional pay-out.  One way to achieve it is to tease but keep away some prospects away while letting others in who are ready to pay up – exactly because ‘not everyone has it’.  Just ask the proud owners of a Birkin Bag how they got it – or read the book on how to get one yourself.   You might not even tell people about your product but rather let the most eager ‘discover’ it. Supreme has never spent a penny on advertising its new products – and its launches new editions monthly. Yet look at the long line in front of their store in New York above. It’s there, every week.

Another way is to restrict supply, even though you could make more.  Supreme does that, too.  Because to some it feels priceless to show off a new gadget, while others still wait for theirs.  MINI limited the number of cars it imported for its launch in the US and found the resulting waiting list created all the more excitement. Hip home exercise machine-maker Peloton observes the same phenomenon – however, they say their wait times are not intentional…  Maybe they have to say that to calm down their investors.

Because in the land of scale-dominated mass marketing, limiting reach or selling less than you could is anathema.  But in the land of Ueber-Brands, staying quiet, keeping some people away and putting a breaks on consumption might be what is needed to stoke the desire, keep prices at a premium and protect those sweet margins.


To learn about what drives the success of Ueber-Brands, read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands” and other articles and case studies on this blog.

For Byron Sharp’s perspective the importance of reaching a and serving maximum of potential users, rather than going for loyalty, listen to JP’s interview with Byron here.

To understand how balancing Exclusivity with Inclusiveness – or Longing and Belonging – helps elevate a brand’s prestige and price, ask yourself these questions.

About JP Kuehlwein

JP Kuehlwein is a global business leader and brand builder with a 25+ year track record of translating consumer and brand insights into transformational propositions that win in market. Principal at ‘Ueber-Brands’ a New York consulting firm, he now helps others to elevate brands and make them peerless and priceless. JP also teaches brand strategy at NYU Stern and Columbia Business School and leads the Marketing Institute at The Conference Board, all in New York. Jp previously was Executive Vice President at Frédéric Fekkai & Co, a prestige salon operator and hair care brand and lead brand- and corporate strategy development and execution at multinational Procter & Gamble as Brand Director and Director of Strategy. JP and Wolf Schaefer have co-authored the best-selling books “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands” which lays out what drives the success of modern premium brands and "Brand Elevation - Lessons in Ueber-Branding" a guide to developing and executing a brand elevation strategy. Find the books here: https://bit.ly/UeberBooks
This entry was posted in 2 - Longing vs Belonging - The challenge is both, 7 - Moving with Gravitas - The king never hurries. Bookmark the permalink.

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