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Thinking like a Breakthrough Brand

Judy Lee
Consumers today are marketed to more than ever. They’re bombarded every moment with messages for websites, apps, content. That much choice means opportunity, but it can also mean noise.

However, some companies are not only surviving, they’re breaking through the Growth Barrier. Breakthrough Brands grow fast, get big sales, and garner headlines. They’re companies who had marketing as part of their strategy from the very beginning, and they seem to innovate every step of the way. How do they do it?

Learning what makes a Breakthrough Brand stand out, and applying those lessons to your own business, can revitalize your marketing and lead to more growth.

It’s never too late to break through.

Mobile-first mindset
It used to be enough for a business to have a mobile-friendly website, or emails that looked good on smartphones, but today’s Breakthrough Brands are built from the very beginning to be mobile. Think trailblazing brands like Uber and Lyft. Reaching a mobile audience has been central to their success.

Geography, infrastructure, and distribution all go away in a mobile-first world. This plays to the strengths of Breakthrough Brands, but how can you take advantage of a mobile-first mindset, even though you might already be an established company? What aspect of your business most easily lends itself to mobile?

Having a bold vision
A mistake that’s often made when discussing Breakthrough Brands is equating innovation with a faster way of doing something. Speed is important, but if you’re headed in the wrong direction, going faster will only get you to the wrong place in a shorter amount of time.

Breakthrough Brands succeed because of a singularity of vision that can be owned by only their company. Other former breakthroughs like TOMS, Warby Parker, and Out of Print clothing embody this concept. Philanthropic efforts have been part of their missions from the beginning.

Being purpose-led gives Breakthrough Brands a clarity that’s lacking at companies who only care about market share or quarterly profits. But that kind of vision can’t be focus-grouped or tacked on after the fact. It’s not a PR strategy, marketing angle, or empty slogan. It has to be bred into a company’s DNA from the beginning. When it’s not, consumers will smell a fraud.

The new marketing
Traditional advertising—which used to exist in silos and was defined by the marketing funnel—is breaking down. It’s no longer about brand versus performance, marketing versus sales, consumer versus shopper. Breakthrough Brands are blind to these distinctions and, instead, see one funnel and one person moving through it. Their ads are not mere product announcements or promotions designed to shout the loudest. Instead, the new marketing consists of campaigns that are smartly targeted, well-crafted, and designed to drive meaningful action.

These ads don’t happen by accident. For every new campaign, emerging brands develop smarter strategies by testing a number of variations of copy, image, and ad type to hone in on what works best. Concept A or B? Stacked vertically or horizontally? These are real-time tests being decided in days rather than weeks. Brands like this understand that sometimes the idea is right but the execution is wrong, and so they test and iterate until they get it right.

Other Breakthrough Brands expand the very notion of what marketing is. For Breakthrough Brands in the apparel category, anything that has to do with the brand—even the fulfillment and shipping of their physical product—is treated as marketing. They also use traditional avenues, such as bricks and mortar locations, to build relationships in person. Not all breakthroughs are purely digital.

Connecting the world
Twenty years ago, less than three percent of the world’s population had a mobile phone and less than 1 percent was online. Today, two-thirds of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone, and one-third of all humans are able to communicate on the Internet. By 2018, it’s expected that 3.82 billion people will be connected to the Internet.*

For creatives and marketers, a more open and connected world means being able to tell their story in every corner of the globe—to the right people, at the right moment, and on any device. For Breakthrough Brands, this newfound connectivity means they can instantly reach audiences, both global and local. In fact, more than 70 percent of businesses that advertise on Facebook are outside of the US.**

In India, a woman quit her job as a software consultant in order to start her own business making traditional floral headdresses for brides. At first, Kalpana Rajesh was Pelli Poola Jada’s only employee. But business boomed after she posted photos of her creations to Facebook, and today the company has 45 branches and 250 employees, all of whom are women.

Disrupt or destruct
As Steve Jobs famously said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” The brands that have broken the growth barrier, as well as the Breakthrough Brands that are currently redefining various industries, prove that it doesn’t take huge amounts of capital to innovate or cause disruption. And more like them are being created every day. You can learn from the success of these growing brands, or become a footnote in whatever industries tomorrow’s Breakthrough Brands disrupt. The choice is yours.

*No Ordinary Disruption. Dobbs, Manyika, Woetzel. Public Affairs Publishing, 2015. eMarketer, April 2016

**Facebook Internal Data: Q1 2016

Head of Brand & Creativity, North America Marketing
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