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Why leading brands are so hard to displace

May 29, 2015 0 Comments

tide-shelfNeuromarketing has been applied to the problem of understanding why upstart brands have such a hard time displacing leading brands in a mature category.

From a neuromarketing perspective, one reason is because leading brands tend to have a much more diverse and highly connected brand memory network. Because the leading brand “comes to mind” more easily when the category is considered, it can benefit from activation from many angles, even from exposure to lesser brands in the category.

Leading brands benefit from a virtuous cycle of usage reinforcement. The leading brand

  • Is familiar, so consumers tend to trust it
  • Offers a shortcut to decision making that doesn’t require consumers to spend time and effort to make a choice
  • Reduces risk
  • Is likely to create a positive consumption or usage experience because consumers expect it to do so

At the same time, the leading brand is more likely to get extensive retail exposure, better product placement, more editorial media coverage, more recommendations by sales staff, and greater promotional activities by retailers and brand owners. All this adds up to more exposure to the consumer, which in turn reinforces the brand’s familiarity and strength of preference.

Finally, because the leading brand is often bought without giving it much thought, it’s a prime candidate for habitual buying.

Such a bundle of benefits is hard to beat. Yet, every so often we see an “upstart” brand doing just that. What’s the secret to a successful challenge and overthrow of a leading brand?

Although leading brands tend to benefit from implicit decision making that favors repeat purchases, the challenger brands can benefit by shifting consumers from implicit to explicit decisions. The challenger brand aims at changing behavior, and the most promising way to do that is to stand out, attract attention, present a compelling argument as to why the brand should be considered, and preempt any counterarguments that may come to consumers’ minds when they analyze the claims made.

N4D-cover -120pxThis post is excerpted, with minor edits, from Neuromarketing for Dummies, Chapter 3, “Putting Neuromarketing to Work.”

Filed in: Practices • Tags: ,

About the Author:

Steve is a writer, speaker, researcher, and marketing consultant. He is author of Intuitive Marketing (2019), a study of persuasion and influence in marketing theory and practice, and co-author of Neuromarketing for Dummies (2013), a comprehensive overview of neuromarketing science, applications, methodologies, and ethics. He is Managing Partner at Intuitive Consumer Insights, where he focuses on marketing education and consulting.

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