Saturday, September 10, 2011

Category Lifecycle – Finding The Right Brand Strategy

I am presenting at a marketing conference in San Francisco on Monday, September 12th and am really excited to speak on the topic of “Managing Brands Across the Category Lifecycle”.  My goal is to show that there are winning strategies in every part of the category life cycle (Intro, Growth, Maturity and Decline).  

One example of a brand that is managing well while it is in a category in the decline stage its life cycle is Kingsford Charcoal.  The charcoal briquette category has been declining for years as Kingsford(R) Original Charcoalconsumers turn to gas grills.  As is often the case in this stage of the lifecycle, there has been a shakeout of competitors and one branded player remains (usually along with a Private label counterpoint).  Kingsford is now the share leader. They can make unhindered strategic moves to keep the brand fresh and the category relevant for the retailer without the constant competitive pricing battles that occur in the maturity stage.  

Here’s an overview of what I think would be the Kingsford Charcoal marketing strategy. 

Consumer Insight  “I am proud to know authentic charcoal grilling, and I want to get together with my closest friends and cook up some fun.”

Theme - The only name in charcoalimage

Communication   - Kingsford will stay true to the lifestyle of heavy users and be authentic in all communication. Communication will be light on advertising, heavy on PR, blogging, events, music, contests, and tailgate sponsorships.  Very seasonally focused.

Innovation  - Stay close to the core with the best performance charcoal in the category  – close-in innovation only with wood flavors (Mesquite, Hickory, etc.). 

Product Range - Reduce, rationalize, and trade up to higher price points.  Look to license and find a new market to grow.  They probably should have launched a barbeque sauce under the Kingsford name, but parent, Clorox, has chosen to get behind the successful KC Masterpiece brand instead.

Pricing - Consistent increases to keep the charcoal category relevant to the retailer and growing.  Pricing is the single most important factor in leveraging share dominance - it funds all the marketing strategy activities.

There you have it -- a case study of leader in a declining category with the right strategy to win, grow, and maintain leadership share.  Happy tailgating!

No comments: