Zig When Your Competitors Zag

Two bags of The Haven granola part of Brand Strategy Subcategory lessonAbout eight years ago I went from striving to finish a 32-ounce tub of yogurt before it went bad (usually over three or four weeks) to consuming a tub a week.

Two events led to this change.

First, my husband Dan and I began taking annual summer trips to The Berkshires. On our first trip we discovered The Haven Bakery & Café and their fabulous granola. I had it with yogurt for breakfast there.

It was love at first bite.

I had that breakfast twice during the trip and bought a few bags of the granola to bring home.

Since then my affinity for the granola has bordered on addiction and I’ve managed to keep it in stock at home.

When we travel to New York State we’ve changed our route to go through The Berkshires. Occasionally I will retreat there off season and pick up a few bags. My sister and Dan have generously restocked my supply when they have gone there without me.

Around the same time as my granola obsession – I mean affinity – ignited, I tried Chobani yogurt.

Chobani is Greek yogurt, which is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt. I love thick, creamy dairy products.

Pair Chobani non-fat plain yogurt with The Haven granola and you have heaven in a bowl.

Chobani’s Gamble of Passion

Hamdi Ulukaya started Chobani in 2005 just 150 miles from The Haven. He launched the company because he heard that Kraft Foods had just closed its yogurt factory in South Edmeston, New York and he could not find the type of yogurt he enjoyed as a child in Turkey.

Chobani is a variation on the Turkish word for shepherd.

After two years of product development and factory adaptation, Chobani’s Greek yogurt went on the market in 2007, when Greek yogurt comprised just 0.2 percent of the yogurt market. Today it is 46 percent.

Chobani yogurt developed an untapped subcategory in the yogurt marketplace.Chobani is the major reason why.

You may think starting a business aiming at a sector that has only 0.2 percent market share is crazy.

But Ulukaya believed he was bringing a better product. “I knew that something could be done with yogurt because growing up in Turkey, we knew what to expect from yogurt,” he told an audience at New York University’s Stern School of Business in 2013.

By focusing on a different type of yogurt he developed an untapped subcategory of the market.

As Chobani took off and expanded distribution, big yogurt companies like Dannon knocked on Ulukaya’s door and offered to buy the company.

Ulukaya declined their offers.

Instead, with unusual speed to market, Chobani claimed ownership of the Greek yogurt subcategory. In the process Chobani grew the overall yogurt market and grabbed significant share. In 2016 Chobani accounted for more than 19 percent of the overall yogurt market and 36 percent of Greek yogurt purchases, racking up $1.5 billion in sales.

Subcategories Differentiate Your Brand

Long-time brand guru David Aaker labeled the term subcategory for the space that a brand comes to own within an existing category that distinguishes it from the competition. Subcategories emerge when your brand bucks convention and focuses on different elements than the rest of the competition.

Subcategories arise out of true innovation, often requiring a fundamental change in operations, in communications or both.

Underserved markets, alternative offerings and unmet consumer needs provide fertile ground for your brand to build a subcategory in your industry.

By targeting people whose cars were being repaired instead of the vacation rental market, Enterprise Rent-A-Car built a national business and owned that subcategory for more than two decades.

Watch maker Swatch forged new territory when it focused on self-expression as a key benefit instead of the category standard at the time, precision. No other watch brand tapped this angle in this price range and Swatch came to own the affordable self-expressive time piece space.

And who could forget that in the explosion of assembly-line fast-food operations in the 1970s, Burger King offered to let us have it our way?

Finding the Brand Strategy Less Traveled

Rather than going head-to-head with competitors to prove your brand is better, why not explore territory where there is little or no competition?

You can discover subcategories by:

  • Mining consumer insights for unmet needs. Keurig seized on consumers’ growing desire for flavorful, fresh, convenient coffee without the coffee shop expense and the full-pot clean up to create their cup-at-a-time coffee maker and k-pods.
  • Tapping practices and ideas from other industries. Uber employed fleet management from logistics management companies like FedEx and modeled its “surge pricing” after dynamic pricing in the hotel and airline industries.
  • Using new technologies. Xbox gambled on broadband-only gaming, which in 2001 was a true gamble, and has continued innovating by adding like the Friends List and in-game voice chatting.

Opportunity lurks where your competitors aren’t looking or where they are unwilling to go. Developing a subcategory is a potent growth strategy and brand differentiator.

Subcategories require conviction on your part though. Subcategories zig when the rest of the category zags. You need to be able to withstand questioning looks and naysayers.

Those that correctly identify and pursue a subcategory experience substantial brand growth. Go forth and discover!

I’m off to have a snack now, and I think we both know what that will be.

If you liked this post you’ll love the next one. Click here to have future posts sent to your inbox and to receive my free guide “The 10 Best Strategies to Differentiate Your Brand.”

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Why Comcast Makes Us Crazy

"This call may be monitored or recored or ignored or ridiculed or forgotten or mocked or played at our office parties for laughs." - Glasbergen cartoonDuring the latter half of July my husband Dan and I took a 10-day vacation to Scotland with friends. Lots of golf for Dan, lots of sightseeing for me.

It was a wonderful break and I came back with that relaxed vacation feeling that gives you a new perspective on your daily routine.

Shortly before 11 a.m. on Thursday August 3rd I was back in my office and noticed that the Wi-Fi had suddenly gone offline. No big deal, especially in my relaxed state. read more

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Airbnb’s Wild Ride

Airbnb billboard saying "We imagine a world where can belong anywhere." brand in adolescence positioning

Image source: underconsideration.com

From the moment my eighth grade French teacher informed me that you could study abroad in college I knew I was going to France.

Six years later I spent the summer preceding my junior year at a program in Avignon and the fall semester in Paris. I traveled for the two months in between. read more

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For Better Marketing, Channel Your Inner Three-Year-Old

Olympic Rings Donut Formation, For Better Marketing Channel Your Inner Three Year Old

Image Source: The Huffington Post

In the summer of 1991, when the unemployment rate in Boston hit 8.4 percent, I had the unfortunate need to find a job.

I was transitioning from a full-time MBA student at Boston College to part-time. I was temping during the day to pay the bills. Two nights each week I attended a three-hour summer class.

I read the want ads religiously. Veryfine Products ran an ad for a marketing research analyst in Brandweek, a marketing trade magazine, and I enthusiastically applied. read more

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Why Your Brand Needs a Niche

Find Your Brand Niche Sweet SpotIf you wanted to buy a book online, where would you shop?

If you wanted to buy organic foods, where would you go?

If you wanted to see how your baseball team fared at its most recent game, where would you look?

Raise your hand if you answered Amazon, Whole Foods or ESPN. read more

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L.L. Bean Gets the Boot

LL Bean Original Rainboot a symbol of brand consistency

Image source: LLBean.com

When a fashion-conscious teenager opts for a 104-year-old product, there must be something special about it. So when my 16-year-old daughter Fiona chose L.L. Bean rainboots, I had to ask her what the appeal was.

To Fiona’s credit and my relief, she did not say “I don’t know.” (Parents of teenagers will understand my relief.) read more

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4 Undeniable Truths About Your Brand

Woman mannequin with sun glasses and speech bubble above her head talking to male mannequin who has no face telling him the truth about his brandDo you know how brand images are formed?

Come behind the scenes to my kitchen project and take a look.

I was seeking a tile contractor to install a new backsplash in my kitchen.  My aim was to get three bids. I got a list of names from two tile retail stores and contacted seven contractors. read more

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10 Brand Storytelling Lessons from Bruce Springsteen

Book cover image to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run

Image source: simonandschuster.com

When I read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born to Run in January, I learned that he and I have a few things in common.

  • Both of us like the smell of coffee but not the taste.
  • Neither of us can read sheet music.
  • Both of us grew up in New Jersey (okay I knew that), in a family with two girls and one boy.
  • Both of us learned our craft on the job.

read more

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Netflix Ain’t Chillin’

Netflix logoWhat do Netflix and “The Godfather” have in common?

Both showcase visionary brands that have succeeded with unorthodox methods.

In Netflix’s case, to paraphrase Mario Puzo, keep your friends close and your competitors on the payroll.

Wait – what? read more

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Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

Open Manila Envelope with Approved Brand Mission peaking out

Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hate clutter. You might not know that from the condition of my home, but I do.

To reduce clutter, I regularly donate what we no longer use to the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation.

But prevention is the holy grail. I scrutinize purchase considerations and proffered hand-me-downs.  If I can’t envision their use we decline.

My clutter aversion makes me a wary outdoor market shopper though I love to look.  On a crisp mid-October Sunday I was perusing the last-of-the-season markets in Boston’s South End with friends, purchase-free until I met Kate Kellman. read more

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