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Book Review: How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp

By Fran Brosan, Chairman

This book provides evidence-based answers to the key questions asked by marketers every day.

This book was brought to my attention by our Creative Director, Chris Butterworth, on the back of an extremely good article in the FT. It provoked Chris to do a highly provocative presentation to all of us in the agency about whether digital had driven us all down a rabbit hole – so I thought it had to be worth a read.

Byron Sharp’s premise is based on aggregating a whole number of studies of brand growth and, as the book suggests, trying to identify what the defining factors are. There are 3 in his view and they are not quite all as you think.

1. Brands don’t grow by selling more to existing customers but by being more likely to be bought by occasional users than their competitors.

2. Brands aren’t as differentiated as marketers might like to think. The values people ascribe to their preferred brand are pretty similar to the values someone else ascribes to the (different) brand that they prefer. Salience, in Sharp’s view, is therefore more valuable than differentiation because it is more likely to result in 1.

3. The bigger the brand the more likely you are to get bought.

This is based on a study of consumer brands, but I like it as a business marketer for 2 reasons.

First he writes clearly and debunks some long held beliefs, as well as some more recent myths (Lovemarks being one of them). I always enjoy an opposing point of view!

Secondly it’s one of the few books you read which forces you to actively challenge your own beliefs and see whether they still hold up. I found myself taking notes about how and whether this would apply in the B2B context, a subject that I got so wound up about that I contacted him to ask.

I will post his response on this site, but in the meantime it’s a recommended read here because it forces us to actually think which, if any, of those old marketing home truths really do apply in the B2B world.

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