Business in growth markets has become increasingly important for multinational companies over the past decade. However, many companies are focusing too much on the premium segment when expanding into new markets, neglecting the large mid-market segment. Western managers like to underestimate how much purchasing power there is between the top ten percent of the population, the “super-consumers”, and the lower-income consumers in rural areas of the respective hinterland.

The potential of the upper middle class and the economy class is enormous. Therefore, smart brand stretching provides an effective opportunity to expand a brand’s reach and sales beyond the premium segment. It is often used as a strategy in growth markets because it also allows much faster access to the market and causes significantly lower communication costs. For example, it is not necessary to inform and educate consumers about a completely new brand. This is described in detail in our new Springer publication “Successful brand development in the major emerging markets” (written in German) by Niklas Schaffmeister (Managing Partner Globeone) and Florian Haller (CEO Serviceplan Group).

Market analysis: Relevant segments and customer requirements

Many questions must be answered before a brand is stretched. First of all, the market opportunities need to be analyzed. How large are the relevant middle segments? How intense is competition there? What are the prevailing customer wishes and trends? And one of the most important aspects: What are the expected profit margins? Another crucial factor to consider is the cost of manufacturing and organization and the company’s ability to adapt. In our experience, this is the most difficult and tricky aspect. Many companies worldwide are doing outstanding work when it comes to developing complex, high-performance products. But precisely because of their engineering skills and the way they think and work aimed at optimizing quality, it is difficult for them to make products less complex, less powerful and more cost-effective. Finding back to the strategic flexibility of “learning” and reinventing important aspects of a business model is important in building a strong and sustainable position in the growing mid-market segments of emerging markets.

Reach: Including neighboring income groups

In emerging markets, vertical brand stretching is very often used to increase product reach. This innovative strategy has been used in the automotive sector for many years. One speaks of a vertical brand expansion, if one looks at the price and/or the quality of the core brand down or above to reach additional market segments. Mercedes, for example, uses this procedure for vertical brand stretching from the S-Class to the A-Class. Volkswagen also uses the entire range of models from the luxury flagship Phaeton to the miniature car up! Cunning marketing managers see brand expansion as the fastest way to leverage the value of a core brand to be attractive in more market segments.

Identity: The core brand and the new brand must be different

However, vertical brand stretching should include more than just pricing. It can also include a change in product composition or packaging to appeal to a wider range of customers and increase sales. To avoid over-emphasizing the core brand, it is advisable to distinguish between the core brand and the new brand in terms of taste, smell, functions, performance, applications, packaging and brand communication. If the price were the only difference, customers from higher income groups could be tempted to switch to the cheaper brand, which would lead to a loss in sales. The “Crest” toothpaste produced by Procter & Gamble is a good example of how successful brand differentiation can work. To further expand in the mid-market segment in China, Procter & Gamble changed the composition and packaging of the brand. The premium version “Pro Health Complete 7” is aimed at upscale consumers. It has been positioned to combat seven oral hygiene problems caused by modern lifestyles. The property and claim to restore natural tooth whiteness has been reserved exclusively for Crest’s premium products. On the other hand, the basic properties of the cheaper products for caries prophylaxis were the focus of attention.

New research confirms that brand expansion is a key factor for sustainable growth in the major growth markets. In a featured insight, research institute Nielsen described the results of a comprehensive market study that examined 82 brand extensions in 46 different categories in the Indian fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market. According to the study, 30% of sales of the top 23 FMCG brands are already achieved through brand expansion. More importantly, it was found that the likelihood of successful brand extension is five times greater than that of new product launches.

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