Just how dominant can a brand be? Google’s share of paid search peaked at 80% in 2010. Apple’s smart-phone share peaked at 47.7% earlier this year. And, as with all dominant brands, their market share slide has begun.
It’s nothing to be ashamed about. Large markets and industries with extremely dominant players attract competition. There’s opportunity to sway less-than pleased customers to another brand. We see it over and over and there’s not much to be done about it. Or is there?
One approach is to create your own competitor. Of course, there are plenty of anecdotal failures with this strategy. At one time, Oldsmobile and Pontiac gave GM additional market share that Chevrolet and GMC couldn’t attract. It was good competition with brand positions different than their General Motors sibling brands. It worked… until they were no longer distinguishably different. They became Chevrolets with different logos. Why bother?
We recently recommended that a client with a very popular brand in their growing industry create a second brand in that same category, with noticeably different features. The growing category is going to attract competition. But, if we can make it more crowded, we might thwart or delay some competition. It’s not a revolutionary idea—it’s been done many times before. But why does it fail so often?
Brand creep usually foils this strategy over time. For manufacturing efficiency, both brands are made in the same manner and begin to look alike and perform similarly. Even the marketing begins to become similar. The main difference in the two brands becomes the packaging. Consumers can’t tell the difference and put both brands in the same mental box. So, you now are trying to support two brands that have slipped back to the market share of one brand. That’s an inefficient use dollars. So what do you do? Choose one and turn the other off. Like Oldsmobile.
When creating your own competition as a marketing strategy, the key to success is keeping the differences in the brands noticeable. Perhaps one is the price leader in the category while the other is more premium. Maybe one addresses some very specific consumer desires, while the other is more general. Regardless, have a vision for both brands and stick to them.
What if Google had a search engine developed specifically for images? Or one for the medical profession? Or sports buffs? Understanding that today, a search engine does all of that, but with a few algorithm tweaks here and there, that 80% share might be attainable again. 60% from Google and another 20% from their own competitive brand.