When bringing a brand to a new market, research is key. Is there a hole in the market shaped just like your brand? Or are you merely contributing to an already-crowded marketplace?

Gary Browne, CEO of Stuart Alexander – a privately-owned marketing and distribution company that has in recent years changed focus to FMCG marketing specialists in the Oceania region – says that bringing a brand to a new market is a tough task for which doing your homework is mandatory.

A household name

There is a place for every thing, and every thing belongs in its place – this is true also for brands. There is no point inflicting them upon a place (in this instance, a marketplace) that is already saturated with similar brands. It is a waste of time, money, and effort and does no one any favours. Instead, you must find the perfect place for your brand.

Browne’s experience and expertise lies in building and developing brands. Stuart Alexander has spent its history developing powerhouse brands within the Australian marketplace, including Mentos, Werthers, Tabasco and Fisherman’s Friend.

When bringing a brand to a new market, you must primarily identify opportunities for those brands in the market’s niches and segments that have not been identified.

Anyone who is a familiar with Seth Godin’s Purple Cow will know how important it is for a brand to have a point of difference!

The trick here is to think outside the square, to think of how you can present your brand in a way that’s different be it in the packaging or the placement – like Luken & May’s placement on Qantas flights and in international hotels. The product, the placement and the packaging must satisfy a consumer need for your brand to be successful. Interestingly, many of the brand names mentioned above are foreign and were, at one stage, not known here. Browne’s job was to get the license to bring them in and then to develop the brand within Australia.

Best brand buys

What specific qualities should you be looking for when buying a brand? I asked Browne what the thinking was behind the Luken & May purchase.

Luken & May biscuits was originally founded by Cindy Luken. The company ticked all the right boxes as to what made a successful brand: it filled a niche area in the biscuit market and had a strong market presence, with its tasty treats being served on Qantas and in international hotels.

“Cindy has a terrific insight and laid terrific foundations for the Luken & May brand,” says Browne. “She worked with us for a number of years when we migrated the business over. I believed the Luken & May brand had a lot of potential in terms of the premium segment of the market. It stood for all the values that consumers aspire to in that category and segment, and obviously many customers have seen that opportunity and Qantas serve it on a number of their flights both domestically and internationally.”

Browne believes the brand still has a lot of opportunity – and this is the key to growth.

“We’ve been able to learn some of those principles from Cindy in terms of what the brand stood for and the innovation and creativity that was necessary to continue to meet those needs of our consumers and customers.”

Back to the business of bands

Like attracts like, and the same can be said in brand theory. It’s important to get it right from the beginning – to select a brand with integrity and similar attributes to those that are already in your stable (or those you’d like to be in your stable!).

“We’re very selective and there’s a lot of gut feeling that goes into whether you think a brand is going to work or not,” says Browne.

It’s essential that you have brand diversity in your portfolio to ensure that your brands complement each other, but do not directly compete. If your brands compete, then you are doing yourself and your brands a great disservice. An unbalanced portfolio will never prove to be a profitable one. 

On the flip side, if you are looking for someone to represent your brand, it’s essential that you find the right fit – they too must suit the brand, share your vision and see the possibilities for the brand. As Jim Collins points out in Good To Great, it’s important to have the right people if you are going to achieve something great.
“You have to ensure that the business you engage with and the brand owner that you engage with is going to be culturally aligned to you – that the brand is going to have an opportunity and that you are prepared to invest and develop to ensure its success.”

A brand history

To get an idea of how a brand develops over time, I asked Browne to take us through the history of one of their brands, Mentos, a well-known lolly that they have represented since the early ‘90s. When it came on the market, I was young enough to remember so I am well-placed to verify his story. 

Browne won the account not only because they had a track record of success in building brands, but because he and the brand owner were “culturally similar”.

“It was all about working very much with the brand owner and investing and ensuring that we established a niche in the Australian market, to see Mentos succeed to the point that it has today — and we are the market leader in the pocket pack segment of the confectionery aisle — that is really a testament to the success that both companies have achieved.”

He then took the time to make sure that others could share his vision, talking to potential consumers (after all, they were the ones who had to buy the product!). Innovation and creativity is the lifeblood of a product, and these have to be continuously and consistently delivered to the brand’s consumers for the brand to survive in the increasingly competitive marketplace.

Browne warns that all roads though, do not lead to Rome.

“Over the years no doubt there have been mistakes along with fantastic wins because when it comes to marketing, in a sense it’s ‘suck it and see’. In the case of Mentos it’s a good analogy that some things work in some areas.”