Thursday, October 18, 2012

Marketing Funda : Why "iPhone Killer " is a bad marketing idea

The marketing world is now full of wannabe iPhone Killers - the new products that aims to kill the market leader or iconic brands. Although Frontal Attack is a celebrated strategy in marketing text books, the risks are pretty high and the possibility of a bloodbath is even  higher. Market Challengers will do better if they don't attack iconic brands directly.
The recent Apple Vs Samsung war of smartphones and the ultimate fall out of painful lawsuits warrants a recheck on the strategy of a frontal attack on market leaders.  Apple rule of the smartphone market with iPhone has prompted many mobile marketers to try and comeout with " iPhone Killers" but with no success. Market leaders like iPhones are seen in many markets. In India we have market leaders like Colgate, Alto, Maggi, Axe, Parachute, Johnson & Johnson, Horlicks etc who command a very large share of mind and also the market. There were many attempts from market challengers to dethrone these leaders by directly confronting them. In many cases, these challenger brands stay in a distant second position while the market leaders are not pretty much hurt. 

The famous wars between Pepsodent Vs Colgate, Maggi Vs Top Ramen J&J vs Sparsh , Complan Vs Horlicks were high profile frontal attack by market challengers but could not dethrone the leaders from their positions. My hypothesis is that rather than frontally attacking the leaders especially iconic brands, competing brands will do well if they could build a position that avoids direct comparison with the market leaders . Its not a blue ocean strategy where you would go in search of a new market but positioning away from the market leader so that consumers would not directly compare the brand with the market leader attributes.
The problem with a direct frontal attack is that consumers will directly compare the attributes with the market leader and if the competing brands do not have strong parity and even stronger differentiation, the strategy will have a negative fall out. In the case of iPhone, the competing brands which tout themselves as iPhone killers were not able to create strong parity with this iconic product especially in the brand image front.

Market challengers could do well if they can position their product away from the iconic brand and create a market and grow by expanding it on their unique strengths . 
Its my hypothesis, what do you say ??