Marketing August 10, 2012 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,751 Reads share

How To Ensure You Are the 1% of New Brands That Survive: Repeat!

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Success is All About Repeat. Not Trial. Too many marketers spend too much time focusing on getting “Trial” for their products , and not enough on ensuring they get “repeat” business. This usually proves to be a fatal error for many brands. It is why 99% of all new products fail.

In this article I hope to convince you that to develop successful brands you will need to refocus your strategy, and resources, much more on ensuring that you will get “Repeat” than you do on getting “Trial”.

Without repeat purchases you cannot have an enduring and successful business. You are also unlikely to have a profitable business, as recruitment and trial is a very expensive activity. Getting repeat purchase from users should be a much cheaper, and less resource intensive, activity.

Related: Can A Brand Belief Help You To Be More Successful In Today’s Tough Environment?

Lack of Repeat, not Trial, Kills Off Brands

If you think of brands that have disappeared from supermarket shelves, or from the High Street, most of them did so simply because while they were able to get people to buy their product once, or maybe a few times – they were just not able to get people to keep coming back to buy. 

Brands like:

Red Mountain Coffee, which created a buzz and trial with its clever adverts using people imitating a coffee percolator, but failed to retain users with disappointing taste.
Polariod who created instant photos and got people to try them, but hen failed to evolve when digital made photos even more instant.
Sunny D Drinks. Positioned as a healthy drink, but full of sugar and proven not to live up to their claim.
Woolworths which was once a staple of the High Street but failed to stay relevant as shopping habits and competition developed and repeat visits to buy dried up.
Coffee Republic who failed to find a unique and distinctive coffee shop versus Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero and so people who may have tried found the others more interesting and enjoyable.

Meantime other brands have, despite facing the same types of challenges that threatened their existence, been able to ensure that they remained vibrant and kept attracting repeat buyers. Brands like Mini, Apple, Cunard, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Harley Davidson. All came close at various times of dying out through lack of repeat purchasing, but found ways to address it.

Most Marketers Create Limited Life Brands By Overly Focusing on Trial

There may be some brands, of course, which are “once off”. So all they are looking for, and need, is trial just the once.

So, for example, a once off funding raising event to raise money with a very specific goal that the event needs to achieve. Here they will be focused on just getting people to attend just once.

Or perhaps a once off function to celebrate an event, like the 2012 Queen’s Jubilee Concert held in front of Buckingham Palace.

But most brands and businesses e not in that territory. Most marketers will be looking to create lasting and profitable brands. Brands that will deliver a return on the investment put into them.

Related: Brands Are Created By Visionaries, Destroyed By Caretakers. What Are You?

And yet, 9 out of 10 new product or product extensions launched by these same marketers fail. So almost all of new products are effectively once off events!

While some of these new products may never actually be tried, because they met no need or do not get distribution, the main reason many will have failed is because people do not buy them again after trying it. Marketers focus so much on the launch activity. Focus on how to get trial of the new product. Focus their brand investment and resources into generating that trial.

However, you you need conversion from trial of your product. Or once you have worked through the pool of possible people to try your product, you will be left with nothing.

The X-Factor TV Show Proves That Succeeding is About Repeat not Winning

Reality TV shows like X-Factor, America Idol, Big Brother and so on are teaching us in a very vivid lesson in the difference between “winning” and “succeeding”. The “winner” gets huge purchase of their winner’s single. But almost all have faded away as fast as they rose up. They do not have a sustainable offer t that goes past just generating excitement and trial.

It is often those that have some 2nd or 3rd that have sustainable careers and brands. Think of JLS, can you remember who won in their year. Think of One Direction now massive globally who came 4th, can you remember the winner in their year?

In X-Factor, the actual “winners” of each series (and as at time of writing this there have been 7) have usually not been as successful over time as some of the other participants who ended up lower in the rankings. In the case of X-Factor, only 2 of the winners still even have recording contracts (with the most recent winner still to have their album released).

It again proves the importance of “repeat” purchase, and that to succeed as a brand you need to do more than just get “trial”. You need to have constant repeat to have a sustainable business

It is actually quite easy to get and generate trial of your product or service. If you make enough noise, spend enough and create enough excitement you can get trial. Not so easy getting repeat…

This is the equivalent to winning a reality TV show where your story or momentum may rally behind you and drive you to win – not always for the right reason. In the case of X-Factor that momentum and noise usually means that winner’s single heads to number on.

But the real test is what happens and comes next.

Do people buy that artist’s next offer when there is less noise, less volume of promotion?

We have seen that people who do not win often do better on this front, as they perhaps are more focused on the product they offer and creating their own differentiation and uniqueness. They rely more on their offer than the hype alone. They have to build a true loyal base of fans and supporters. This is the key to sustainability.

I think this is true for all marketers (not just those managing artists from reality TV shows!).

Related: If Your Company Or Brand Went Out Of Business, Would Anyone Really Notice Or Care?

It is easy to get trial with enough activity and creativity. But what you really need to strive for is REPEAT. This is what makes you succeed and successful

I have seen many brands through my career where a great and breakthrough TV ad, some great PR or promotion drove huge trial, but soon after they had worked through everyone that was going to try the product, the product came grinding to a horrible halt and dies. Think of brands like Sunny Delight that got huge trial through advertising positioned it as healthy – only for people to find it was not. Or Persil Power that through huge launch got huge trial for people to find it ruined their clothes over time.

We all need to focus on if you have an offer that is going to get repeat purchase or usage. For without that all the time, energy and spend in creating tools and activities to get trial are just not worth bothering.

The Starting Point: Make Sure Your Consumer Loves Your Product!

When I was working in the anti-age skincare business, I observed an interesting phenomena that drove home to me the importance of focusing on likability of your product. Really understanding what they want, and what they like. It may surprise you.

In the French Pharmacy, which holds the lion share of anti-age skincare sold, two brands were fighting it out for share. The “best” one did not win.

The Tale of RoC versus Caudalie. Where the Best Does not Win!

The long established brand called RoC (created in 1957), and a new “naturals” brand called Caudalie have been fighting out domination of anti-age skincare in the channel. RoC had through the early 2000s boomed by getting trial of its anti-wrinkle product using a new patented Retinol ingredient. Clinical trials showed that it had dramatic effects when used over 12 weeks, results no other product available off the shelf could match.

RoC made the claim of “Getting Back 10 Years to the Look of Your Skin” based on those studies. This claim generated huge trial, but not the sustainability from repeat purchases. This was because people did not like the products to use every day as they were not as pleasant to use. The reason was that to hold the ingredient stable it was not an aesthetically nice cream to use everyday.

Meantime Caudalie, made lush and luxurious products that women liked to use. So they bought more and more across the range. Even though clinically the data would say that RoC was better than Caudalie in delivering results, RoC did not get repeat while Caudalie did.

If your product and offer is really good, you should be able to give it away to the right target for free and the repeat sales should flow in

Related: 5 Brand Promotion Lessons From The City Of Barcelona

This is an approach that some manufacturers use for this very reason. For example, P&G give their Pampers Diapers away to new mothers on the birth of their first child in many countries as they know that their product is outstanding. The conversion rate to purchase is very high after trial, as shown by their leading market shares in the diaper business.


9 out of 10 new product launches fail.

It is hardly ever because they fail to get trial, as the focus of most marketing resources are usually focused and directed on this. Trial is fairly easy to get if you have a compelling communication and promotion plan.

Most products and brands fail because, once they had worked through all the possible people to try them, no-one comes back to keep buying them. Sounds simple and obvious, and yet 90% of new products are still failures. So it cannot be.

To ensure this does not happen, focus on what and how you can drive repeat. The starting point is to be 100% certain that once people try your product they will actually like it (based on their definition) and want to use it again.

Sounds simple? So why do only 1% of new products survive?

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Gary Bembridge

Gary Bembridge

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