Building Back to Beta: How to Market Like A Founder

John Lee Hancock's Ray Kroc biopic The Founder might seem an odd reservoir of inspiration for a marketer but there are hidden gems in the film's fast-paced account of the rise of McDonald's from a mom-and-pop diner into a billion dollar global franchise.

"I could be growing this thing at twice the pace" - Ray Kroc

Amidst the fire and music of directing a creative campaign and managing cross-department communications, your biggest job is not just spurring brand growth, but expanding upon it.

Virginie Glaenzer, Former CMO of The Great Eastern Company summed it up in a recent article: "A large part of growth hacking effectiveness lies in knowing every detail of your company’s customer attainment and retention." Knowing your CFO's current financial goals are essential, but collaboratively developing a customer pathway that promotes brand longevity is just as important.

Thinking like a Founder means baking long-term growth strategy into every point along the campaign development process - from knowledge management to martech quality control. Having a keen eye for potential structural roadblocks to rapid innovation and the willingness to prune ineffective organizational practices are core determinants of building smarter, faster growth.

How to Apply It:

Help your brand grow faster by helping it grow intelligently. Let’s look at Netflix. Despite its perhaps unimpeachable status as a market leader, it never ceases to innovate boldly. A recent CMO Club study highlighted its stunning move into creating its own original content. While the competitor - Hollywood itself - was an unthinkable target to challenge, Netflix did so convincingly. Rather than push a hard sell or attack Hollywood's hit-and-miss yearly parade of films, it took its legacy of providing instantly available entertainment, built upon it and then used it as the core of its marketing strategy. As a result, consumers - who had come to trust the “Watch Next” algorithm didn’t bat an eyelash when Netflix’s own "Orange is the New Black" started showing up in their feeds.

Focus on your new product's direct value to the consumer. In Netflix's example, their high-quality original programming married the brand's identity (a consumer-focused way of making entertainment easier) with the platform's most salient weakness - consumer complaints that they'd "seen everything good" (despite a 30K film library). Additionally, it freed them from reliance on Hollywood for new content and allowed them to strike out on a path of their own.

"I'm through with your endless parade of no's" - Ray Kroc

True disrupters, reads the CMO Club study, are more "irrational" than "rational.” They artfully dance around all the reasons why it won't work to find the sweet spot that merges innovation and consumer demand (even if consumers don't know they demand it yet). Airbnb, for example, created a business model which seemed impossible to manage logistically and fraught with potential landmines - legal, administrative, and PR. Yet, it worked so astoundingly well that it inspired awe.

How to Apply It:

Airbnb earned much of its rise to word-of-mouth marketing, but its campaigns were built on a simple idea. Rather than dismiss consumers' faith in well-known hotel chains, it went to the core of why people stay at mid-range hotels in the first place: a lack of seasonal price surges and hour-by-hour pricing based on which website one might use to book the room. They never denied that it was in an uphill battle, saying early on: “’We're small potatoes.’ You don't know us and you might not even understand us. Look at what we're offering you - it really sounds like what you had before in your trusted hotel chain. However, it's a new experience you truly need but didn't know that you could have.”

You can’t really show your strength as a brand unless you also face your weaknesses - Airbnb did this (only backward) at a fast pace, to great success.

Despite the size of your marketing budget, when introducing a new line or service that overturns older ideas, you have to resell the old ones. Your messaging should play on everything that your consumers loved about the previous offering and then allow them to discover how the new product makes it easier to enjoy.

"When is it going to be enough for you?" - Ethel Kroc
"Probably never" - Ray Kroc

There is never enough time to pause and reflect on your successful uptick in ROI while the industry is in a seemingly eternal state of rapid innovation. It isn't just the idea of "staying hungry." It's the ability to anticipate future opportunities and pull your brand into a continuous growth streak, rather than a cyclical one. To do this, work with your board and C-Suite to craft a scalable marketing strategy based on anticipated brand needs and possible future opportunities.

How to Apply It:

The CMO Club study highlighted Uber - a company that had no history, no legacy of consumer trust and yet has come to be synonymous with sustainable disruption. It challenged, quite successfully, a ubiquitous icon of New York City - the Yellow Taxi. How? By creating a strong brand message which acknowledged the power of legacy, yet made it clear that - as an upstart - their focus was consumer value. They would take nothing for granted, not brand loyalty nor a lack of consumer alternatives.

While Uber’s  proposition was simple, their impact was far-reaching and effective. Whether legacy brand or startup, your campaign must clearly articulate - without fail - that your customer is neither taken for granted nor held second in priority to your company's need to drive growth and best the competition. Remind consumers that every forward-looking innovation your company offers is representative of an investment in the future - not merely in that of the brand, but also that of your customers.