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From Lawn Tennis to Mixed Martial Arts: The Changing Landscape of Consumer Products Marketing

Not so long ago, marketing consumer products was a refined game of strategy, played on the manicured lawns of traditional advertising. Established players invested in creative campaigns with long lead times, relying on proven models of TV and big-box retail distribution. Trusted agency partners orchestrated the symphony of marketing efforts.

Today, the once-genteel game has transformed into a sprawling, high-stakes contest of mixed martial arts. New competitors, armed with innovative strategies and unconstrained by legacy systems, have disrupted the status quo. They play by a different set of rules, navigating a complex landscape of channels, content, and partners. The pace of change has accelerated, with punches flying at incumbent consumer products companies.

At the heart of this transformation lies a radical shift in brand growth models. Technological advancements have reshaped how consumers interact with brands, a phenomenon that has unfolded within the span of most executives’ careers. n the US and UK, over 60% of consumers now discover products online, and a staggering 85% of millennials trust reviews from anonymous strangers more than traditional advertising. These same technological advancements have dramatically altered the competitive landscape. CMOs can no longer forecast future profits by simply expanding into new geographies or adjacent product market segments. Such an approach risks ignoring industry-disrupting trends, as profit pools rapidly shift from products to services, experiences, and communities. Moreover, mass products are evolving into new segments with accelerating personalization.

To thrive in this dynamic environment, consumer products companies must adopt a dual-pronged approach to growth strategy: “present forward” and “future back.” This involves innovating on existing products while simultaneously envisioning and preparing for the future. The goal is to define new growth platforms that extend beyond their current products, business models, and capabilities.

Upgrading Content Creation Capabilities

The transformation still required across the industry is significant, demanding far-reaching changes to consumer products companies’ growth models and the allocation of their discretionary spending. The urgency is palpable, as consumers and new competitors are moving at a pace that outstrips the ability of incumbents to react.

As David Oswald aptly stated, “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure. It is: Try to please everybody.” Reinventing the brand growth model requires more than simply reallocating marketing budgets to digital channels. CMOs need to undertake a comprehensive reassessment of growth platforms and future brand portfolios. They must develop a new understanding of the consumer journey and formulate a supporting strategy for data and technology.

The consumer journey has fundamentally changed, and so has the role of the brand manager. Once confined to managing agency briefs, brand managers today must lead hands-on content generation and data management. They must become experts in the digital landscape, leveraging technology to create engaging and personalized experiences for consumers.

In conclusion, the consumer products industry is facing a pivotal moment, a transition from a genteel game of lawn tennis to a high-stakes contest of mixed martial arts. To survive and thrive in this new era, companies must embrace innovation, redefine their growth models, and empower their brand managers to become digital pioneers. Only then will they be able to navigate the complex landscape, connect with consumers in meaningful ways, and ultimately achieve sustainable growth.



Dolapo is an strategic insights expert who has contributed to the building and revamping of various local and global brands and businesses.

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