Sacrifice for Brand Success

Target Market

In developing a brand, it’s tempting to appeal to as many people as possible. We all want to be liked, and all too often organizations tread lightly with their branding message to avoid impairing their appeal to specific groups of customers. Or, to increase sales, a company tries extending a successful brand to broaden its appeal to new customer segments. More often than not, this is a big mistake.

In Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition, Jack Trout devotes an entire chapter to the importance of “Sacrifice.”

If you accept the idea that it’s of critical importance to be different (or to be perceived as different) from your competition, then, quite simply, your brand or product won’t appeal to everyone. You will consciously have to accept the fact that in order to appeal to your core target market, you will have to sacrifice other customers.

Trout cites Federal Express as a brand that initially had a laser focus on one market: small packages that needed to be someplace the next day. Not only was their service infrastructure focused on that segment, but their advertising as well. They eventually drove Emery Air Freight, a full-line freight service who tried to be everything to everyone, into bankruptcy.

Volvo, meanwhile, used to be perceived as a brand that made unattractive, boxy cars that were the safest in the industry. Extremely safety-conscious customers bought Volvos – not a huge segment of the auto market, but Volvo had a lock on it. As the muddled their image by introducing sportier models, their market share suffered.

It’s not impossible to extend a successful brand, but often it is worth sacrificing the possible addition of new customers to ensure you retain the ones you have and gain new ones who appreciate your key brand attributes.

In short, your brand can’t be everything to everyone. Your branding message must set it apart from other brands, and that will inevitably lead to sacrificing some customers. Don’t fear sacrifice, embrace it!

(Illustration uses Shutterstock image.)


This post was written by:

— who has written 984 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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2 responses to "Sacrifice for Brand Success" — Your Turn


Jonas 28. October 2009 at 3:13 pm


I somewhat agree. It´s almost always better for a company to have a broad aproach than a narrow one. If you want to expand and adding more differnt products one key to success could to keep one core value and adding another. In the Volvo case it would have been better if they developed the worlds safest sport car for example. Not another sport car.

Another way is of course to create more brands that are targeted against different markets.


Jeff Ramos 1. November 2009 at 1:52 pm

This concept is mainly why it’s easier for people to buy a Apple computer or laptop as opposed to getting something that runs windows.

You can go into the Apple store and clearly see what products are for who depending on price, performance, etc. Whereas some PC manufacturers have larger lines that have no clear divisions and it makes the product purchasing process harder. More options in the buying process makes in harder in the same way that more goals in the business process makes it harder to achieve any of them!


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