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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Analyzing Modern Marketing Schemas: An In-Depth Study Using Marketing and Branding Principles from Decoded and How Brands Grow


Traditionally, marketing has been used for businesses to grow their brand and increase revenues and profits, all while decreasing operating costs. A more modern general perspective on marketing has been widened, past the traditional notion because of the introduction of technology and experience driven marketing within the industry. This paper will be presenting opinions from Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy by Phil Barden and How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp. Both works take original marketing methods and either support or challenge these ideas, ultimately applying it to the modern business landscape.

Marketing According to Decoded

Decoded is framed in a mostly scientific way. The book focuses heavily on the principle of decision science and its' implications on marketing. In fact, Decoded arguably has a focus on the consumer more than anything. Barden notes and studies human behavior and psychology as a main mechanism of successful marketing.

There are two major systems that describe the human mind's decision-making process: Autopilot (System 1) and Pilot (System 2). They both reflect the linear path that starts with an input, links perception, intuition, and reflection, and results in a decision. Autopilot is implicit and mostly incorporates perception and intuition, which can describe the experiential. It is an action-packed and fast system that doesn't require much thinking. Ultimately, strong brands are processed in this system. Pilot is explicit and contrasts Autopilot because of its basis of using rationale and thinking. It is a slow process that is controlled and takes up the consumer's energy. Pilot is engaged when a consumer sees something for the first time, whereas Autopilot is engaged after a consumer has seen something many times. These systems are scientific and psychological in that it focuses on the brain's ability to adjust to what is being presented to it. They aid in the consumer's ability to perceive brands and their products (Barden, Chapter 1).

Another goal expressed in Decoded is the opportunity to maximize brand relevance and differentiation. These qualities supposedly are some of the driving forces behind purchase decisions. In chapter 5, Barden explains that, overall, ‘there are many explicit and many implicit goals' for companies and brands (Barden, 196). The way that consumers perceive a brand should be goal driven. Perception is a quality that is stressed a fundamental part of decision making, so much so, that if a product or brand is relevant and/or differentiated, it will attract the consumer. This theory interacts with availability in the consumer's mind – if it is perceived as relevant, it matters to the consumer.

Marketing According to How Brands Grow

The main conclusion from How Brands Grow is that brands have one main challenge in regard to growth: availability in marketing (both from a mental standpoint/saliency and actual market space/distribution). Tried marketing techniques that marketers have relied on in the past, such as

brand loyalty, differentiation, and segmentation and targeting (STP principles) have been deterred because Sharp proposes that most brands' growth will come from obtaining new consumers and maintaining a heavy base of light buyers (Sharp, 41). In the past, marketers have suggested that consumers must be emotionally attracted to a product to even consider buying it, however, Sharp suggests that they really just need the capacity in their mind to be able to mentally process the purchase intention. Brands should focus on creating brand assets that are unique yet simple, so that consumers are more likely to remember. Overall, Sharp states that brands need to focus more on penetration in comparison to loyalty. Brands that successfully achieve the highest market share are appealing to and converting a greater overall consumer base.

Sharp supports the previous claims by providing several marketing laws and rules. There are two major laws that are most relevant to this concept: the Pareto Law and the Natural Monopoly Law. The Pareto Law is best described simply as 60/20. Originally, the 80/20 rule was prevalent and mutually agreed upon to be effective. The 80/20 rule means that 80% of their sales come from the top 20% of loyal customers. However, Sharp disagrees and actually built off of the original rule that most marketers know and embrace. Sharp proclaims means that 60% of a brand's gross sales will come from 20% of their buyers. This related back to the fact that market penetration should be one of the greater focuses for brands. The natural monopoly law claims that brands with a greater market share will appeal to a large group of light buyers (Sharp, 97). The difference between light and heavy buyers/users is distinct. A light buyer is one that might buy/use a product only occasionally, where a heavy buyer buys/uses something frequently. This is important because light users should ultimately be a marketer's focus.

Overall, the main argument provided in How Brands Grow is that brands should avoid relying on customer loyalty to fuel their marketing efforts and gross sales.

Similarities and Differences

While they are both speaking on ways to improve marketing in the long-term, the two works present similar and contrasting information. Firstly, the books agree on the fact that mental availability, or saliency, is an important factor in decision making. While saliency is regarded as a factor in decision making in both books, it is the way that the availability is filled that is ultimately different. In Decoded, in order to convert a consumer, it must be relevant to them as a quick decision or something that requires little thinking. That also goes for products or brands that are differentiated well – it requires minimal effort on the consumer's part to make a decision. In How Brands Grow, differentiation takes a back-seat in regard to achieving saliency and converting a consumer. Consumers ultimately need distinctive features and, to be touched on more shortly, the emotional appeal to back their decision.

To continue building on differences between the two works, an example of disagreement is whether or not emotion should not be viewed as a major purchasing factor. In chapter 6 of Decoded, Barden questions whether emotional benefits ultimately benefit purchasing decisions. He ultimately argues that emotions are not helpful or beneficial in measuring consumer satisfaction or purchasing behaviors because they are considered ‘soft elements' (Barden, 209). Ultimately, the mind has two sections, one that handles emotional benefit and another that handles functional benefit. Neither section interacts with each other when making any type of decision, including purchasing decisions. The concluding note is that purchasing decisions are not emotional, but rational. Meanwhile, How Brands Grow views emotion as necessary tool for marketers to appeal to consumers. Emotions come into play through responses and connections to products and brands. Because of the mental availability/saliency of a consumer, emotion has the ability to take control.

Another main point was disagreed on by both authors: what actually impacts sales and where consumers are coming from. Decoded, expresses the opinion that strategy should be allocated towards creating consumer goals through segmentation and differentiation (Barden, chapter 5), whereas How Brands Grow places an emphasis on overall market penetration. This principle is built off of both the Pareto Law and Law of Natural Monopoly. Both of these laws support the fact that marketers do not need to segment and target specific consumers. Marketers should be focused on penetrating the overall landscape in order to gain more light users and a wider audience.

Approach to Marketing Given the Evidence

Overall, companies should try and incorporate difference elements from Decoded and How Brands Grow into their own marketing strategy. Elements from Decoded should serve as a precursor to those of How Brands Grow. Decoded provides information regarding psychological implications on marketing, whereas How Brands Grow presents solutions to aid in reshaping well-known marketing principles. Marketers and brand leaders should first start by identifying their brand values and current spread within the business landscape. By doing this, they should be able to understand more about their company and the marketing techniques they should use in order to strongly perform over time. Ultimately, brands should try to create a brand that speaks to multiple groups of consumers on different levels to truly attempt to appeal to all.

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