Brand positioning expert Denise Lee Yohn’s new book, Fusion: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies, comes out next month, and in a new Harvard Business Review article, Yohn distills some of the most useful marketing points gleaned from her 25 years of marketing leadership. 

There’s one fundamental mistake, according to Yohn, that brands tend to make: they don’t couple their focus on innovation with a commitment to marketing it. Marketing, recently, has been relegated by some companies to a way-downstream effort, for generating or sustaining awareness of a product’s existence considerably after the fact. These are, for example, the conventional S.E.O. and loyalty campaigns that most consumers are familiar with. 

But the marketing that grows the most business happens much earlier. Mapping out the ecosystem in which a product will be used; visualizing precisely the gap that a product fills; and identifying the specific customers likely to make the purchase—these are the marketing efforts that supercharge a brand’s potential. More briefly, what brands need to do is “create markets.” And the best market creation, says Yohn, is integrated upstream, intertwined with innovation itself. Such strategic efforts illuminate both the optimal targets for marketing efforts as well as the likely-best channels and messages for reaching them. 

One of the reasons such strategy yields positive results is that it can put brand leaders in touch with the behavioral science underlying their potential customers’ buying behaviors. Addressing the unique psychological dynamics animating a given market helps brands really get what kind of innovative offering is most needed by customers and, accordingly, what kind of messaging is going to show those customers just how much they need it.

Why This Matters

Yohn identifies one feature of strategic market creation especially relevant to health care. She says, “Engage with customers through use cases and benefits instead of functionalities and features.” Sometimes, especially in drug or biotech development, a breakthrough is so profound that it’s almost difficult to convey its weight or potential. But upstream market research can reveal in detail the use cases most relevant to a market, which is a non-gimmicky way of educating consumers on a product’s worth. In this way, strategists and marketers can create and disseminate the most seriously needed innovative products. 

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.