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 Sunday, July 24, 2011




An article this past week in The Bangkok Post caught our eye.  It featured an interview with the CMO for Honda automobiles in Thailand.  While much of the interview had to do with Honda’s approach to customer satisfaction, a more interesting part, to us anyway, had to do with the question of “Why there are virtually no Honda taxis in Bangkok (or the rest of Thailand, for that matter).”  If you have ever spent time in Bangkok, you know that the streets are jammed with only one brand of taxi—Toyota.  And you also know that there are millions of them, in all colors of the rainbow.


When asked about this striking “daily brand dominance” of Toyota taxis on the streets of a city of over 15,000,000, the Honda CMO had this to say:  “The way we see it is that when customers buy our products and see similar models being used as taxis, the value decreases…the Honda Brand is something our customers want to own and use as a mass premium.  Honda taxi meters will not allow them to perceive it as a mass premium product.”  Such an answer speaks, naturally, to Honda’s brand positioning—and its difference versus the Toyota brand positioning.  And, assuming the answer is an honest one, you have to admire the company for sticking to its chosen positioning…even more so when you consider how much market share the Honda brand has chosen to forego.  A few million taxis is no small piece of the total auto market, after all.


But, it would seem, that Honda is not looking at their market share of the total auto market—or even of the total mid-sized auto market.  Rather, it appears they are more concerned about the brand’s share of what they call the mass premium auto market.  Knowing what market a brand intends to “play in,” and therefore what share of that market the brand currently enjoys and hopes to ultimately own ought to be one of the most fundamental of strategic business decisions, right?  Making such a decision is even more necessary today, given the stunning discontinuities of the global marketplace. 


In very general terms, we might outline and label (at least in rough terms) the more notable of these discontinuities like this:

Mass Market Marketing
The Age of Attention
Segmentation Marketing
The Age of Sameness
Advocacy Marketing
The Age of Attraction

Whether you totally agree with these broad shifts or not, you would have to admit that thinking about and measuring a brand’s share of a total market is no longer nearly as helpful—nor as meaningful—as it once was, for most brands. No, these days to make market share really matter in the direction-setting and investment-planning for most brands, what is much more instructive is (a) knowing precisely who the target market is for the brand (and conversely, who is not), and (b) setting measurement methodologies in place to read and track the brand’s share not of “mass market,” but of “target market.”


Making the commitment to doing these two things often takes guts—among the company’s senior management. This is especially true for companies who have long enjoyed a massive share of a mass market. For example, some years ago with the advent of more sophisticated retail sales and brand interaction data, Frito-Lay finally saw in blunt numbers—for the first time—just to what extent brands outside of the traditional “salty snack” category actually competed for the same snacking occasions. Such new and striking data made it quite clear that, although Frito-Lay had been reading its share against only other salty snack brands, it ought to be reading its share against other “macro-snack” brands (such as cookie brands like Oreo’s, cracker brands like Cheez-Its, and confection brands like Snickers). 


The only problem with this was that, for years, Frito-Lay’s share of salty snacks had remained 45+%...whereas, when the company calculated its share of macro-snacks, its share slumped to only 20+% of that much greater market. Who would want to report to PepsiCo senior management—let alone Wall Street—that the company’s market share position was actually only half of what it had always been? Okay, one might say, this could be ameliorated some if they simply chose to report both market shares (which is what the company began doing). But there was an even more subtle but concerning angle to accepting and reporting a smaller market share: the psychological effect on the employees—particularly the Sales Force. When you have always approached key customers with the lion’s share of a big market, you automatically assume a certain stature or status as the “category leader.” If you have any status with an airline, you can imagine somewhat how this plays out!


Owning the lion’s share (meaning the dominant share) of a market in medical devices can have even more critical, psychological value. Imagine if you had, say, a 75% share of a particular hospital-operating-theater procedure and your company was the longstanding, acknowledged leader. But then imagine, with the sudden influx of new technology, that the same, safe outcomes were widely available in doctors’ offices or clinics, such that your market share of those “outcomes” was halved, how your Sales Force would feel. For sure, they would lose significant “swagger.”


So, moving a company, or even some of its key brands, away from a reading of a traditional, mass market share to a more focused target market share (as Honda Thailand has apparently done) may not always be such an easy thing to do. But we believe that, for most brands in most categories and classes today, it is a much smarter way to set the company/brand direction and, even more important, to spend the always-limited company/brand resources. As yet another example (for inspiration?) consider the much publicized share story for Apple’s Mac brand. You may have heard it or read about it. In the US, just recently, Apple’s share of total laptops cracked the 10% mark for the first time. Big move, but still a pretty small number. How about Apple’s share of the US +$1,000 laptop market (the premium laptop market)? That share remains at 91%. Maybe you can see which target and therefore which market share really matters to Apple. Think about it—along with your senior management. What market share really matters to your company or to your brand?




1.     Before any brand can consciously aim to read its share of “target market,” it needs to know in precise detail who the brand’s positioning target is, and who it is not. We always recommend identifying that positioning target in 6-7 key elements: Demographics, Psychographics, Occasion or Condition, Driving Attitudes, Usage & Dis-satisfactions, “Telling Behaviors,” and Needs. We also recommend that this target-along with the entire brand positioning strategy statement—by the senior management.


2.     Another essential step in getting to a share of “target market” is to engage the company’s marketplace intelligence and research experts (and their suppliers) to construct the methods for measuring the various marketplace segments…and, ideally, to provide any “early reads” of new technologies that cause shifts in these segments.


3.     Even if your company or brand feels the need to continue reading some mass market share trend, we would urge you, at the very least, to add a read of your share of “target market.”

Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney

Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

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