May 25, 2016

Your Brand Ecosystem

We are rapidly approaching the eleventh Memorial Day Weekend I have written to you. The eleventh. When I started this, I was on the downswing of "blogging" ... this thing called Facebook was about to take off ... Twitter was in the early days as well ... eventually, 140 character shots across the bow would become more important than thoughtful consideration of a topic. We couldn't imagine a future where a Presidential Candidate would earn stripes and votes by tweeting images of spouses and by tweeting constant put-downs.

As we work through the summer, we're going to evolve beyond a discussion of customer acquisition, to a discussion of your brand ecosystem. Let me give you an example. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, if you stand along the ocean, north of Seattle, you don't hear many sea gulls. Ten years ago, there were sea gulls everywhere. Now why is that? Well, this spring it is because there are no herring to be found. What happens when there are no herring to be found? Salmon don't have much to eat. What happens when salmon don't have much to eat? Salmon have to go find food. What happens when salmon have to find food? The orca whales follow them. Hence, there aren't a lot of orca whales in the waters north of Seattle right now ... two of the three pods aren't making many appearances and only portions of J-Pod are commonly seen.

That's an ecosystem, folks ... sea gulls and salmon depend on herring ... orcas depend on salmon.

In our modern world of marketing, we are orcas. We're looking for salmon. There aren't a lot of salmon ... so we try to entice the existing salmon to side with us, via discounts and promotions. We ignore the ecosystem, we just try to optimize our fraction of the ecosystem.

Now, if we solved the herring problem, we might solve the salmon problem (or if we tore down the dams on the Columbia River, Snake River, and Fraser River, we'd also solve the salmon problem). And if we solved the salmon problem, we'd see orcas, healthy orcas.

Your brand has an ecosystem, and when you nourish your ecosystem, your brand thrives. New customers are like herring. Merchandise is like salmon. Channels are like sea gulls. If everything is managed properly, then you - the orca whale - you have a full tummy (profit). 

Why not join me as we explore brand ecosystems this summer? Let's learn how our customers, merchandise, and channels all fit together. After exploring the topic, maybe we'll be in a better position to launch credible customer acquisition plans.


  1. I'm interested in how Kevin approaches this topic. His (presumably) best practices in retail/B2C marketing may dovetail nicely with my chosen profession - electronics/semiconductor product management.

    My company uses ecosystem partners quite extensively, because we simply don't have the expertise bandwidth to be all things to all customers.

  2. Shouldn't merchandise be the herring, which the new customers (salmons) eat.


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