This is a story of an epic battle.
Three thousand years ago, in the twelveth century, in the valley of Elah, two armies were facing each other.
Fledging army of Israel was pitted against the army of Philistines.
The two armies were not ready to make the first move.
To attack meant descending down the hill which would be suicidal for both of them.
To settle the deadlock, both sides decided to send their best warrior down the valley-whoever won, the other side would become their slave.
This was the accepted practice in those days to avoid heavy bloodshed which invariably would result from any full-scale war.
Philistines sent their best warrior, a 6 feet 11 inches giant.
He had a full body armour weighing more than 100 kgs and carried a javelin, a spear and a sword.
He was the most destructive and ferocious warrior you could ever imagine.
In the Israel camp, nobody moved.
Who could win against this terrifying opponent?
Then a Shepherd Boy, who had come to give food to his brother, stepped forward and volunteered to fight the giant warrior.
King Saul objected- how could he allow a shepherd boy to go and fight the awesome seasoned warrior!
The shepherd boy was adamant- he said that he was used to fighting lions and bears in the jungle to protect his sheep and he could win against the giant warrior.
Finally, the king relented.
The shepherd boy ran down the valley towards the giant warrior.
The giant warrior said “ Come to me, that I may give your flesh to birds of the heaven and beasts of the field”
He felt insulted to see a shepherd boy coming to fight him instead of a seasoned warrior.
The shepherd boy reached down and picked up five stones from the ground.
He put one stone in a leather pouch of a sling.
He rotated the sling at a great speed and fired the stone at the giant’s only exposed part –his forehead.
The giant was stunned. He fell down.
The shepherd boy took the giant’s sword and cut his head.
Looking their warrior dead, the philistine army fled.
The shepherd boy was David and the giant’s name was Goliath.
Since then David and Goliath have become a metaphor for an improbable win.
The battle was won by an underdog.
That’s why people love to support underdogs- be it a sport or a business organisation.
People jump to the conclusion about bigger armies.
They believe that bigger armies will always win.
Napoleon had said that “God is with larger armies”
A political scientist, TvanArrequonToft did the calculations and found that larger armies won only 71.5 % of the time.
Just under a third of the time- weaker and smaller armies prevailed.
This is the key point I am trying to make.
It is possible to win against heavy odds.
If you don’t follow the conventional rules.
If you are able to find the weak underbelly of your opponent.
Mahatma Gandhi won the war of independence against the British Empire.
The British army was equipped with trained soldiers and latest guns.
They were used to fight and win battles against regular armies.
They did not know how to fight against a simple half-clad fakir, who believed in non-violence.Who could rally millions of Indians against the powerful British army
The rules of engagement had changed completely.
The same rule applies in business.
You can fight and win against a bigger opponent if you change the rules of engagement.
If you can find a weakness of the bigger opponent and exploit it.
‘Blockbuster’ was the undisputed king providing entertainment to millions.
Netflix was an upstart trying to find space in the industry.
In 2000, ‘blockbuster’ turned down offers to buy Netflix for 50 million$.
In 2004, while blockbuster was making 6 billion$ in revenue, Netflix was struggling to be in 500 million $.
Netflix changed the rules.
It started offering more convenience to its customers, first with movies through the mail, and then streaming services made available on numerous devices.
A decade later, Blockbuster declared bankruptcy, closing all stores in 2013. Netflix now has more than 31.1 million subscribers and an ahead of the pack by a wide margin.
Today, Apple is the most valuable company on the planet.
Steve Jobs had the vision to create technology that would change the world, and it all started in his garage in 1976.
Competing against Microsoft, the largest electronics and computer company at the time, Steve had to put everything into creating new and unique technology to surpass the top dog of the industry. When Apple introduced the iPod, it changed the way people listened to music. Goodbye Walkmans, hello iPod. Followed by the iPhone and the iPad, Apple was turning heads and getting noticed.
Steve Jobs understood that consumers are constantly looking for something different and eye-catching and so he gave his customers exactly what they wanted.
He created products with new technology with stunning designs.
He said “ I want to make even computer keypads so beautiful, that that my customers would like to lick them “Along with his incredibly innovative ideas, he spent time on great marketing ideas, which created a new mystic around the brand.
Today, whenever a new product is launched by apple it is a common sight to see people waiting for more than 12 hours to lay their hand on Apple products.
The Apple products have become a cult.
The use of detergent powder was started in India by HLL’s Surf in 1959.
Starting as a one-product one-man organisation in 1969 by Karsanbhai Patel, ‘Nirma’ took on the market leader Surf by giving the good quality product at most affordable prices.
The price-value equation was so effective that, by the 1970s, Nirma dominated the detergent market.
In 1990, Nirma entered the Indian toilet soaps market with its Nirma Beauty soap.
By 1999, Nirma became India’s second largest manufacturer of toilet soaps by acquiring a 15% share of the toilet soap market.Nirma’s performance was incredible as compared to Godrej, which had a share of only 8%.
By 1999-2000, Nirma had gathered a 38% share of India’s 2.4 million tonnes detergents market.
HLL’s share was 31% for the same period.
How did Nirma succeed against such strong opponent like HLL’s Surf?
It provided great cost effective value to Indian lower and middle-class consumers, which Surf could never do.
The quality was acceptable, not great.
It added a good jingle based marketing campaign to this heady cocktail and tipping point was reached.
The market leader was overthrown and Nirma became aRs 17 billion company within thirty years.
The underdog won against tremendous odds.
Global Handset Vendor Market share report announced ‘Micromax ‘as the 12th largest handset manufacturer in the world. The brand, which launched three-and-a-half years ago with just 10,000 handsets, is now present in Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri-Lanka, Maldives, UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan and Brazil.
Micromax entered in India when the competition was fierce. All international brands were fighting to get some space in this large Indian market. Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, LG, Sony and dozen others.
Micromax had two unique propositions –value for money price and customising the product as per specific market.
When it entered the Sri Lankan market, Micromax realised that for a coastal region, it couldn’t offer the same products. So, it developed a water and moisture-resistant phone. Similarly, sensing early on that Bangladesh was not quite geared for 3G – despite its potential – Micro exchanged its strategy and launched with a range of 2G phones. Later, it introduced smartphones and tablets, too
Micromax’sFunbook Pro, the 7-inch, budget android tablet (Rs 7,249) was created after tweaking blueprints of nine tablets in the market.
According to India Quarterly Media Tablet Market Review, Micromax is the market leader in tablets followed by Samsung and Apple, respectively.
Shaving cream Vi-John
Vi-John, a shaving cream, has a very low awareness as compared to the foreign brand Gillette does, but it sells twice more than Gillette. It is endorsed by Shahrukh Khan and is a hot favourite in small towns and cities.
I understood the power of this brand when my father refused to use any other brand but Vi-John when he came to visit us.
Vi-John is an INR 500 crore company and has interests in real estate and liquor as well, apart from Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). Its steady success in the male grooming market has encouraged it to take on the rival foreign brands.
Vi-John created a new segment in non-metros and smaller towns.
It did not confront the market leader ‘Gillette’ directly but started chipping at user segment in non-urban towns.
This was typical ‘outside-inside’ strategy.
The product has started entering urban centres after consolidating its base in the non-urban segment.
Waghbakri tea is a market leader in Gujarat.
Waghbakri operates on a simple formula – understand the local palate and offer exactly what they want. They test about 500 samples a day in order to get the right brew and blend for a particular region. Like for instance in south Gujarat people tend to use creamy milk, so Waghbakri has a brew that will blend with the richness of the milk, and yet sport a delicious flavour
This brand is now trying to go national and has extended its presence in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Delhi, Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. It is all set to take on its MNC rival – Hindustan Unilever (HUL) and Tata brands.
It has started Tea outlets, where people can come for snacks and taste their range of products
The bottom line. It is possible to win against a superior opponent.
You have more than 50 % chances of beating a stronger and bigger enemy.
You can change the rules of engagement. (Mahatma Gandhi, Netflix)
You can provide a better price-value equation (Nirma, Micromax)
Your product design can change the consumer perception (apple )
You can customise your product as per the geography or cultural difference ( Wagbakri Tea, Micromax) New technology and speed will make a difference. (Flipkart, Snapdeal and all new age companies)
David can always beat Goliath.
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