There is good news and bad news for the small and medium enterprise (SME) when it comes to marketing in today’s digital environment. The good news is that it's possible to win big. On the flip side, however, the big brands tend to win bigger.
The evolution of social media is described in three platforms. This is according to Mark Adams, a brand expert who has worked with A-list celebrities and CEOs of global brands and who spoke at Future State presented by Spark and Semi Permanent in Auckland.
They are, in the order of evolution:
Facebook — allowed us to upload our photos onto our phones so someone could engage with them.
Instagram — enabled us to find the people we wanted to follow because they were into the same stuff.
TikTok — democratised the act of creating content, giving us the opportunity to both jump onto trends and remix content that already exists.
Mark says technology and social media have lowered the bar to creative excellence. In 2009, the successful YouTuber needed a small studio in their house to be successful. In 2023, they just need to hold up their phone, tap into a trending topic on TikTok and off they go.
You don’t need the directing chops of Ridley Scott or movie star fame of Johnny Depp to make content that attracts a mass audience. And the smartest brands in the world have worked out that they “can actually jump over these gatekeepers”.
“As long as you have the intention to contribute, you can go directly to a network and create shared value… and it’s really as simple as that,” Mark says.
In the story of David and Goliath, David triumphs by being innovative and using a sling and stones to take down the gigantic Goliath. If this was reality, however, Mark says that Goliath would smash David’s head into a pie, take him home and eat him for lunch.
“The number one signifier or predictor of market share is how big your brand already is,” he says.
“So, all these companies think they’re going to take out the big boys. I’ve got to be honest with you. It’s very unlikely. It doesn’t happen.”
If you can’t go head-to-head with Goliath, then you have to find the places where he doesn’t play.
Mark says it’s about sailing away from the red ocean and into the blue ocean. The red ocean being the contested ocean “where many ships are fighting one another for that piece of space where the water is stained with the blood of thousands of dead brands.”
So how do you sail towards blue and uncontested waters?
If you are a SME, you need to create a network of 1,000 fans. These are not people who just buy your product; these are people who are obsessed with your product and your brand and care deeply about what you're going to do next.
“If you have 1,000 true fans you will make enough money not just to survive, but to thrive,” he says.
The big brands might eventually come after your patch, and then you will need to find ways to be scalable and defensible or you will be killed. In the meantime, you can make the small to medium-sized bets that only a small player can make.
Major brands can only make big moves, because they are restricted by the demands of their shareholders, Mark says. “That leaves a lot of food lying around for SMEs to grow,” he says.