Ep. 66 – Why Blitzscaling Doesn’t Work for Consumer Brands


MARCH 15, 2022


It’s all about adoption, adoption, adoption. Or the formation of consumption habits in everyday life. 


Add in the immense oversupply of brand choices for anyone consumption occasion, not to mention the dozens and dozens of categories available for us to pick from, and you get a very complicated fragmentation of demand. 


This fragmentation means that shoving large volumes of product out in an omnichannel fashion before you know if it can grow quickly on its own merits risks delivering your a very expensive false positive. 


Consumer brands can grow quickly but they have to use the initial years to find their optimal heavy-using tribes, learn from them and then feedback those consumer learnings into package design, line optimization, marketing, placement strategy and many other growth-related touchpoints. 


This is above average, extra credit work for sure. But, if you want to be in the top 2% of brands growing exponentially, then it’s mandatory. 


The continual coverage of unicorns in the national business media tempts naive founders to think they just might be the one. The one who can simply explode out of the gate with virtually no iteration.


Wouldn’t that be nice?


The hyper-fragmentation of demand and oversupply of innovation, most of it derivative, feeds us all tons of white noise as consumers. It is NOT our job to filter through it on the behalf of you the founder. We are not archivists of consumer marketing.  So we won’t until we have a very pointed reason. 


Expecting someone to rationally quest for their $1,200 cellphone purchase is reasonable.


In the world of consumer brands, however, there is little research so to speak, except in supplements. Instead, there is very rapid scanning and reaction to symbolism, language, and symbolic arguments, most of them cultural in nature. The prices and stakes of purchase are low so we default to mostly unconsciously held logic to make decisions about new brands. 


The process of generating a trial that leads to habit works well for founders when the consumer has been pre-loaded with an argument to try the brand, often through a sample experience or word-of-mouth from friends or fellow ‘tribespeople.


 …but I’ve found that brand habituation can take several purchases, which in turn could string out over months. 


That’s a hell of a lot of time in which to forget your trademark or where they bought you, both of which will interrupt demand at the individual level.


My point is that you have to be incredibly memorable to break through the cognitive clutter in consumer goods. And this takes time to achieve.


It would be much easier if manufacturers only sold case packs. Then, consumers would be staring at the product daily and reminded to keep using it. But that’s not how we sell or buy new CPG items.


Or is it?


Liquid Death just demonstrated a pure case pack trial in 2019 using edgy ads most would not dare do. But they were memorable to the right tribe.


They got through the signal clutter. But, they too need time to reach folks beyond the initial punk-metal niche they used to start. 


And luckily they have a memorable can…which makes mineral fun, not stodgy.


Regardless of how you generate memorability, it has to happen and this takes time.


Blitzscaling doesn’t allow any time for learning or iterating. 


It presumes that all the pre-launch work was sufficient.


And in the world of technology, this may be easier to pull off because we the user are buffoons who don’t have well-worn uses already figured out. And let’s face it we all tend to defer to new technology


Even the target audience for a consumer brand has no desire to defer it. Consumer products just aren’t that important, any one of them. 


Consumers symbolically dominate consumer brands early on in their development. They are buying experiences and outcomes and will value the brand over time according to how products perform.


They’re skeptical for a reason because they’ve been burned many times in CPG land.


So, ignore Silicon Valley Blitzscaling and build a strong brand with fans at the core of your P & L.


You’ll thank me later!