American Marketer


Identifying and filling gaps for heritage brands: Discerning and creating new market opportunities

September 22, 2014

Rebecca Miller speaking at Luxury FirstLook: Strategy 2014 Rebecca Miller speaking at Luxury FirstLook: Strategy 2014


By Rebecca Miller

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

We engage in creating and using strategies every day, personally and professionally, as well as consciously and unconsciously.

Strategically identifying and filling gaps in the high-end market for heritage brands requires a new and unique discipline, the courage to lead and balancing talent, humility, art and science to authentically be transformative in the luxury brand setting.

Today’s affluent consumers are more self-reliant. They report that the recession has made them more resourceful, more fiscally responsible, and they perceive themselves to be smarter shoppers.

Affluent consumers are committed to quality and value, electing not to trade down, continuing to demand quality in products and services, and are searching for a resonant quality, which they perceive to be deserving of cost. Their expectations and desires are focused on craftsmanship, prompting their purchases to be more thoughtful and meaningful – to them.

The challenge is to strategically find uncontested market opportunities for heritage brands within undefined boundaries to secure and satisfy this long established standard in a newer more demanding global economy.

Human touch
We have long been servants to traditional strategies: well defined, understood and accepted boundaries that force leaders to make similar decisions, simply to gain greater share of luxury purchases. This strategy has not necessarily achieved the results needed to remain relevant and meaningful to customers and prospects.

Innovative and current competitive strategy is about being different, consciously choosing a diverse set of activities to provide an exceptional mix of appeal. The goal is to create movement, an ongoing current: the ability to engage your consumer or client in acquiring your goods or services.

Businesses are built and grown via the quality of their talent. Strategic gap identification requires metacognitive or insightful and exacting knowledge and regulation, flawlessly executed by talent from many disciplines. Planning, executing, monitoring, evaluating and follow-up requires depth and breadth of knowledge.

Human capital investment is the essential resource.

A proven process is to identify a core group, the four or five critical senior roles the business relies on every day to function. They serve as the heart and mind of the brand.

Surround the core group by an advisory group whose skills are not required daily but create an appropriate ongoing dynamic. Merge contributors, as needed – when opportunities and challenges arise, that requires their expertise.

This process uses a well-edited talentpool who will deliver a robust and flexible braintrust from which to support the key intiatives for growth.

Mind the gap
Strategies are, however, often destabilized by unpredictability. The global sources for destabilization are infinite. Flexibility, and a core of preparation to address disruption can be the difference between falling-off the radar, going out of business or profitable growth.

Core preparation requires more than traditional talent and processes. To gain a position of strength, a reactive posture, and flexibility, you need to see beyond the ordinary, the obvious – to the possible, the unnoticed gaps.

Imperative to every team is an individual, pre-disposed to abundance channeling an unfettered stream of consciousness, distinct from the status quo. Abundance creates opportunity, while the status quo limits one’s ability to make connections.

Heuristic, or innovative thinkers, are marvelously skilled at identifying gaps in products and services. Their gimlet eye sees beyond what the typical mind is prepared to comprehend.

Like French bricouleurs, or builders, using whatever resources were at hand, they connect, identify and create, filling voids and creating a fit where others see none.

These intuitive connectors use research, knowledge, and experience to balance risk against their intuitive judgment – their gut instincts. They curate a company’s vision through an intimate knowledge of the market, the ability to globally understand and effectively use resources, and careful observation and listening skills.

Keep in mind, these intuitive members of the group, with a silver-lining take on moving the group forward, incorporate the input of their advisors and contributors. Ultimately, and essentially, they trust their own ideas and self-correct for the whole.

Intuitive members provide authentic evolution of a brand that invite and engage others to participate.

Those who meet these criteria are exceptional. They are rare. Companies who lead in their respective market space have one on their team. Seldom does this particular talent naturally reside within organizations.

Bottom lines
Talent of this ilk, present heritage brands with unforeseen momentum while creating new market share, providing first-mover advantage.

Contributions from these unique individuals create extraordinary value to a company on many levels. It is this interactional style that draws attention from the media, builds brand awareness and brings a unique distinction to the brand.

These intuiters invite broader thinking by demonstrating how it can profoundly impact the bottom line through collaborative actions and improve internal and external engagement with the brand while protecting the corporate reputation ecosystem.

Success is enhanced when creative talent from complementary and or unrelated fields is engaged during the development process.

Effective organizations seek talent with a discerning eye, taste, knowledge and the acumen to apply these gifts to their business. They value those whose resume reads like a series of captivating vignettes rather than a traditional progression of working up the corporate ladder.

Strategically identifying gaps and filling them in the luxury and heritage brand category assumes trade-offs, i.e., knowing what not to do. Leaders are required to make hard choices. They may see this approach as a form of white space. Critically, it requires management to create legitimacy, allocating resources, building impetus and quantifying results to evaluate progress.

THE PLETHORA of resources and research, or Big Data, we have access to is staggering, intensified by the breadth of technology.

The responsibility to assess and delineate direction from this wealth of knowledge is daunting, but remains the purview of that unique individual within the leadership team.

The identification and strategy necessary to fill undefined and emerging gaps requires research and assessment of the competition, market space, trends and curatorial alignment to the brand by talent who are pre-disposed to abundance, an unfettered stream of consciousness: the broad view of the future and its possibilities.

Rebecca Miller is principal at Miller & Company, New York. Reach her at