Chances for “supporting role” brands

Ngày: 02-12-2013


In movies, there are always typical “heroic” protagonists such as 007’s James Bond, Mission Impossible’s Hunt or The Three Kingdoms’ Zhuge Liang who are magnets of blockbusters.

On the other hand, there are antagonists who are “supporting roles” for heros. Zhou Yu turned his head up to the sky and said that “The Creator bears Yu, why did you bear Liang?”. While viewers of the great Romance of The Three Kingdoms share one thing in common: Would have Zuge Liang sublimated his super-ordinary intelligence, if there had not had a talented Zhou Yu for him to battle with?


Viewers often experience mixed feelings for antagonists. They are hated, scared of or even admired sometimes. The common thing in media between protagonists and antagonists in successful movies is that they are always remembered. The antagonists, sometimes, even make a stronger impression.


The story of movie is quite similar to the story of branding.


In any category, leading brands often orientate the marketplace and be loved by consumers. Let’s name iPhone in smartphone category, Manchester United in soccer or Viettel in telecommunication.


They seem to be “protagonists” or “heros”, which makes us think of competing brands – Samsung, Manchester City and VNPT.


The protagonists and antagonists or the main and supporting character all need each other to leverage and shine themselves. Similarly, the leading brands and challengers also need each other to be motivated.


In Vietnam’s telecommunication market, despite its late coming, Viettel has made great progress and acquired the top position (nearly 50% market share) against 2 giants VinaFone and MobiFone of VNPT. The management of Viettel, however, shared that they are afraid of VNPT being stays far behind. Viettel needs a healthy VNPT as a counterpoise which creates the motivation.


But in many cases, challengers need more from “leaders”, not the opposite, especially in media.


People talk much about Manchester United. The absolute domination of the Red Devils results in the “fame” of its competitors. In two recent football match, the best “me-too” is Manchester City, the same-city football club. Since being heavily invested by the Arab billionaire, Man City has suddenly changed its life and become the main “counterpoise” of Manchester United. Certainly, despite of the full pocket, Man City would not in the spotlight of the media unless they are a “noisy” neighbourhood.


In movies, heroes always win. Let’s say James Bond. Be ragged in “Skyfall”, be grabbed girlfriend in “Quantum of Solace”, and be stripped off and stolen all money in “Casino Royale”, he still has a happy ending in the end.


In the market, the “main role” brands do not have such luxury privilege. The winners must be the better. Unlike, in movies, the victory or failure is decided by … directors. In the competition, it depends on customer’s decision, which is tougher but fairer.


The communication battle between Apple (iPhone 5) and Samsung (Galaxy S4) is a typical example.


136 million of Apple. Apple’s market share also dropped to 23% while Samsung achieved 36%. The slip of Apple VIP actor can be explained by the surprising excellence of “supporting role” Samsung, especially in marketing.


After the introduction of Samsung’s Galaxy S4, Apple launched “Why iPhone” campaign on its website. The message targets to consumers instead of products like before. Apple’s previous advertising message only promotes the strength of iPhone: super sharp Retina screen, uniquely elegant design, etc.


The strategic change of the “main role” Apple is derived from the excellence of “supporting role” Samsung. Samsung defeated Apple in advertising, admitted by Ken Segal, the man behind the great “Think different” campaign. “While Samsung’s ads are young and close to every class, Apple is too much focused on its product’s unique luxury,” added Ken.


In movies, the scenarios arrange the fate of every character. Heroes are eroes forever. “Antagonists”, despite how impressive their acting is, will only be “background” for the heroes. There will be no change sometimes and it makes audience feel “sad”.


The battle of brands are more changeable and exciting. “The main character” yesterday can be switched to “the supporting role” today. It’s not romantic, but very fast and ruthless game for brands. But customers, the deicider of the games, are very excited to watch and benefit from this fierce competition.


Kodak actor, an one-time camera film dominator, is now absolutely disappearred in the market. Nokia, a VIP actor of the handphone market in many decades, is now degraded to a “supporting role” and gave up its stage to Samsung and Apple.


Apple is now the main character in the stage light, but they always bear in mind that some are waiting behind the curtain to take the stage at any time.


Nguyễn Đức Sơn

Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates

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