Q&A with Dorothy Dee-Ching on Managing Brand Portfolios

Dorothy Dee-Ching is VP Marketing for Beauty and Personal Care of Unilever Philippines, in charge of 20+ brands in 4 categories. She won the Mansmith Young Market Masters Award (YMMA) in 2016 when she was the Marketing Director for Hair. Dorothy shares her insights about how she manages a portfolio of Unilever brands. She will share more marketing tips during the 10th Market Masters Conference on April 3, 2019 in SMX Aura.

Q1: Why is having a brand portfolio strategy important?

A1: One brand cannot be everything to everyone. Thus, it is very important especially in today’s highly fragmented world to have a portfolio of brands that can cater to different consumer segments and needs.

After all, a young fun-loving girl seeking new adventures and a confident fashion-forward woman who is ready to make the world her runway would want very different things for themselves and their hair.

For the company, this allows it to go for more opportunities, leverage scale and manage risks. For the brands, this allows it to stay true to its purpose and what it stands for and not overstretch just to go for a bigger share of the market.

Q2: Can you share your framework on how to craft and manage a portfolio of brands?

A2: The first step is to do a proper segmentation of consumers where each segment should be sizeable enough with minimal overlaps. Cutting it too broadly would make the targeting meaningless while cutting it too thinly would make it too niche.

Next step is to identify which segments you’d like to play in. It is critical here is to ascertain the growth (and profit) headroom of the segment.  Is the segment big but not growing? Is the segment small but accelerating fast?

After this is to develop brands that would have the right to win in this segment.  What would this segment find most relevant and appealing and differentiated vs. other players? This could be a unique proposition, new product or packaging, special price point, massive or limited distribution or cut-through promotion.

Once everything is in place, it is important that the different brands in the portfolio get the appropriate amount of support depending on their roles and market so they can all grow and complement each other. After all, the point of having a portfolio of brands is not to grow a brand/ slice but to grow the whole portfolio/ pie!

Q3: How do you avoid cannibalization? How do you create synergy among brands?

A3: To avoid cannibalization, tough choices will have to be made to ensure brands differentiate themselves in strategy AND execution so consumers will not think they are substitutable.

One would expect a Mass brand to be overindexed in Sachets/Smaller Packs and Sari-Sari Stores vs. a Premium Brand to be overindexed in Bottles/ Larger Packs and Premium Health & Beauty stores.

On the other hand, you can create synergy among brands by maximizing category strength – educate the market and develop a segment collectively or by leveraging scale – in procurement when ordering common materials, in production when managing fixed costs and in trade when negotiating for space.

Q4: What are some tips you can give on managing different brands over time?

A4: In managing different brands over time, you need to be able to wear a different consumer hat each time.

Whether it’s a young girl facing insecurities about her body image, a yuppie who wants to look good and smell fresh all-day to stay confident or a new mother struggling to provide the best care for her baby — it is only when you have a deep understanding of your consumers’ needs, wants and aspirations will you be able to get valuable insights on how your brand can help and impact their lives.

Q5: How can you leverage your current brand portfolio for organic growth?

A5: Once you have a strong brand portfolio, it is very important that you build and nurture each brand so that they can all be sizeable and profitable.

To drive organic growth, each brand must consistently stay true to itself in order to build strong memory structures and emotional engagement, continuously refresh so it continues to excite and stay relevant to current users and constantly recruit to keep bringing in new consumers to help fill the leaky bucket.

Q6: What are some of the challenges in managing a portfolio of brands?

A6: Just like children, you need to love all the brands equally but treat them differently depending on who they are and what you want them to be.

For example, a new brand that you are just building would definitely need more attention and nurturing vs. an already strong, mature brand.

What is important is that you fully understand the brands and their unique needs and treat each brand fairly.

(Dorothy Dee-Ching can be heard live. Join over 1,000 marketing executives and entrepreneurs to listen to how 35 marketing rockstars think, strategize and execute this April 3, 2019 in SMX Aura. Register via www.marketmastersconference.com)

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