SOURCE: The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group

January 12, 2016 11:30 ET

You Don't Have to Be Apple or Amazon to Build and Sustain a Great Brand, Says New Book From the Boston Consulting Group

"Ordinary Mortals," and "Renaissance" Companies, Can Build Brands That Stand the Test of Time -- by Forging Deep Emotional Ties to Customers; It's Both Art and Science

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwired - Jan 12, 2016) - You don't have to be Apple or Amazon to build a brand that grows and grows.

In fact, most great brands are built not by rock star entrepreneurs and geniuses, but by hard-working leaders and executives -- ordinary mortals who know how to forge deep emotional ties with consumers. They know how to ask the right questions to consumers, engage them emotionally and deliver a predictable innovation stream. These consumers become "apostles," devoted ambassadors who drive sales and profits far out of proportion to their numbers.

That's the viewpoint of Rocket: Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth (McGraw-Hill, October 2015), a book by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) senior partners Michael J. Silverstein, Dylan Bolden, Rune Jacobsen and Rohan Sajdeh. Based on proprietary BCG research and decades of experience in working with great brands, Rocket described the steps taken by brands including Amazon, Toyota, Frito-Lay, Whole Foods and Zappos to achieve "immortality" -- sustained loyalty and growth that defies expectations and conventional brand life cycles.

Brands need to be magical, but building them isn't magic. "You don't have to be a genius. There is a science to building a brand," Silverstein says. "It involves extensive quantitative and qualitative research to get deep inside the consumer's head and understand not only what he or she buys, but also the hopes, dreams and aspirations that drive the purchase."

According to the BCG Consumer Sentiment Survey of 15,000 adult U.S. consumers, a survey founded on a proprietary database of 400,000 consumers in 20 major countries over 10 years, the top ten U.S. apostle brands are Apple, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Netflix, Costco, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Target, Jet Blue and Chick-fil-A.

Companies can follow a few rules and principles to create a brand that inspires love and lasts forever:

  • Focus on the two percent of customers that really matter - the apostles that generate eight times their own consumption through word-of-mouth advocacy to family and friends. BCG research shows that two percent of consumers directly contribute 20 percent of sales. They drive 80 percent of total volume via their recommendations. They deliver over 150 percent of profitability, buying product without a discount and without regard for seasonality.

  • Find and follow "demand spaces," not demographics. Demand spaces are the emotional moments when people choose products. "People don't buy your product because they're working mothers or college students," says Silverstein. "They buy it because it solves a problem, fits an occasion or fills a deep emotional need." For instance, PepsiCo was able to revitalize stagnant Frito-Lay when it mapped the demands spaces in which people snacked -- for an afternoon boost, when partying with friends or when getting together with family -- then matched brands and products to demands.

  • Stay true to your vision. "Inspiration counts," Silverstein says. "Apostle brands and their leaders don't fall prey to value engineering. They begin with and hold to a bold, unique vision about how to connect to consumers' deepest emotions. They deliver products and services that truly are best in class. And they stay there with news at a predictable cadence."

"There is also an art to building a brand. Great brands anchor themselves in the consumer's emotional space. A great brand inspires love, and that in turn creates loyalty and advocacy. It becomes an 'apostle brand,'" Silverstein says. "Unlike ordinary brands, apostle brands are not just bought, they are revered. They provide entertainment and joy. They inspire enduring trust, loyalty, love and almost evangelical endorsement. To their fans, they are like religions. They capture a disproportionate share of discretionary dollars."

One company that has a near-cult following is Zappos. Co-founder and CEO Tony Hsieh understood that passionate employees create apostle brands, so he built a culture to attract and retain the outstanding people who would make the company a standout in customer service.

"It's inspiring to know that all great brands were created by ordinary mortals," Silverstein says. "Every brand can -- and should -- follow their example and apply their lessons. The result will be a lasting success that generates infinite growth."

For more information, or to schedule an interview with Michael J. Silverstein, contact Katarina Wenk-Bodenmiller of Sommerfield Communications at (212) 255-8386 or

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 82 offices in 46 countries.

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