How Brands Grow–A Book Review

As you’ll hear from my book review, Byron Sharp points out many interesting facts in his book, How Brands Grow.

As you’ll hear from my book review above, Byron Sharp points out many interesting facts in his book, How Brands Grow. This includes the idea that mass marketing isn’t dead, buyers aren’t as loyal as companies think, and distinctiveness is much better than differentiation. He uses multiple studies to prove his points, especially through the brands Coke and Pepsi.

Sharp argues that while mass marketing is deemed as old-fashioned, it’s so important because we need to reach out to as many customers as we can. Researchers that study buying behavior and brand performance have found that “mass marketing is essential for growth.” He proves it by showing that most of Coke buyers buy the brand once or twice a year, if not less than that. Customers are not as loyal as brands think, so marketers can’t discount the ones that don’t buy the brand not as often. Sharp has a quote: “Non-buyers and light buyers are heavier buyers than you think and heavy buyers are lighter.”

Another study for Coke and Pepsi also showed that people are more likely to trust their eyes/familiarity over taste. In a blind taste testing trial that was conducted, about the same number of Coke and Pepsi drinkers said they preferred the taste of the other brand. This study shows just how fickle consumers can be and as a brand, you must be constantly refreshing and reminding consumers that you exist.

Sharp also points out that in today’s industry, marketers must not strive for meaningful, perceived differentiation, but rather meaningless distinctiveness. He doesn’t approve of building a brand image or personality because consumers don’t typically view brands as a personality. He believes that features that make the brand distinct are more effective ad tactics.

Sharp brings up interesting points about mass marketing, consumer loyalty, and differentiation and while I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, I’m glad I have a broader understanding of the importance of mass marketing and growing brands.  It was an interesting read and definitely worth checking it out.


  1. I believe that mass marketing serves a purpose, but for specific brands. Coca-Cola is a widely consumed product by young and old. Due to its array of consumers, mass marketing may work for Coke’s promotion model compared to a more niche or less known brand. I believe Sharp’s theory of mass marketing would only work for companies with wide audiences.

  2. This book sounds like it would be a timeless marketing tool! I like the approach to mass marketing being a key element to get your brands name out there. I also thought it was interesting that the author talks about the Coke and Pepsi rivalry, it’s good example of a timeless mass marketing that I believe he was diving into!

  3. I found it interesting that the author touched on light buyers and non-buyers are heavier than you think, and we need to target this group. People are more likely to trust brands if they have been familiar with it since a young age. I agree with you Melissa; larger and well-known brands tend to lack branding or advertising because they are well-known. They should be focused on making their brand even stronger and stop targeting their phanatics.

  4. I also believe that Mass Marketing is important, but building your brand’s image is certainly more important. I believe that smaller businesses should appeal to their primary target audience (for budget and brand affinity reasons), and larger businesses (like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s) should employ mass marketing tactics as these companies have larger and wider audiences.

  5. I will admit I am skeptical to Sharps claims, but it seems the evidence he uses means they are worth considering. The studies involving coke and Pepsi were always something I was aware of, but never actually acknowledged when thinking about consumers. In addition to reading this, I would want to read from others with similar perspectives as this.

  6. I think the idea of mass marketing for every brand is flawed due to how our society interacts with brands today. Ultra targeted advertisements and campaigns with narrow audiences tailor to consumer’s wants and needs, and when done correctly can drive a lot of power for the message a brand is trying to convey. Using Coke as an example to support Sharp’s claim seems fallacious, because the Coke brand has a wide audience reach, and it’s not because they mass market. Coke has become ingrained in our American culture because it’s a quality product with nostalgic tones. I don’t think mass marketing would help a Lululemon, as the customers there are very specific types of people with particular demographics and psychographics.

  7. I think that Sharp’s statement that a brand should focus more on their product than brand image isn’t always true. While it’s true that casual buyers will care more about the product that than the image and values of the brand, in many cases brand image is the only thing that can distinguish one product from another. Take ice cream for example. A pint of vanilla ice cream will taste virtually the same no matter what brand it is from. Brands like Friendly’s, Turkey Hill, and Ben and Jerry’s must create different messages and brand identities to distance themselves from each other in the customer’s mind, even if they are only buying pints of ice cream a few times a year.

  8. I like the perspective this book seems to take only because it contradicts a lot of what I’ve learn about targeting in college. I agree that less loyal customers shouldn’t be discounted but at the same time trying to be something to everyone probably isn’t the best strategy. You want to keep those customers you already have which is why I think brand image can’t be forgotten. Brand image makes you feel like apart of something bigger than just buying a product which is why I think it’s just an important to market.

  9. Sharp’s fact that less loyal customers are the majority of brand buyers is very interesting. Knowing not to only focus on your target audience but also people who aren’t in your target can be an insightful way to curate brand strategy. The idea of letting all consumers that you exist is important to gain popularity. The Coke and Pepsi taste test example was interesting in how the consumers preferred the taste of the other brand but at the same time was loyal to the brand they purchase the most. Mass marketing is often looked down on but is how many consumers are reached along with targeted advertisements.

  10. I think it’s really interesting that Sharp suggests to focus more on the features of a brand rather than the brand image. I would like to hear more about his reasoning as I feel like we learn so much about the importance of the brand image and personality. I personally believe this is important as you can promote both the brand’s personality while touching on the features and promoting them in the ads. I also thought it was interesting to hear that a large part of sales come from unloyal customers. This is something I haven’t heard before. Sharp has a lot of interesting points, but I agree with you when you say to be hesitant to rely on his points of view.

  11. The topic of mass marketing is interesting… I see how it works for large corporations and brands that people know off of the top of their hand but smaller brands really don’t have the funds or resources to do that so they have no choice but to find a niche and start there. I would be interested to see more real-world examples. I’m sure it was really weird reading a book that goes against many principles we learn in class but it is always good to know the opposing thoughts because in the end, it comes down to knowledge and who knows the best techniques for the specific brand. Maybe it’s being a distinguisher or maybe it’s mass marketing it depends! Very interesting all around though I may have to read this.

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