Upstream Marketing Today
Since that time, my firm has worked with dozens of more client companies, across numerous industries, both business-to-consumer and business-to-business. We’ve assisted in uncovering customer insights, building strong brands, and developing new products and services to fuel growth. In addition to real-world consulting, we continually update our best practices work, adding new companies, challenging assumptions, and pushing, pulling and refining our thinking.
In writing this book, we’ve done a deep dive review of seven companies – Amazon, Apple, Google, Nike, Starbucks, Southwest and Walt Disney – to help illustrate key upstream concepts. We’ve included these seven, collectively referred to here as the profile companies, based on a variety of factors, including financial performance (such as business growth from new products) and access to corporate information, through primary and secondary research. Some of the case examples may be familiar, especially if you’re a student of management thinking. What should be new is perspective across these organizations, including a standard set of upstream marketing principles and practices these companies employ.
For comparison purposes and as a reality check, we’ll also draw on real-world case examples from EquiBrand clients. We’ll use these to demonstrate differences between best practice companies and other businesses. In some instances, our client cases exemplify best practices. In other cases, we’ll use them to show what not to do.
The elusive headline emerges
Amazon, Apple, Google, Nike, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines and Walt Disney Company. How have these companies, and others like them, been able to consistently grow their businesses vs. others in their respective industries consistently?
The strongest brands and businesses are built upstream through the combined principles of insight, identity, and innovation.
As different as these companies are in terms of products offered and markets served, their approach and adherence to upstream marketing are very similar. Common to each is the company’s emphasis on:
- Insight. Gaining a deeper level of customer understanding as the basis for competitive advantage;
- Identity. Building a strong identity that meets customer needs and aligns with company operations; and
- Innovation. Ensuring a continual stream of innovative solutions to meet evolving customer needs and grow and expand the business
Leading upstream marketers infuse these principles into everything they do and obtain synergies along the way. If there is a formula for success, it is this: Insight + Identity+ Innovation = Upstream Marketing, just as 1 + 1 + 1 = 4.
The key to effective upstream marketing is that each principle builds upon the other, reinforcing and magnifying it. The intersection of the three principles is upstream marketing. Combined, they form an integrated whole, much more powerful than the sum of the parts.
For upstream marketing leaders, the principles are all working together, all the time. Insight, identity, and innovation are inextricably linked. Insight isn’t relegated to the marketing research department. Brand management extends far beyond the walls of the marketing department or ad agency. Innovation is not an occasional brainstorming session. After years of incorporating these principles into their business models, leading upstream marketers to become perpetual insight-identity-innovation machines.