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A brand is a platform is a brand

Navigating a brave new world


Christian Thron

Managing Creative Director




"You have to unlearn what you have learned." Master Yoda, Star Wars


One look is enough to see it’s clear that someone has changed the rules of the marketing game. Things that worked perfectly yesterday have suddenly ceased to be valid, and brands now find themselves in the center of a perfect global storm whipped up by the rise of the platform economy.


The platform storm has blown away much of what we knew, and created instead a new world. A world in which other rules apply and the “survival of the fittest“ principle applies: the winner takes it all.


Entire industries have been transformed by new global category owners such as Uber, Airbnb or Tinder in a very short space of time. All of these disruptors share one thing: they are digital platforms that focus on the „network effect“:


More Users = More Value ​​= More users


Industry by industry, this phenomenon is gathering momentum, and fast-moving consumer goods and other consumer categories must surely be next.


It is only a matter of time before the consumer brands encounter platforms that redefine their categories. It is unclear whether the future global category owner will be the current leader, a rival, or a completely new company.


Although platform brands are not yet clearly evident in the consumer brand landscape, their initial contours can already be identified in many areas.


Consumers and products are increasingly interwoven, and they are inseparably linked by data. The classic brand – on which everything else used to hang – is now only an aid to entering the new world, in the age of platform economy.


When it comes to brand marketing, we used to depend on “push“ communication, such as TV commercials, to impress a brand’s message on consumers . Now, we find ourselves in a world in which platforms themselves act as magnets, to which consumers are “pulled“.


The digital platforms we see today are both a product and a service in one, and growth emerges from the platform itself. The likes of Airbnb and Tinder do not need to rely on classic marketing channels like TV, print or display ads to generate new users – at least not to the same extent as brands once did.


The network effect allows the platforms to grow exponentially when a critical mass of participants is reached, and continuously creates new value ​​for users and providers.

Uber, for example, has just 6 percent of the employees that BMW has, and yet is a bigger business.


It's not a trick. It's the network effect.


Companies like Philips and McCormick are among the brands at the forefront of platform development among FMCG and consumer brands.


The uGrow platform from Philips accompanies parents as they monitor the development of their baby. With a smartphone app and devices like the Smart Ear Thermometer and Smart Babyphone, a child’s stages of development can be stored, compared and shared via the uGrow platform.


From here, it would only take a small step to open the platform to further applications, and perhaps even doctors and other users, and to begin to realize the network effect.


The spice manufacturer McCormick is taking a fresh approach to reaching consumers, working to develop an industrial standard for people’s taste preferences, with its FlavorPrint platform.


The vision is that, in future, every consumer will know what they really like, and will be able to find suitable products both online and at the point of purchase.


If FlavorPrint takes consumers to more products and recipes that they can be sure they’ll love, many brands may find themselves squeezed out of the market. A platform can act as a gatekeeper, determining who has access to the consumer.


Brands like Philips and McCormick can already say today: “My brand. My platform. My future.“ More brands need to follow where they lead.