Strategic patterns that work – and win – in upstream marketing can be found in several top companies EquiBrand has profiled.

Through in-depth case studies, we captured insight from hundreds of client executives and industry experts, including a deep dive on seven key companies:

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Google
  • Nike
  • Southwest
  • Starbucks
  • The Walt Disney Company

What we discovered set in motion the development of our upstream marketing framework, which includes the principles of:

Insight, Identity, and Innovation

Insight informs identity > which improves innovation > which enhances insight. And the process repeats. This isn’t a single, one-off thing. It’s all of the foundational principles working together in a synergistic process.

The 1st Principle of Marketing: Insight

The first key principle of upstream marketing is insight.

Internal clarity and proprietary customer insight are foundational to upstream marketing. Insight plays a vital role in strategy development. How can your business obtain it?

First, you must develop a laser focus on the end consumer.

For example, each of the following companies is a unique entity in a different industry:

  • Google considers itself an engineering company
  • Amazon, the world’s largest retailer
  • Disney, a media and entertainment company

Dig deeper, and you’ll discover that there is a unifying element: a commitment to customer-centricity.

Successful upstream marketers define their markets in customer terms. They fixate on the customer experience. How can any business get customer clarity? It doesn’t have to be complicated:

We know every business needs a commitment to insight. A clear sense of purpose to direct strategy, including where and how to compete, is also crucial. An organization’s purpose – when linked with a customer demand framework – provides the structure to identify strategic opportunity areas. In formulaic terms:

How the Best Companies Win With this Upstream Marketing Framework

This focus allows expert marketers to:

  • Pursue initial beachhead targets
  • Demonstrate success
  • Expand the business over time

Two Critical Aspects of Identity

Next up: Identity. It is who you are. Establishing it should start internally. First, you should define your purpose, then prove that identity externally. Essential components are your:

  • mission
  • vision
  • value statements

But they are not enough. You also need two critical aspects—value propositions and brand strategy—to win.

The most successful marketers also create a multidimensional definition of value, aligning customer needs, benefit planks, and company operations. They engage creativity and concept iteration to identify new market spaces, then work backward to deliver solutions.

Building an external brand is another essential component of the Identity principle. Did you notice that the 7 profiled companies top the list of the most valued brands?

Historically managed by ad agencies, brand is now a strategic weapon senior executives use to increase corporate value.

They know how to build a deep, shared meaning of the brand internally and with customers externally, to expertly craft and manage a portfolio of brands, and to selectively extend them to new areas.

Innovation, the Hallmark of All Marketing

This is the hallmark of upstream marketing. Leading organizations draw on it to consistently fuel growth. Innovation can be broken down into two core components:

  1.  those dealing with strategy and process
  2. those relating to creativity and culture

First, you must create, test, and learn. Each winning company we profiled has its own innovation process, though they share common elements. Guided by insight and identity, the companies use similar methods to crack open new areas of opportunity and growth:

  • focused ideation
  • iterative concept development
  • prototyping
  • business screening

Creativity and culture are also essential elements in the Innovation phase. Too often, organizational and cultural issues are often dismissed or overlooked as “soft stuff.” Yet, these are the very things that distinguish successful upstream marketers. The phrase, “aim ’em, don’t tame ’em,” coined by strategic facilitator Cavas Gobhai, highlights the seemingly contradictory values and behaviors that are needed to drive growth.

What’s next? Integration and Execution. Know this: Any single upstream marketing principle can boost business performance. To really win, implement them holistically to unleash their true potential.

Applying the Key Marketing Principles

In summary, the framework for upstream marketing and its core principles are universal. The method for enacting them is what varies. As with most things in business (and life), what works for one company may not work for another.

Would your organization benefit from an increased focus on upstream marketing? We complete the framework with case examples and a set of questions to diagnose the potential impact in our book, Upstream Marketing. We are pleased to offer you a free download of the first chapter here.