What does it take to grow a brand? How to avoid its decline? Some popular answers to these questions can be found in the research by Byron Sharp and others from the Ehrenberg-Bass (EB) Institute on "how brands grow." Formalized in two milestone books (Romaniuk & Sharp, 2015; Sharp, 2010), the EB approach had the merit of restoring focus on consumer acquisition as a key driver of brand growth, based on some established, predictable patterns of shopper behavior. It gained momentum across companies as it offers an evidence-based view of marketing that differs from the paradigm of consumer relationship building and loyalty as essential components of growth.
We, however, propose that such an approach, despite its strengths, lends itself to some limitations when taken too literally. Our concern with the EB's research program is not with the general observations it has brought to the attention of marketers, that is, consumer acquisition as a necessary condition for brand growth, but rather with some of the managerial implications bluntly derived from such observations and with the single-minded, underlying behaviouralist approach to social research. Hence, we suggest a more balanced approach to manage brand growth and decline for the marketing discipline.