How Brands Can Win Big by Thinking Small (L.E.K. Executive Insights)

For consumer brands, growth isn’t easy to come by these days. Preferences are shifting, core channels are flagging, and the competition is innovating.

In response, brand leaders are told to “think big.” What will really move the needle? The growth levers for brands are as obvious as they are tempting:

  • Target more consumer segments
  • Distribute in more channels
  • Expand to more geographies
  • Etc.

Less obvious is that, for many brands, pulling these levers can lead to slow-motion brand destruction. Look at Quiksilver, which built on its powerful surfing heritage to expand into new sports, built additional products and brands to win new consumers, and expanded into mass channels – and declared bankruptcy in 2015.

Contrast them with Tory Burch, who has built a billion-dollar brand by keeping it true to her lifestyle and never diluting it for growth’s sake. Tory instinctively understands that discipline, not aggressive expansion, is the key to winning customers.

Why? Counterintuitively, the secret to growing big is often for brands to think small. “Thinking small” means focusing – on your brand promise, on your target consumer, on the little things that make your product magical. Companies that think small control their distribution and retail experience and grow big anyways (think Apple). They know who they are and what they stand for. And they make growth the outcome of building a great brand, not the purpose.


My L.E.K. colleagues Jon Weber, Jennifer Zablotny, and I explored this further in an Executive Insights article on, which explores five more brands like Tory Burch, as well as the four rules they follow to grow big by thinking small.

Here’s the full article (online PDF): How Brands Can Win Big by Thinking Small.

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