The media loves to feature finish-line tales of unicorns—brands that appear to have come out of nowhere and scaled instantly. In the past decade there have been a small handful of brands that have truly shot up like rockets and reached $100M in sales in two years or less from their market inception (Caulipower is the latest example of this in the U.S.).
While this unicorn path makes for great aspirational reading material, it isn’t the most realistic path for most consumer-packaged goods brands. There are many factors that make a unicorn path unattainable for most, but they have nothing to do with the long-term potential of your brand. By taking the right steps at the right time, your brand too can become an incredible success.
I’ve isolated four major phases of revenue development most early stage brands go through as they fight mightily for awareness, trial, memorability and sustained repeat purchase. How fast you move through these phases does matter. If you move too slowly, you may be outflanked by later entrants who essentially ‘own’ your innovation or simply become outdated. If you move too quickly and ignore the fundamentals of early stage growth, you will generally find yourself on top of a house of distribution-led cards that easily crumbles.