Over the past five years I have observed some outrageously successful brand executions. But for the most part, I have watched large organisations wasting millions of euros/dollars on attempts to position their brands in ways that can never succeed. In this post, I will share one of the great brand positioning lessons I have learned; simplicity – or rather, the lack thereof.
Ultimately, if we are successful, positioning will drive the company's behaviour to such a degree that it will appear in customer research as the things customers notice about that company. Unfortunately, most companies have such complicated positioning at the heart of their brands that there is no chance that this simple process will occur. Instead of a simple, tight definition of what the brand stands for, we find brand keyholes, triangles, wheels and dictionaries – layer after layer of complexity that will only serve to kill the brand's execution.
It's like the game of Chinese whispers. Whisper a complicated word into the ear of the first person in the group and by the time it reaches the end of the chain it has warped into something different. Whisper a simple word and it stays the same along the line. In most companies the positioning is so complex that even the originating brand manager, on closing the laptop holding the presentation, can't remember what it was. What hope, then, for the consumer at the end of a chain that spans strategy, marketing, sales and retail before reaching them?
Why so much complexity? The main reason is that brand managers believe the positioning is so important, and has taken up so much time and resources, that complexity equals greater impact. In reality, less is more. Finding one word for the brand is much harder than finding eight. Positioning is not like throwing shit against a wall – the more you throw at it, the greater the chance of something sticking.
When I talk to marketing managers, their market segmentation study is usually one of the greatest sources of professional satisfaction. But my next question usually brings the conversation to a standstill.
'And which of these segments are you targeting?' I enquire.
At this point the marketing manager looks down at the segments, looks back up at me, looks back at the segments and finally says: 'Well, er, all of them.'
Unfortunately, most marketers operate under the fallacy that the bigger the potential pool of customers they target (namely, all of them and any others who happen to cross their path mid-execution), the bigger the resulting market will be.
This is nonsense. While sales managers think that the more targets there are, the better, marketers realise that all customers are not created equal, and that a key challenge in marketing is identifying which customers are more equal than others.
There are several reasons why you should target only a select group of the segments in your market. First, because you can concentrate your resources on one group rather than spreading them too thinly.
These purchaser motivations are usually present in B2B buying situations:
• Perceived quality
• Technical specifications
• Other service or post-sale support
• Financial stability of the seller
• Buyer’s past experience
• Organizational policies
• Fear of making a mistake
• Seller’s interest in buyer’s business
• Persuasiveness of seller
Source: The Nuts and Bolts of Business-to-Business Marketing Research, Gabriel M. Gelb – Gelb Consulting Group, Inc. as featured on CRM University Learning Center
Sponsored By: Brand Aid
Visit any FTSE 500 company and ask the first 10 employees you meet about their brand. Not one, barring the brand manager (if you are lucky), will have a clue what values or positioning they should be delivering to customers. Their attention and potential support was lost long ago when a sea of circles, triangles and keyholes containing brand personalities, traits, values and attributes washed over the heads of an unsuspecting workforce.
A correlation exists between the brevity of a brand's positioning and its potential to succeed. That success hinges on ensuring that the positioning is not only tight, but right. It is hard to know whether your positioning statement is right, but it is far easier to determine whether it is wrong.
Most companies use the same tired values to position their brand. Three brand values repeatedly emerge. This unholy trinity is generic, worthless and sadly symptomatic of indolent marketers who apply a branding-by-numbers approach to this most vital and unique of challenges. Irrespective of format or length, if your brand positioning contains any (or all) of the values described below, I steadfastly predict imminent failure to build the brand.
The first is quality. Quality is a multidimensional concept. It can mean hundreds of different concepts: luxury, reliability, rarity, performance, taste, durability, speed and slowness, to name a few. If the point of positioning is to focus the brand, why do it on something that means different things to different people at different times? If you cannot be specific about your brand in its positioning statement, everything that follows will be equally vague and mundane.
The rumours began in 2007, and ran rife throughout the annual Baselworld Watch Fair in April. This month we have official confirmation: Tag Heuer is about to launch a mobile phone.
The Tag Heuer Meridiist will be assembled from 430 components and constructed from the same corrosion-resistant steel and unscratchable sapphire crystal used in the brand's luxury watches. The first glimpses of the phone online reveal a sleek, masculine design, very much in line with the style of Tag's watches. The time display on the top of the phone adds an innovative twist that tips its hat to the brand's origins. The Meridiist will go on sale in the UK in September through select watch and jewellery retailers, priced at about £3000.
This is a textbook brand extension. Tag Heuer is a very successful watchmaker, but, like most brands, it is not averse to exploring additional sources of revenue by launching products into other categories. A successful extension can also reinforce a brand's position due to the increased publicity and consumer excitement that it generates. In Tag Heuer's case, the Meridiist will also cement its position as a leading brand among watch retailers, which will vie to stock the phone.
But what about the downsides? Will the Meridiist dilute Tag's brand equity in its original category of watches? If it turns out to be a disappointment, will it damage Tag's exemplary image? The short answer is no. Too many marketers continue to labour under the misconception that a bad brand extension represents a hazard to the parent brand's equity. However, a mountain of research has now been compiled in Europe and the US indicating that it is extremely difficult for an extension to damage a brand's reputation in its original category.