Consumer goals related to the category can also be used to develop a brand’s position. Similar to brand essence, the development of category essence entails the association of the brand to other objects that collectively represent a consumer goal. However, for category essence, the connection is among objects that imply the goal in using the category rather than the brand. To illustrate category essence, consider the following statement describing the essence of the beer category for 18- to 34-year-old men:
These individuals may feel threatened by the complexities and conflicts of everyday life. They are confused and perhaps depressed about how to achieve harmony between their desire to discharge their primal passions and the constraints imposed by society. They desire intimate relations without the attendant commitment. They are searching for the opportunity to give expression to their talents without being encumbered by the demands imposed by formal organizations. Beer allows these individuals to indulge themselves and perhaps to make less salient the conflict between their aspiration and the limitations imposed on their behaviors by society.
Category essence uses insight about how the category fits with consumers’ goals as a brand’s point of difference. The assumption is that if consumers perceive that a brand is positioned in a manner that is sensitive to their concerns, the brand is viewed as the solution to those concerns. For example, Lee jeans showed the difficulties women encountered when trying to get into a pair of jeans. Consumers were urged to buy Lee jeans to remedy this problem, though no rationale for this choice was provided.
Category essence bases a brand position on insight about the category. Presumably most brands have access to this insight. This makes category essence a strategy of last resort; it is used when a brand does not have equity that can be used to differentiate it. If it did, a product-based or a brand-essence approach would be used. As brands in more and more categories become commodities, the use of category essence has increased. The result is that many companies use the brand positioning approach of associating their brands with a problem not solved by other brands, which makes it difficult for consumers to link brands to their positions. A better strategy is to use consumer insight to identify consumer motivations that might be uniquely satisfied by a brand.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: John Wiley & Sons, excerpted from Kellogg on Marketing, 2nd Edition by Alice M. Tybout (editor), Bobby J. Calder (editor), Phillip Kotler (foreword by) (c) 2010 by The Kellogg School of Marketing.
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