The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Marketing, for all the current complexities of delivering the right messages to the right consumers, is really a very simple activity. I’m reminded of a cartoon where two brain surgeons are operating on a guy’s head and one says to the other “don’t worry it’s not like were doing marketing”.
As much as marketing folks like to lament the complexities involved in quantifying ROI for their efforts, marketing will always be centered on the simple premise of creating demand for products and services. Closing the sale and earning advocacy is another matter. Like the old saying goes “you can lead a horse to water”.
Within the marketing sub-discipline of brand strategy, development and management, the principle is simpler still — make sure the target consumer’s perceptions are grounded in a singular idea they highly value and can’t easily obtain from somebody else in the category. In any category, scarcity is a valued commodity. If your product or service brand is not highly valued and in abundant supply from a variety of competitors, you better have the lowest price. Of course, in a commoditized world, any price will be perceived as too high. Let that not be your brand.
Where the magic happens.
Positioning a brand with exact precision is job one of every brand marketer. Job two of every brand marketer is to connect the core idea of “highly valued and in short supply” to a compelling and transcendent brand story. The point where brand positioning and brand storytelling intersect and overlap is where the real magic happens.
I’m of the opinion most marketing is ignored because the underlying premise of why the brand matters is unfocused and based in competitive functions and features, so storytelling becomes promotional copywriting and ubiquitous ad campaigns. Telling a compelling brand story to the right audience is much more than ad copywriting and attention getting. As I have said in previous posts on Branding Strategy Insider, it’s always better to create “new value” rather than compete for the value created by others.
People have to emotionally connect before they engage with the promise of the brand. This means the brand story must connect and resonate deep within the psyche. Of the thousands of brands introduced into the marketplace each year, only a handful will meet this threshold and grow to become the next generation icons in the culture.
A case in point: Truvia Sweetener.
In the very crowded, low involvement category of low and no-calorie, sugar-substitute sweeteners, Cargill’s Truvia brand is the newcomer. Competing against long established brands like Equal, Splenda, Sweet’N Low and NutraSweet, Truvia has been positioned with razor-sharp precision against these competitors.
Whereas competitive brands in the category all tout their functional benefits of low and no calorie, Truvia (made from the stevia plant) is positioned squarely on a deep emotional level — authentically connecting to consumer’s desire for more natural, healthful foods.
The brand positioning deftly leads the parade of consumer’s growing concerns about where foods, particularly sweeteners, come from and what they are comprised of– enabling the brand to have relevant differentiation from other brands derived from chemical origins. By the way, my doctor calls the other brands the “pink, yellow and blue death”.
The simple, singular and compelling positioning idea of “real sweetness from good ol’ mother nature” gives the brand its true north and provides the foundational context for expressing the brand’s archetypical story at every consumer touch point.
Beginning with the brand name, with its emphasis on “true” and its visually stunning and expressive packaging, Truvia instantly gives the consumer an enduring impression that all is honest and sweet in nature. The brand’s Hero archetype stands for something (honesty and truth) rather than the lack of something (like calories).
Brands must represent meanings not things.
When brands represent meanings that resonate with the deep psychic connections and imprints consumers have, the brand’s story is told at the soul level. Understanding and leveraging these deeper meanings is about tapping into the universal truths and instincts that form shared values. More importantly, the archetypical story is pre-wired to be “highly valued” because the story echoes meanings that are reminiscent of beloved story patterns within the culture at large.
Iconic brands become the repositories of deeper meanings and values. For brand marketers, the care and feeding of these deeper brand meanings begins with precise brand positioning and is enhanced by brand storytelling based in familiar archetypes.
(Author’s note: For a deeper dive on this subject, I recommend the book “The Hero and the Outlaw — Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes” by Margaret Mead & Carol Peterson).