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Category: Brand Positioning

Brand Positioning

Brand Positioning Through Memories

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I think it’s healthy for there to be a direct relationship between memory and frequency for a brand. The more often a customer comes into contact with your brand, the more consistent the memory needs to be. That’s because brands that frequently interact with their customers have the power of habit on their side. In fact, when someone is buying from you frequently, the memory itself needs to focus on regularity: greeting customers by name; being easy to find; recognizing what they like and maybe working with that; introducing suggestions that fit with what they’re looking for. The memories are smaller in their impact and their “experience” factor, but their frequency makes the effect powerfully cumulative.

By contrast, when your customers only interact with you occasionally, then the memory needs to be stronger and much more enduring. It literally needs to “last” until the next time a customer needs to buy because there isn’t the same front-of-mind of course – which means less consistent awareness and less reminders. It’s easy for customers to decide to explore a new technology or take advantage of what they see as a better price.

Natural or special? Which sentiment do you generate? The feeling that comes with a trip to your favorite deli or the excitement that wells up at the thought of a trip to another part of the world? That’s the choice for many brand experiences. Something so easy that life wouldn’t be the same without it. Or something so wonderful that you really look forward to buying it again.

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Brand Positioning

Developing A Brand Positioning Statement

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The brand position or brand positioning is how the brand is perceived in the context of competitive alternatives in the mind. As brand consultants, when we develop brand positioning statements for clients, we include a target customer definition, brand essence, brand promise, brand archetype and brand personality, giving the intended brand position / positioning (as opposed to the actual brand position in the mind of the customer) greater depth.

A complete brand positioning statement includes the following:

Brand Essence

[Adjective] [adjective] [noun] (the “heart and soul” of the brand, its timeless quality, its DNA)

Brand Promise

Only [brand]

Delivers [unique and compelling benefit or shared value]

To [target customer description]

In the [product or service category] (establishing the competitive “frame of reference”)

In the context of [market condition or trend that makes the benefit or value even more compelling]

Because [proof points or “reasons to believe”]

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Brand Positioning

The Right Time To Position Brands

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The right time to position brands is seldom obvious. Brand consultants will eagerly advise about how to position your brand. The key to effective brand positioning is more about “when to “ rather than “how to”. Even if marketers know how, they don’t think too much about when. Marketing organizations are so invested in heads down tactics many are risk averse and value predictable outcomes. It’s little wonder many don’t recognize the right time to make a shift in strategic direction until it’s too late.

Living in an era of hyper change.

The distance from innovation to commodity is getting shorter each day. While one company is betting its future on its latest and greatest product introduction, another company is reinventing the future and making everything else in the category obsolete. The recent retooling and reintroduction of the Blackberry is a dramatic case in point. Poor RIM (a.k.a. BlackBerry) spending all that time, energy and capital only to produce a lesser version of the very product that is putting them under.

Sadly it’s too late for more me-too innovation in an era where the speed of innovation is faster than any one company can keep up with. Kodak, Blockbuster, Sears, Newsweek and a host of other brands who were once the dominant forces of innovation in their category, have become mere shadows of their former glory. Stuck in their culture of success, these organizations institutionalized the original success into an impediment to change and adaptability, while more nimble competitors were changing the game all together.

Timing is everything – in fact it trumps aggregated knowledge and capability. When mental models within organizations become the status quo and remained fixed, it’s nearly impossible to face any challenge that does not conform to the organization’s current point of view. There was no way Blockbuster could anticipate the game changer known as Netflix. When Blockbuster did finally react, it was far too late. Blockbuster had lots of knowledge and capability – just no foresight.

The right time to position or reposition brands is seldom obvious.

If you’re in an organization that holds to the adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, then your brand is already doomed to the slush pile. In an age of disruptive product innovation and radical differentiation, what got you there, won’t keep you there. Positioning (or for many organizations re-positioning) your brand is usually an activity done in response to a threat rather than pre-emptive strategy of staying one step ahead. 

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Brad VanAuken Brand Positioning

Defining Your Competitive Frame Of Reference

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Choosing the most advantageous competitive frame of reference is a very important part of brand positioning. Earlier on Branding Strategy Insider I shared how Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute redefined itself from an engineering school to a place where technological innovation thrives (why not change the world?®). I shared how The Strong Museum redefined itself from a children’s museum to THE place that studies and explores play and American University redefined itself as a place for WONKs, focusing on its location in Washington, DC and even its association with public policy. In all three of these instances, the brands intended to move from more crowded categories to a category of their own creation in which they became the only (category-of-one) brand.

I have also explored how to define the category that a cola brand might be in. Is the category colas, or carbonated beverages or soft drinks or non-alcoholic beverages or all beverages or rehydration or human liquid consumption or refreshment or something else?

What category is Dasani Drops in? Perhaps the tagline defines it – “flavor enhancer.” Does this mean that the category is not flavored water? How does that help Dasani Drops competitively?

There are hundreds of professional associations and societies in health care, reflecting the degree of complexity and specialization in that field. We are working with a professional society in health care that develops physician leaders. Is their competitive frame of reference professional societies for physicians, professional societies for physician leaders, professional societies for health care executives, professional development for health care administrators, leadership development for physicians or something else? While these may all seem similar, depending on what they have chosen, their competitive set and unique value proposition changes, especially in this crowded field.

Just as choosing the most advantageous target customer definition is not a trivial exercise, so too is choosing the competitive frame of reference. Choosing a competitive frame of reference based on the most powerful motivators for the target customers can lead to a previously undefined category in which your brand has few, if any competitors. That category definition helps your brand own the benefit more quickly before any other brand is able to claim it. Being able to redefine the category requires out-of-the box thinking.

If interested, we have tools to help you explore category description alternatives, including those that can transform your band into a category-of-one.

Sponsored byThe Brand Positioning Workshop

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

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Brad VanAuken Brand Positioning

The Importance Of Careful Customer Targeting

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I have positioned five wealth management brands and over a dozen other financial service brands in my brand consulting career. Most people, when thinking about wealth management brands, think the target customer is fairly straightforward – anyone who has more than $250,000 or $500,000 of investable assets – individuals or institutions. And while most wealth management firms’ customers would meet this criterion, this is not the bulls-eye of the target. As an example, when working with wealth management clients, they have arrived at each these different definitions of their target customers [1]:

  • People 55+ on fixed incomes who have at least $250,000 in investable assets, have experienced significant decreases in net worth at least once and are worried about loss of capital and inability to live on their investments
  • Entrepreneurs who have created their own wealth, have at least $1,000,000 in investable assets and feel as though they have not been adequately recognized for their accomplishments
  • Individuals who have at least $500,000 in investable assets (many of whom previously managed their own portfolios) and desire a wealth management firm that can talk to them in depth about fundamental and technical analysis, market trends, investment philosophies, asset allocation, etc.
  • Individuals who have at least $500,000 in investable assets and who are tired of dealing with aggressive New York City brokers who do not listen to their needs or give them personal attention
  • Christians with at least $250,000 in investable assets who believe in wise stewardship of resources so that they can be generous with their families and communities

Imagine what the brand promise for each of these brands might be. Imagine what the marketing messaging might be. Imagine through what channels, methods and media these potential customers might be reached. Imagine how the brand promise might be delivered. Imagine the proof points that might support the brand promise.  Imagine what the products and services might be and how they might be delivered. Each of these would be different, radically different, for each of these brands.

While I used the wealth management category as an example, this is true of every product/service category. Brands that create amazingly loyal customers tend to have very well defined target customers, so much so that they tend to share values with those customers.

When we are conducting brand positioning workshops, it is important to spend as much time as possible defining the target customer. It is akin to the saying that “defining the problem is half of the solution.” Defining the target customer properly gets you most of the way toward crafting a unique and compelling brand promise. I wish you great success in carefully defining your target customer.


[1] Target customer definitions are altered for illustrative purposes

Sponsored byThe Brand Positioning Workshop

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

Read More