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Category: Brand Repositioning
Conventional brand repositioning wisdom is to alter the brand’s position incrementally from the established position, playing off of current assumptions about the brand. It is usually a very tricky and subtle exercise that requires deep customer insight. And yet, some brands have radically altered their brand’s meanings, so much so that the ‘before’ and ‘after’ target audiences are completely different. Following are two examples of this.
As a baby boomer, I remember Abercrombie & Fitch. It was a very traditional, outdoorsy, hunt club oriented brand. It felt a little bit like L.L. Bean or Orvis. Today, it is a completely different brand. It is hot and sexy and targets teens. In fact, not too long ago it was in the news for the controversy around its featuring semi-nude models at the entrances to its mall stores. At one time Reebok was known as an athletic shoe brand targeted at young women and aerobics. Today, it is successfully re-targeted at the inner city hip-hop generation.
How do some brands get away with such a radical transformation of target audiences and brand meanings while others struggle to appeal to different markets? For instance, McDonalds was not successful with its adult-oriented Arch Deluxe menu item and Volvo has had limited success with its performance (versus safety) based models.
I believe that brands that are successful with these radical transformations are successful for a number of reasons:Read More
Even producers in the commodity world of meats and produce have found ways to reposition themselves and thus create a unique selling proposition. Their successful strategies can be summed up in five ways.
1. Identify. Ordinary bananas became better bananas when a small Chiquita label was added to the fruit. Dole did the same for pineapple with the Dole label, as did the lettuce people by putting each head into a clear Foxy lettuce package. Of course, you then have to communicate why people should look for these labels.
2. Personify. The Green Giant character became the difference in a family of vegetables in many forms. Frank Perdue became the tough man behind the tender chicken.
3. Create a new generic.The cantaloupe people wanted to differentiate a special, big cantaloupe. But rather than call them just plain “big,” they introduced a new category called Crenshaw melons. Tyson wanted to sell miniature chickens, which doesn’t sound very appetizing. So it introduced Cornish game hens.
4. Change the name. Sometimes your original name doesn’t sound like it would be something you would want to put in your mouth. Like a Chinese gooseberry. When the name was changed to kiwi fruit, the world suddenly had a new favorite fruit that it wanted to put in its mouth.Read More
There are times, though rare, that a repositioning the competition strategy is not to hang a negative on them, but simply to put your lead competitor in its place—or, shall I say, in second place? This was the case in a project we did for the producers of Spanish olive oil.
Few people know that Spain is truly the dominant producer of olive oil. It generally produces more than half the world’s olive oil. Italy, the number two producer, has only half Spain’s production. In fact, Spain outproduces all other countries combined.
But there is a big problem: while Spain is the dominant leader in olive oil production, many people perceive Italy as the king. Because of that, Spain makes most of the oil, while Italian companies make most of the money with their olive oil brands. How do they do it? They buy their olive oil from Spain, put it in their cans and bottles, and ship it off as Italian olive oil. What should Spain do? That was a question we were asked by the Spanish producers. Our answer came in three steps.
Step 1 was to clearly reposition Spain as “the world’s number one producer of olive oil.” This little-known fact had to be put into the minds of the customers and prospects for olive oil. Spain’s production credentials were an important part of the message. Outproducing all competitors combined is a great story. But Italy was already in people’s minds, so a way had to be found to reposition it as a producer that used Spanish olive oil.Read More
In positioning your brand sometimes you discover there are no unique positions to carve out. In such cases I suggest repositioning a competitor by convincing consumers to view the competitor in a different way. Tylenol successfully repositioned aspirin by running advertisements explaining the negative side effects of aspirin.
Consumers tend to perceive the origin of a product by its name rather than reading the label to find out where it really is made. Such was the case with vodka when most vodka brands sold in the U.S. were made in the U.S. but had Russian names. Stolichnaya Russian vodka successfully repositioned its Russian-sounding competitors by exposing the fact that they all actually were made in the U.S., and that Stolichnaya was made in Leningrad, Russia.
When Pringle's new-fangled potato chips were introduced, they quickly gained market share. However, Wise potato chips successfully repositioned Pringle's in the mind of consumers by listing some of Pringle's non-natural ingredients that sounded like harsh chemicals, even though they were not. Wise potato chips of course, contained only "Potatoes. Vegetable oil. Salt." As a resulting of this advertising, Pringle's quickly lost market share, with consumers complaining that Pringle's tasted like cardboard, most likely as a consequence of their thinking about all those unnatural ingredients. It is usually a lost cause to try to bring a brand back into favor once it has gained a bad image, and in such situations it is better to introduce an entirely new brand.
Repositioning a competitor is different from comparative advertising. Comparative advertising seeks to convince the consumer that one brand is simply better than another.
Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning WorkshopRead More
This is a post about a very powerful marketing strategy that has fallen into disuse. Why? I have no idea, unless it’s about creative people thinking that it’s not creative. It’s called “repositioning the competition” and I, along with my ex-partner Al Ries, wrote about it in a book called, Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind.
In simple terms, to move a new idea or product into the mind, you must first move an old one out. “The world is round,” said Christopher Columbus. “No, it’s not,” said the public, “it’s flat.”
To convince the public otherwise, 15th century scientists first had to prove the world wasn’t flat. One of their more convincing arguments was the fact that sailors at sea were first able to observe the tops of the masts of an approaching ship, then the sails, then the hull. If the world were flat, they would see the whole ship at once.
All the mathematical arguments in the world weren’t as effective as a simple observation the public should verify themselves. Once an old idea is overturned, selling the new idea is often ludicrously simple. As a matter of fact, people will often actively search for a new idea to fill the void.
Never be afraid of conflict either. The crux of a repositioning program is undercutting an existing concept, product, or person. Conflict, even personal conflict, can build a reputation overnight. Where would Sam Ervin have been without Richard Nixon?
For that matter, where would Richard Nixon have been without Alger Hiss? And Ralph Nader got famous not by saying anything about Ralph Nader, but by going out and attacking the world’s largest corporation single-handedly.
People like to watch the bubble burst.
Tylenol went out and burst the aspirin bubble for Johnson & Johnson.
“For the millions who should not take aspirin,” said Tylenol’s ads. “If your stomach is easily upset…or you have an ulcer…or your suffer from asthma, allergies, or iron-deficiency anemia, it would make good sense to check with your doctor before you take aspirin.”
“Aspirin can irritate the stomach lining,” continued the Tylenol ad, “trigger asthmatic or allergic reactions, cause small amounts of hidden gastrointestinal bleeding.”
“Fortunately, there is Tylenol….”
Sixty words of copy before any mention of the advertiser’s product. Sales of acetaminophen-based Tylenol took off. Today, Tylenol is the No.1 brand of analgesic. A simple but effective repositioning strategy did the job against an institution like aspirin. Amazing.
Stolichnaya burst the American vodka bubble.
“Most American vodkas seem Russian,” said the ads. And the captions said: “Samovar: Made in Schenley, Pennsylvania. Smirnoff: Made in Hartford, Connecticut. Wolfschmidt: Made in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Stolichnaya is different. It is Russian and it’s made in Leningrad.” (Now St. Petersburg)
One of Procter & Gamble’s most powerful programs was the one that really launched Scope mouthwash. P&G used two words to reposition Listerine, the king of Halitosis Hill:
“Medicine breath.” Who wants their breath to smell like a hospital?
Over 20 years ago, BMW launched its very successful car by repositioning Daimler-Chrysler’s Mercedes Benz. The headline of the introductory ad said, “The ultimate sitting machine verses the ultimate driving machine.” Who wants just a living room on wheels?
The success of the Tylenol, Scope, Stolichnaya and other repositioning programs has spawned a host of similar advertising. Too often, however, these copycat campaigns have missed the essence of repositioning strategy.
“We’re better than our competitors” isn’t repositioning. It’s comparative advertising and not very effective. There’s a psychological flaw in the advertisers reasoning which the prospect is quick to detect. “If your brand is so good, how come it’s not the leader?”
A look at comparative ads suggests why most of them aren’t effective. They fail to reposition the competition.
Rather, they use the competitor as a benchmark for their own brand. Then they tell the reader or viewer how much better they are. Which, of course, is exactly what the prospect expects the advertiser to say.
Once upon a time, Ban deodorant ran an ad that said, “Ban is more effective than Right Guard, Secret, Sure, Arrid Extra Dry, Mitchum, Soft & Dry, Body All and Dial.” The reader looks at an ad like this and asks, “What else is new?”
Ironically, where this strategy is alive and well is in the land of politics. Karl Rove did enormous damage to John Kerry by repositioning him as a “Flip Flopper.” This helped President George W. Bush set up his position of being a strong leader. Unfortunately, the Kerry campaign was too busy trying to position him as a Vietnam War hero instead of attacking the Bush record. They should have used repositioning against the Bush strategy by saying that President Bush was “Strong But Wrong.”
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