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.
Category: Brand Strategy
Marketers mostly focus on repositioning their own brands. But, you can also reposition a competitor’s brand. That is, you can create messaging about your brand that shed’s a negative light on the competitor’s brand, making your brand look better in comparison. Repositioning is how you adjust perceptions, whether those perceptions are about you or about your competition often hanging a negative on the competition as a way to set up a positive. Here are some examples of that.
- Avis leveraged its #2 rental car position with the tagline and campaign “We try harder,” implying that the #1 brand Hertz was resting on its laurels.
- Scope focused not on the consumer problem which its product cured, but on the consumer problem its competitor caused. Scope used this weakness to reposition Listerine as “medicine breath.”
- Apple repositioned PCs as stodgy and boring in its ‘I’m a Mac and I’m a PC’ campaign. A Bill Gates look-a-like punctuated the portrayal of PC’s while Mac had a cool, progressive Jobs-esque character.
- Arrowhead Smoke Shop and Gas Mart (in Upstate New York) ended a series of television ads with the comment, “and we don’t add water to our gasoline” implying that some of their competitors might (a claim that I believe only a few people would find credible).
- We helped one health care system reposition their competitors as not being able to handle the toughest medical cases, identifying many proof points to reinforce this perception.
- We helped FootJoy tap into golfers’ aspirations to be seen as serious golfers with the tagline “The mark of a player” implying that its competitors’ brands are not the choice of the most serious golfers.
- Tylenol repositioned Bayer and its miracle drug aspirin as something that is harsh on your stomach by claiming that “aspirin can irritate the stomach lining…for those that cannot take aspirin, fortunately, there is Tylenol.”
A great piece in AdWeek on the failure of single-item brands is a reminder of a question that comes up a lot: whether to dive deep or go wide. Specialty vs diversity.
Both are attractive. For some brand owners, the opportunity to offer a detailed and nuanced offering within an area is the embodiment of singularity. In a complex and cluttered world, this argument goes, there’s power in being known for one thing. There was a lovely story in The New York Times International recently about Michael Vachon who was writing software until he discovered that there was a real interest in upstart American distilleries in London. Cue Maverick Drinks, catering for a renewed interest in American spirits. It’s a great story based on a growing need. So success, right?
Yes, but as the AdWeek article points out, vulnerability also. A fashionable rush on a specific item is usually followed by an equally unfashionable rush as consumers move onto whatever captures their attention next. That’s the shortfall of being a bright shiny object. At some point you fade. If you’ve expanded resources and footprint in the meantime to meet current and anticipated demand, the sudden departure of consumers in droves quickly leaves you on the rocks. The disappearance of Crumbs was the latest in a long line-up of one-hit brands that have gone the same way.
Diversity can also look very attractive. Here, the attraction is to expand the offering into new markets in order to trade on current equity and to attract new customers. Again, the theory has its merits – capitalize on your reputation and provide your customers with more opportunities to engage with you more often. There comes a point though when brands can expand so far beyond their core business that they either mean nothing to their consumers anymore (because they’re trying to be all things to all people) or they lose sight of where they began. Starbucks, famously, lost sight of its core business of coffee in its bid to establish footprint before self-correcting.Read More
Do you remember when you were a child the first time someone made you a paper plane? If your recollection is anything like mine, you couldn’t believe how it left your hand and made its way across the room. Before long though, it lost height and velocity, and fell to the floor.
One of my more cynical friends has this joke about how much media budget is needed to keep a brand going successfully: “Give me all the money you can burn and it will go like a rocket!”
It’s easy to see a brand as an expense that relies on getting attention to make its presence felt and to make the expenditure worth it. Detractors see it that way too. They’re very quick to opine that unless they’re constantly fed money to keep them in front of consumers, brands simply fizzle and fall to earth.
We don’t share that view. Particularly now, with all the different ways that we access and talk about brands, we see them less as rockets kept airborne by media schedules, and more as planes that need air flowing over their wings to help them maintain lift.
Those currents are made up of a number of elements that collectively generate value. They include:
The currents work in different combinations and to different levels of intensity and effectiveness at various pricing and positioning points across every competitive sector. And when they are working well, brands maintain their elevation, even climb. The key point here is that success is not just about the money you spend on your brand, it is about the lift you generate and maintain through this combination of factors, some of which you control and some of which are beyond your control.Read More
Some things are too big to fight. If you’re planning to redefine a whole category for example, then, unless you’re already a market leader, plan on a big outlay and a long runway. You’re literally battling the millions others have already invested to define what it is, what it means, who it’s for, where it’s found, who the key brands are, what the products and services generally cost and so much more.
If your brand’s competitive advantage is predicated on breaking one of those fundamentals, be very aware of the fight you’re buying:
- You’re battling the pigeonhole that your supply chain will want to put you in;
- You’re fighting the expectation that your customers automatically have of you;
- You’re asking for the competition to dismiss you as unimportant or uninformed; and
- If you somehow beat all that, and manage to get established, you just pressed the GO button for a whole bunch of imitators to copy your IP and innovation
Here’s the irony. If you’re going to enter/change a category, you must provide the market with enough for them to recognize, but at the same time, you must clearly differentiate your product or service. It must clearly own a meaningful difference.
The innovation question is not what are you looking to be, what are you going to invent or even what are you looking to change? It’s – what will your prospects recognize as needing to change, will they welcome that change fast enough and in sufficient quantities, and how much change will you need to generate internally (in terms of systems, skills, offerings and mindsets) to make that happen?
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education
Every brand has two vulnerabilities from an activity point of view: what it’s doing (because that makes its strategy more visible to its competitors) and what it’s not doing (because in failing to act, it generates opportunities for others to do so). Nothing startling there. But Derrick Daye mentioned something recently that I think we need to pay more attention to: the opportunities for “competitive intelligence” – understanding and responding to the underlying attitudes inside a rival brand and the implications of those dynamics competitively.
Here’s three examples of things to be looking for and some actions you can take to gain an advantage for your brand.
1. A shift in the priority of marketing. This can manifest itself in the resignation of an individual and their replacement with a person with a different skillset or the restructuring of marketing into/out of the Executive Leadership Team. That in turn can mean a downgrade/upgrade in the marketing spend and/or in a change of suppliers (e.g. new agency).
If the person driving marketing is replaced by someone with a greater orientation towards finance or perhaps tech, that should be a heads-up that the brand is preparing to change direction. With a finance head at the wheel it may become more focused on results for example – leading to a more campaign-focused approach. If the person is more tech focused, that could mean a greater reliance on data as the basis for decisions, a shift to online or more digitally focused advertising or a change in how they are systematized.
News that a brand is preparing to adjust its marketing spend following a new appointment or a restructure could be a sign that marketing is not performing to expectation for the business and the company is preparing to tail off its market presence or take a more front-foot approach with its brands. A change in agency too almost certainly signals a shift in campaigns and a wish to compete with new ideas.
Three actions you can take in response:
- Lift your marketing activity while the new person settles in. Use the 90 days it’s probably going to take them to get their heads around what’s going on to make in-roads in terms of market share, to redefine the competitive playbook so that you’re no longer the competitor they thought you were, and to reinforce the stability and consistency of your brand to suppliers and consumers.
- Reinforce what you stand for in the minds of the market so that if the other brand is repositioning, they have to work around your re-established presence. That way, they also must declare their hand about the future as they see it. Position yourselves as trustworthy, reliable and consistent, but also fun.Read More