To be successful at repositioning your brand, you have to create higher meaning and aim higher. Aiming higher requires outward thinking and learning from the marketplace.
Over the past two years, we have been engaged with a variety of consumer products brands whose managers are seeking new opportunities to grow their brand’s value. In all these engagements, I have noticed a common thread among all of them – consumers no longer care about them because they have lost their compelling meaning in the consumer’s mind. One thing is certain– once a consumer’s mind is made up about a brand, it’s next to impossible to change it. The decisions facing brand mangers and marketing executives regarding how they deal with our ever-evolving market landscape usually comes down to three options:
- continue to invest in the existing brand meaning
- create a sub-brand
- invent a completely new brand
All of these options have advantages and disadvantages, more so if the brand is also facing dramatic challenges in distribution. The driver underpinning all these options is change. Brands are dynamic. They have their cycles and they run their course. What’s hard for managers to grasp is when to move on.
This is particularly true if the brand was once a leader. Market success always creates size, power and a false sense of security. Over time, this creates an unrealistic view of the external reality, and a lack of urgency to correct course in maintaining relevancy among consumers.
Brand managers naturally become inwardly focused and they tend to miss seeing new opportunities or competitive threats. Complacency becomes the norm and the brand’s compelling meaning in the minds of consumers gets blurred and sales drop.
Breathing new life into a tired brand.
As I said earlier, repositioning your brand requires elevating its meaning into a new mind space that consumers really care about. This has very little to do with the brand’s functions and benefits. It’s about creating a new meaning, usually one that is based on highly simple yet emotive ideas. These emotional drivers are what people care deeply about and determine their preferences and purchase behaviors.
In his book “Repositioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis” fellow BSI contributor and legendary marketing guru Jack Trout outlines a great example of how a brand can aim higher in its positioning and create a whole new meaning for a new consumer segment. I’ll paraphrase the story from his book:
An Irish cider brand commonly sold in large plastic bottles at discount prices, and consumed by vagrants on park benches successfully repositioned itself as a premium drink in the British market. Struggling with declining sales and losing distribution, the brand owners decided the dowdy cider was in need of a dramatic makeover. Here were the simple and obvious ideas in the brand’s higher repositioning:
• reduce the alcohol content to the same as most beers
• intensify the apple flavor
• ditch the plastic jug and use fancy pint bottles
• stop selling it on tap in pubs and bars
• jack up the price
• and most importantly, market the beverage to be poured over ice, whereas traditional ciders are usually served at room temperature.
Putting the cider in bottles elevated the brand, not only because of the price increase, but also because consumers could now hold the product and its new image in their hands (much harder to do with a draft beverage). This also opened new and more premium channels of distribution. The idea of serving it over ice was based in part on the fact that many Irish pubs had poor refrigeration. New packaging and messaging encouraged consumers to pour the cider over ice. This simple idea resonated with consumers in an evocative way which changed the meaning behind the brand, and differentiated it from other alternatives. Within a year the brand enjoyed sales increases of 260 per cent.
How you can aim higher to reposition your brand.
If you are faced with reinventing your brand, the problem you face will most likely be obvious, the solution to the problem will be obvious, but many don’t trust the obvious. Somehow many people believe a good idea has to be clever, mysterious or layered in complexity. The best ideas for repositioning brands are simple. If the core idea behind your brand’s meaning isn’t simple and obvious, it won’t stand a chance in the over-crowded slush pile of a marketplace in which your brand must reside.
Simple ideas are self-evident, which is why they work so well. Positioning is the art of sacrifice. A brand can only stand for one compelling, radical differentiating selling idea. The trouble with simple ideas is they have no appeal to the imagination and are easily over-looked. We are naturally drawn to the more clever and ingenious ideas. Resist this temptation. Aim your thinking higher toward the simple, obvious differentiating idea that elevates your brand to a new meaning people really care about.
What’s obvious to you about the future of your brand?
Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop, the Brand Storytelling Workshop Series and Brand Strategy and Customer Co-Creation Workshops