In our world of abundant solutions it is becoming more difficult to position brands.
For much of the last 50 years simply copying best practices from any business book on brand management was enough to function and possibly be discovered. This was because of the scarcity factor. If you wanted shaving cream, there were only three companies that produced it. Better yet, there were only five media channels in which to advertise to your audience. Walk into any pharmacy today and there are over 50 different types to choose from. And there are over 75 different channels to communicate with more coming on the horizon as we reach peak Moore’s Law.
During the scarce era of brand positioning we relied heavily on the four P’s (Product, Promotion, Placement, Price). This worked in an industrial, physical economy where you had no digital solutions, no mobile phone and no frictionless buying experience. Companies were less transparent and could destroy the world while reaping profits. While the four P’s may possibly remain relevant in some situations, the world has shifted and disruption has occurred where it is now about the emerging four P’s™ for branding: Personalized, Pervasive, Predictive and Plausible.
Technology now allows for us to search by category instead of brand, to have content served to us based on interests and to understand what we’ve purchased based on history. It is no longer enough to think of the four P’s when mapping brand positioning. Also customers have more information about you and your brand than ever before. You can issue as many press releases as you would like, that doesn’t mean consumers will believe any of the words. Thus, here are four areas that will influence how you position your brand in the very near future.
1. Personalized Positioning
Location and GPS aren’t just good to help you get around, notifications can be used to serve up the right experiences within the right context because brands will know who is near a specific location that acts as a touchpoint. Personalization isn’t about buying ads on media and then blasting them to the masses. There is little effectiveness in such a scenario and it is a relic from a scaled mass media era that has bypassed us within an individual newsfeed ecosystem. Personalization knows what you like, purchase and enjoy because you’ve opted in and technology has levels of indication about what you like or don’t like. This is very important for brands who understand who their customer is. Most brands still market to customers and non-customers alike with their messaging. But we’re entering into a world where customers want brands to know they are customers. If I speak to a conversation bot on a brand website, that bot better not ask how I am and welcome me like I’m new if I already have an account. The bot should know this and thus be able to treat me in a more unique and personalized manner. The majority of companies who lack vision are those who over-index their gross revenue into advertising. What you are saying to your competition is that you are out of ideas because you think more advertising will help build brand love whereas brands who have data on who loves them already win in this long tail.
2. Pervasive Positioning
Pervasive spreads in ways that cannot be stopped. This is what happens when those who love your brand are given the freedom to express this love. Too many brands don’t allow this or don’t know how to do this well. Again, they serve up advertising in a world that is no longer one-directional. Pervasive allows user-generated content, whether positive or negative, to become the conduit to future customers. Not many legacy brands do this well, it’s almost not part of their DNA but plenty of startup brands have no trouble with it. Think of how you recommend a brand. What do you say, do or act to help others know and begin to love what you love about it? Have you even thought about this in your marketing meetings?
3. Predictive Positioning
So many brands run an algorithm. They have a formula. Why change when what they are doing is enough? But that is not enough to halt progress. That is not enough to prevent disruption. Smarter brands know where the world is going and how they fit into it. They possibly are even mapping new categories rather than waiting for others to map that for them. They have an understanding that communication is not simply a part of the economy, but it IS the economy. How people speak, act and like or loathe you are key predictive factors. What are they searching for? What are they sharing? How relevant are you within the current and future ecosystem? This is how small brands become giant killers and giants become overthrown. The former imagines a future and how they fit into it. The latter is simply just living in it without a care in the world of where it wants to go next.
4. Plausible Positioning
Many are saying this is the end of the brand era. Fewer people can name their favorite brand. Many seek substitutes from the name brands of the past. Voice search which is evolving quickly puts more emphasis on category than brand names. What actions are you taking around this transformative behavior? What do you believe in? If you think all purchase decisions are made on product alone, there is a major shift away from this action in those aged 13-37. This is what we mean by plausible. The ability to understand probabilities in a quickly evolving world and how you fit into it. What does your brand mean today? What will it mean tomorrow? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? If you could create your own disruption, what would it look like? How would the brand that disrupts your brand behave? What would it sell? How would it communicate? If you have time to think of the old four P’s, you have time to imagine a quickly changing world and if your brand will even be in it tomorrow.
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