November 25, 2015
There are some consumer driven marketers who think if you do such a great job in servicing the consumer, you should not have to worry too much about what the consumer does. That is crazy talk, with blinders on as to what is happening in the market. The only reason Apple, Starbucks or Virgin are such amazing brands is they are much better than any competitor within those categories. That is the reason why we call the worst type of brands “Indifferent” not just to convey the consumers blasé attitude to the brand, but to really signal “NOT different”. If you do not find your point of difference, you are a commodity, and should be priced accordingly at market prices like the fish at tonight’s restaurant.
You have to find a unique selling proposition for your brand, that distinguishes you from others. Looking above at the Venn diagram, we first start by listing out everything your consumers want, then list what your brand does best and what your competitors do best. The winning zone for your brand to play in is the match up where consumers want what you do best. The losing zone is to play where consumers want it, but your competitor does it better than you. As we are maturing in the marketing, it is harder and harder to come up with a definitive win, so that is where you can win the risky zone by being different, being faster to market, winning with meaningful innovation or building a deep emotional connection. The key to be seen as unique, not just for the sake of it, but to match up what you do best with what the consumer is looking for. Sadly, I do have to always mention the dumb zone. This is where two competitors “battle it out” in the zone the consumer does not care about. I say sadly, because I keep seeing this in the market. One competitor starts saying “we are faster” and you see them so you think “well we are just as fast”. No one bothers to ask the consumer if they care about speed. To often, Brand Leaders start with the claim, and then try to make the most of it in everything they do. The problem with that strategy is your claim might not be a benefit, and even if it ladders up, it might not be something that is own-able for you or motivating to the consumer.
A good tool we use is to list out all of your brand assets, which could be your main strengths you can stand behind and begin the match them put to various consumer need states. This will not determine your brand positioning, but help you focus as you move into a potential brainstorming session around positioning.
What is the core strength of your brand?
Most brands should have a focus as to what they win on, whether that is winning based on product, concept, experience or price. You have to pick an area of focus, rather than trying to be everything. Using our Core Strength Model, we use this as a brainstorming tool to play a little game. We give out 4 blue chips, and force you to pick one strength as your core strength, two at the mid-level that will help support your core strength and the fourth chip forced at low to go of it as a potential. This leaves four types of brands: product, concept, experience or price.
- With Product Brands, your main strategy should focus on being better. You have to invest in Innovation to stays ahead of competitors, remaining the superior choice in the category. Here, it works to focus on rational advertising that makes sure you re-force with consumers that you are the best. However, in a crowded market, it has become increasingly difficult to win on product alone—as many brands are operating in a parity situation. The product brands doing well include Samsung with the best TVs and phones, Five Guys with the best burger and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse who has a unique cooking technique that products the best steak. These brands talk mainly about the great product. In fact, looking at the Five Guys brand, they have almost completely let go of experience or pricing. The restaurants are almost run down, and the price of a 5 Guys burger is about twice the going rate. For years, Proctor & Gamble pushed this strategy at every opportunity across Tide, Ivory, Pampers and Always. But technology gaps have closed they have been forced to switch some of their brands to focusing more on being different and less on being better. The problem for product type brands is they struggle to be emotionally engaging and while consumers might love the product, they do not necessarily love the brand. While you can run an amazing business this way, if a competitor catches up to you on product or if you wish to move your loyal base into other products, it is not as easy as being a concept or experience brand.
- With Concept Brands, your strategy should focus on being different. To tell that story, you need to invest in emotional brand communication. You want to connect consumers on a deep emotional level with the concept. Brands in this space include Apple who builds around the concept of simplicity, Virgin stands out in new categories by challenging the status quo and generally accepted ways of doing things and W Hotels combine the nightlife feel, so you never have to leave the Hotel. With these brands, they still need to make sure that the product delivers at a level expected within the concept. If it fails to deliver, there may be a sense of hollowness to the concept that brings the brand down. Instead of calling these loved brands, I call these brand lust, where our initial feelings are the same as love, only to be disappointed by the product experience.
- With Experience Brands, your strategy and organization should focus on linking culture very closely to your brand. After all, your people are your product. You want to build values and align the culture to those values. And as you go to market, invest in influencer and social media that can help support and spread the word of your experience. Wells Fargo bank offers comfortable banking, Ritz-Carlton uses impeccable customer service to really separate itself and Starbucks creates an escape with indie-music, cool servers, leather chairs and a touch of Europe.
- With Price Brands, your strategy has to focus on efficiency and drive low-cost into the products you sell and high turns and high volume. You have to be better at the fundamentals around production and sourcing. Use call-to-action type advertising to help keep the turns very high. McDonald’s of the 1970s perfected this model, but we’ve since seen Walmart take it to the next level. You might not like all that Walmart does from an ethical point of view, but it’s on strategy and helps you get toilet paper cheaper. What consumers don’t notice at Walmart is their obsession with retail turns. On average Walmart sells through their stock within 28 days, compared to other retailers who might average 100 days. You rarely see slow-moving items and rarely see clearance items. Brands like Uber, Amazon and Netflix have combined an amazing experience at a very low cost. These inventive brands have recently figured out ways to use technology to eliminate a lot of waste in the value chain.
You have two questions to answer:
Are you better, different or cheaper?
Are you a product, concept, experience or price brand?
Below is a presentation from our workshop on How to find a winning brand positoning statement.
We make Brands stronger.
We make Brand Leaders smarter.™
We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at email@example.com or phone me at 416 885 3911.