A. Characteristics of the Campaign
Positioning is the art of creating a brand that can persuade and realistically demonstrate its relevance to a customer’s daily life to become his or her regular choice.
Positioning is not created by the marketer or the individual brand itself, but by how others perceive it. In fact, Kosgrove says that the brand is not created by the marketer at all, but rather by the customer. Marketers don’t create the positioning; rather, they create the strategic and tactical suggestions to encourage the customer to accept a particular positioning in his or her mind.
For instance, bread and milk are not branded items, and despite companies’ push to try and brand the two products, no company has found much success building brand equity. When customers want either one of those staple items, they usually choose what is on sale or what is available on their local grocer’s shelves. Beer and cola, on the other hand, are heavily branded product categories: Consumers have formed a relationship with and will search out their preferred brands.
To position your offering properly, you need to identify the key attributes or benefits that represent the value of your product or service. That will, in turn, create trust in your brand. As you begin to understand the relationship that your customers have with your brand, you will be able to more efficiently meet their needs, wants and desires through your brand. “Positioning is everything,” says Dettore. “Positioning studies identify the audience according to their needs, expectations and wants. Those drivers then come into developing products and services that best fit those audiences’ needs and wants.”
While marketers do not literally position brands, they can have a significant influence on how they are positioned. Several characteristics can work in a positioning campaign, such as:
1. Relevance to a customer’s lifestyle – The more apparent the connection is between the brand and the prospect’s daily activities, the greater the chances are that the prospect will buy that product. Relevance, or the connection that the prospect has to the brand identity, is how customers ultimately decide which brands to buy and which they will discard.
Ask yourself: Is the identity of the brand too young for my target market? Is it too old? Is it too upscale?
2. Promises backed by support – Benefits need to be backed with some sort of persuasive reason to believe the product’s hype. Many times, products or services have some formula or patent that is “unique” from all the other brands out there. Why do we trust Pantene shampoo, for instance? Because we believe in the brand’s “revolutionary” Pro-V formula that leaves hairs strong and healthy. Why do we believe Secret antiperspirant will keep women smelling sweet? Because “it’s pH balanced for a woman, and not a man.”
Ask yourself: What promises are you making about your brand? Can my products or services follow through on those promises?
3. Message of the brand Is clear and focused – No matter how brilliant a strategy you have, you need to be clear about the message. Some examples of crystal clear campaigns include “Gillette – The Best a Man Can Get” or “Choosy Moms Choose Jif.”
Ask yourself: Are my messages in line with what I want to convey about my products and services? Are there messages that can be misconstrued? If so, how can I change them to be more accurate?
4. Message of the brand Is appropriate – Have you ever seen a commercial on TV that seems to come from left field? It grabbed your attention, but told you nothing about the product or service, and it seemed inappropriate for what is being sold. For instance, financial institutions can’t effectively work humor into their ads because the preconceived notion is that banks are not supposed to be fun or entertaining. The message that you send needs to be appropriate to the product or service you are trying to brand.
Ask yourself: Are my advertising messages in line with the image I’m trying to convey about my company, products and services? If not, could they be hurting, rather than helping, the brand?
5. Product Is the genuine article – Many successful companies build customer trust by claiming to be the real McCoy. For instance, Pace Picante sauce tells you that they are not the brand from New York City. Coke tells you that “It’s the Real Thing,” “Coke Is It” and “Always Coca-Cola.”
The copy line helps reinforce that this brand is the genuine article for that category of products. Even service companies can make claims to being the real deal. AT&T’s True Voice lets its customers know that they are receiving a level of clarity above what other telecommunication companies carry through their fiber optic lines.
Ask yourself: In what ways are my products and services more “genuine” than my competitors’? How can I emphasize those elements to give the brand a competitive advantage?
B. Types of Prompts in a Campaign
Once you determine the way in which you can reach your market, the next thing to look at is how you are going to lure your customer to try your brand. That method is called the “positioning prompt” of the brand.
A brand can evoke several different types of prompts. Be aware, however, that positioning prompts are not verifiable scientific hypotheses, and there is a great deal of interpretation and high degree of risk that is involved in choosing one positioning over the other. That’s why it makes sense to look at alternative positioning types before deciding on which one you will attach to your brand.
1. Quality positioning – Perception of quality is probably one of the most important elements for a brand to have and can be combined with any of the other prompts below.
“If you look at the most profitable companies in the country, they have a very high perception of quality, and it may be different than measured quality,” says Kosgrove. “Somebody can come in and say, ‘My product is better.’ Look at the computer industry, for instance. People say that Apple is a better product [than the PC]. But PC manufacturers will say that the PC is better because more people believe in it. You can talk about how your product or service is better, but you have to get people to believe in it.”
Quality, or the perception of quality, lies in the mind of the buyer. Build a powerful perception of quality, and you will succeed in creating a powerful brand. Al Reis and Laura Reis, authors of “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding,” say the best way to increase perception of quality is to narrow the company’s focus. When you narrow a product’s focus, they explain, you become a specialist rather than a generalist, and a specialist is perceived to know more, or be of “higher quality” than a generalist.
Another way to build the perception of high quality is to simply attach a higher price tag to your brand. Most people think that they know a high quality product from another, but in reality, things are not always as they seem. For example, does a Rolex really keep better time than a Timex? Does a Mont blanc pen write better than a Cross? Do Sony radios get better reception that Sanyo’s? Do Calloway Clubs really improve your golf game? Not really, but all of these brands carry a perception of higher quality because of their higher prices.
Believe it or not, high price is a benefit to some customers. It allows the affluent consumer to obtain psychological satisfaction from the public purchase and consumption of a high end product. Of course, the product or service does need to have some perk or difference to justify the higher price. For instance, Rolex makes a heavier watch than Timex. Mont blanc has a fatter pen than Cross. Calloway clubs have a bigger head than Titleist. Each of these characteristics gives the perception of quality, but they don’t necessarily improve performance.
2. Value positioning — Although at one time, items that were considered to be a good “value” meant that they were inexpensive, that stigma has fallen by the wayside. Today, brands that are considered a value are rising in popularity amongst consumers. In fact, packaged good brands, especially cereals, experienced a backlash when their prices rose too quickly. Private supermarket labels, as well as smart companies like Quaker, which introduced a breakfast cereal that aims at undercutting brands like Kellogg’s or Post, have found a strong market. Southwest Airlines is probably the best example of how a company has been able to offer discount prices and still keep a strong brand identity. In fact, most of the other major airlines have followed Southwest’s lead by rolling out value-priced flights under new, co-branded names.
3. Feature-driven prompts — More marketers rely on product/service features to differentiate their brands than any other method. The advantage is that the message is clear, and the positioning will be credible if you stick to the facts about the product. Unfortunately, feature-orientated stances are often rendered useless if the competition comes out with a faster or more advanced model.
4. Relational prompts — One of the most effective ways to create interest in a brand is to send out a positioning prompt that resonates well with potential buyers. For instance, Sketchers equates sneakers with cool and that characteristic passes to all who wear them. When Apple was down on its luck in the overall computer marketplace, started asking computer users to liberate themselves from the PC camp and” Think Different.” Jeep has created a car and branded apparel for rugged individualists. These brands have achieved positioning based on who buys what they sell, not solely by what they sell.
5. Aspiration positioning — These are positioning prompts that offer prospects a place they might like to go, or a person they might like to be, or a state of mind they might like to achieve. The now defunct Joe Camel mascot for Camel cigarettes infuriated parents, anti-smoking lobbyists and the federal government for promoting an identity of cool that young people could aspire to and achieve through smoking their cigarettes. And a new campaign from IBM has random people exclaiming,” I am Superman,” because they use a new version of the Lotus Notes software program.
6. Problem/solution prompts — As the name implies, problem/solution prompts show the consumer how a sticky situation can be relieved quickly and easily with the brand or service. What problem/solution campaigns lack in imagination, they usually make up for in directness and credibility. Packaged good brands tend to be the most frequent users of problem/solution prompts. For example, frozen meals cut meal preparation time to minutes. Detergents and cleansers also make good use of these prompts.
7. Rivalry-based positioning — By definition, positioning deals with how one brand is thought of compared to its obvious competitors. Therefore, the idea of a rivalry-based position might seem redundant but many campaigns take this approach. Laundry detergents, for one, are constantly going head-to-head to prove which one has the most power to lift stains. Other campaigns that challenge consumers to be the judge have cropped up between car companies, garbage bags, even between search engines on the Web.
8. Warm and fuzzy positioning — Underneath our capitalist driven needs to consume, we are still docile and emotional animals. As such, many marketers play on our feelings. In the book, “Building Brand Identity: A Strategy for Success in a Hostile Marketplace,” author Lynn Upshaw writes, “How people feel about a brand is oftentimes need- or desire based, which means that emotional or psychological approaches can oftentimes be very effective as positioning prompts.”
Need proof? AT&T’s commercials are often tearjerkers, asking friends and family to “Reach Out and Touch Someone.” Volvo hints that through purchasing their Swedish import cars, you are buying the only real way to “Drive Safely.”
9. Benefit-driven positioning — Other brands base their entire positioning on the fact that they give back to the consumer. Discover credit card, for instance tells customers that “It Pays to Discover.” Use the card and get money back. Discover was among the first major credit cards companies to provide its users with a financial incentive for using their card. Now nearly all credit cards offer some type or reward, be it frequent flier miles, discounts on gas or store purchases.
C. Determining Which Position Will Work for Your Brand
To determine which position will work best for your company, ask yourself what business you are really in. Similarly, determine what the benefits are for your products and services. If you sell computers, for example, you maybe in the business of:
If you sell travel packages, you may be in the business of:
Next, focus on relevant reality-based customer benefits. After completing the necessary research and reviewing the relevant examples of positioning, your marketing team should be able to describe a precise customer benefit that can be addressed in some way by the brand. The team members must be clear on what customer benefits are being offered and how they are based on real life needs and desires. To accomplish this, have them answer the following questions:
• Who are your competitors and how are they positioning their brands?
• What can you offer that is different?
• Who would buy our product or service?
• What markets should we target with our brand?
• Do we need to register trademarks for our products or services?
• Are there extension opportunities for these branded products or services? If so, what are they?
• How much advertising support are we going to need for the brand and how much will it cost? Does our budget allow for those costs?
• How descriptive is the brand? Are there ways that it can be improved?
• Can the brand name be pronounced easily? Does it translate well into other languages?
• Are there regulatory issues? If so, how will we overcome them?