Is Your Brand Positioned for Success?

by James on February 11, 2009

targetPositioning is a element of a successful marketing strategy. But, while it’s very important, explanations of positioning are often obtuse and overly complicated. So, is your brand positioned for success?

Early in my career in Canada I worked on the Energizer battery brand. We spent millions of dollars promoting Energizer using the tag line, “Nothing outlasts it.” In essence, we told consumers that no other battery outlasts the Energizer alkaline battery, that being a long lasting battery was important. Meanwhile, Duracell was advertised as the long lasting copper top battery. Duracell had been consistently supporting this position for many tears. Duracell was the market leader.

So what happened? Well, the money we spent on the parity claim, “Nothing outlasts it,” told consumers they should look for a long lasting battery so they bought a Duracell. Duracell owned ‘long lasting’ and remained the market leader.

How old am I? In the early 1980s, Apple launch a personal computer called the Lisa and it was, for the time, a technological marvel. At about the same time IBM launched their personal computer, with the imaginative name, the IBM Personal Computer. Its technology was vastly inferior to the Lisa’s.

So what happened? IBM positioned their PC as the personal computer for the office. They had the heritage to support the positioning and frankly only offices could afford to buy PCs in any quantity. What this position also did was reposition Apple’s PCs, charitably, as the PC for the home.

I also worked on Dentyne chewing gum. The position was, “Social confidence for young adults.” The advertising had been classic CPG formula ads: problem solution, demonstration, etc. We convinced the Brand Manager that this approach made it difficult for the target, young adults, to relate to the brand. We produced a spot that featured two teenage girls, dressed in their best Flash Dance finery, (it was the 1980’s) giggling and laughing while crammed in a phone booth talking to friends about boys. One girl had a pack of Dentyne in her hand. The product wasn’t featured. No beauty shot. In fact, there wasn’t even a clear shot of the package.

So what happened? The iconic packaging and end frame were enough to ensure brand recognition. What had the most impact was placing the brand in a situation where the target could easily relate to the product and understand how it would help them. Dentyne, in Canada, grew to share levels never seen in the US where they continued to use the formula ads.

Hip Shots

Is your brand’s positioning:

  • Ownable? Can you claim the territory? If you can’t your marketing efforts will sell the brand that can.
  • Competitive? Does your position address the competition’s strengths and weaknesses? Does it communicate, to a market that matters, why they should choose your product over the competition?
  • Motivating? Can your target relate to your position? Do they understand how it will help them?  Does your position solve a problem they have?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Bryan February 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Very interesting contrast and compare. The ownable, competitive, and motivating brand positions you’ve listed give great food for thought. When you put it into that context I know I need to go back and seriously think about one of my sites.

Janice Cartier February 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm

I love positioning focus. It’s like setting a compass, or checking it too. The questions following your basics: Ownable, Competitive and Motivating, are copied down and going into my notebook as a checklist and a reminder. Deliberately practicing fundamentals is essential, if you want any skill set to become second nature to what you do. Thank you very much for these.

Janice Cartier´s last blog post..Manly Men, Hearts, and Wide Open Spaces

Stephen - Rat Race Trap February 12, 2009 at 3:45 am

Hello James, excellent posts. Hip Shots: So short and to the point I get it! Thank you.

Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog post..Eliminate the Non-Essential From Your Life

Susan Zechter January 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I completely agree with all of your points, James. As an extension of Motivating, or perhaps as an additional point, I would add the element of “Emotion Benefit”. An example of this is Jif Peanut Butter’s positioning/tagline: Choosy Mothers Choose Jif”. The positioning basically tells moms: If Jif is the peanut butter brand you choose, then you are a good mother, one who is selective and caring about what you feed your kid. If you don’t choose Jif, you are not a good mother. This positioning has nothing to do with the functional benefits or the product or situational use of the product but can play a key role in defining the brand.

James January 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

Great point Susan. An emotional benefit can be a completely valid for a competitive and motivating positioning.

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