by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
Brand position. This is commonly batted around in many boardrooms and marketing meetings, but it seems like not many actually try to accomplish this. To have a brand position, you must actually have a position you stand for. Too many marketers don’t really know what they stand for or even what they truly deliver (hint: it’s not the stuff you make or the services you provide.)
Brand position has nothing to do with physical ranking, but everything to do with where do consumers put you in their hearts and minds. This is where the true marketing battle is fought. Yes, the consumers own the brand, but where are they going to put it? If your brand offers something of unique value, they file you in their hearts and minds. If you don’t offer something unique, then you’re filed with all of the other “commodities” or forgotten all together.
A little known secret is that brands often don’t lose to superior products/services or to superior marketing strategies. They usually lose because they make a serious error in their own marketing. They lost their position in the minds of consumers because of wrong strategies, not because someone dislodged them. For example, Haagen-Dazs used to stand for premium, luxury ice cream in consumers minds. Their marketing strategies had burned that position into our collective minds. Now, they are just a memory and not even a dominate player. What happened? No one “took” their brand position from them. They went after big volume by entering into large grocery chains and became “common.” This is completely counter to what they stood for and it opened the door for Ben & Jerry’s to take room in our minds by positioning themselves as the premium ice cream with a conscience.
Keeping your position focused, instead of trying to be everything to your customers, is another key to owning a position. The operative words are “a position.” Not many companies are able to occupy several brand positions at once. In fact, I can’t think of one who does it successfully. Owning a brand position means you own one. People have a hard time thinking that something stands for several things at the same time. This is true in their personal lives as well. If you’re good at everything, then you’re great at nothing, so that means you’re not special. A true brand position means you own a special place in the minds of your customers.
Product expansion can also cause you to lose your brand position, if done incorrectly. Google is showing signs of this phenomenon. Gmail, Google Maps, Google Templates, Chrome, Android, etc., are all contributing to the brand dilution of Google. All of this is in addition to selling print ads, radio ads, and TV ads. All of this activity should be producing crazy growth, right? Not exactly:
2003 – 233.5% growth
2004 – 117.6% growth
2005 – 92.5% growth
2006 – 72.8% growth
2007 – 56.5% growth
2008 – 31.3% growth
2009 – 8.5% growth
These numbers tell the story. Google drilled a position as the king of search. Now, that position is starting to erode and giving way to the likes of Bing. More importantly, all of their different directions are causing them to try to mean something else in our minds. Do they really want to be known as a cell phone company and give up the position as a search company? Expansion is fine as long as it’s done correctly. By creating different brands for each instead of tagging “Google” in front of it helps fill a new position without confusing the consumer. Apple is the gold standard in brand extension. We don’t buy Apples. We buy an iPhone, a Mac, an iPod.
In creating and keeping a brand position, you actually need to have a position. You need to stand for something in the hearts and mind of your customers. I guess that’s why they call it “Brand Position.”