Can Brand Positioning Survive a Customer-Centric Internet Economy?

In a tele-seminar course I am teaching, we are talking about how to develop Positioning Statements. To prepare, I was doing some background research and find that, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The marketing principles outlined by the advertising greats of the 60’s (David Ogilvy, Al Ries & Jack Trout, Rosser Reeves) are still the same today, they just have to morph with the times.

I read an article written by Nick Wreden of FusionBrand. He is brand strategists who helps companies doing business in Asia. http://www.brandingasia.com/columns/011.htm

In the article, he postured that brand positioning was dead because “The exercise is a company-driven process that reflects how companies wish to sell (“the leading provider of …”) instead of determining what – and how – customers seek to buy. Such posturing worked well in the mass economy, but the tactic is doomed to failure in, as the Economist pointed out, a customer-driven world. Companies can “position” themselves as anything, but unless there is essentially a customer-driven consensus on the brand’s wiki, then the “positioning” is no more than corporate posturing. Instead of seeking to unilaterally “position” their products, companies focused on branding today must devote resources to defining, delivering, measuring and sustaining the value that customers feel they receive.”

That would be a problem if the company sits in an office and dreams up the positioning out of its own head, but that’s not how strong positions are developed! They are developed by talking to consumers, finding out what resonates, and reinforcing something unique that is already believed about a product. It must ring true, which was just as true in the 60’s and 70’s as it is today. The long-standing Avis. We Try Harder positioning came from talking to people in the field, who told Rosser Reeves that they had to try harder because their business was struggling. The ad teams saw the possibilities and an entire company philosophy was then, over decades, built around that positioning.

It doesn’t matter what decade you are talking about; positioning must come from the mind of the consumer.

CAN BRAND POSITIONING SURVIVE A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC INTERNET ECONOMY?

In a tele-seminar course I am teaching, we are talking about how to develop Positioning Statements. To prepare, I was doing some background research and find that, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The marketing principles outlined by the advertising greats of the 60’s (David Ogilvy, Al Ries & Jack Trout, Rosser Reeves) are still the same today….they just have to “morph’ with the times. 

I read an article written by Nick Wreden of FusionBrand. He is brand strategists who helps companies doing business in Asia. http://www.brandingasia.com/columns/011.htm

In the article, he postured that brand positioning was dead because “…The exercise is a company-driven process that reflects how companies wish to sell (“the leading provider of …”) instead of determining what – and how – customers seek to buy. Such posturing worked well in the mass economy, but the tactic is doomed to failure in, as the Economist pointed out, a customer-driven world…. Companies can “position” themselves as anything, but unless there is essentially a customer-driven consensus on the brand’s wiki, then the “positioning” is no more than corporate posturing. Instead of seeking to unilaterally “position” their products, companies focused on branding today must devote resources to defining, delivering, measuring and sustaining the value that customers feel they receive.”

That would be a problem if the company sits in an office and dreams up the positioning out of its own head….but that’s not how strong positions are developed! They are developed by talking to consumers, finding out what resonates, and reinforcing something unique that is already believed about a product. It must ring true, which was just as true in the 60’s and 70’s as it is today. The long-standing  “Avis. We Try Harder” positioning came from talking to people in the field, who told Rosser Reeves that they had to try harder because their business was struggling. The ad teams saw the possibilities and an entire company philosophy was then, over decades, built around that positioning.

It doesn’t matter what decade you are talking about; positioning must come from the mind of the consumer.

RABID FANS BUY HIGH-PRICED PRODUCTS

I attended The Learning Annex’s Wealth Expo this weekend in New York, and there are lots of marketing lessons to be taken from it. From Tony Robbin’s motivational session that talked about how anyone can achieve happiness by a change of mindset to Donald Trump’s typically self-aggrandizing and simultaneously sobering message that not everyone in the bright-eyed audience is cut out for entrepreneurialism, there were a diverse group of real-estate-related gurus in attendance. The weekend was a masterful sales machine, a 28-hour infomercial given to a highly motivated target audience of real estate junkies seeking wealth. Sales for the two days can be counted in the millions!!!

The weekend was informative on many levels. Here is what I learned: 

  • Getting to the right target audience with a highly compelling time sensitive offer will result in massive sales no matter what the economic indicator show.
  • I am glad I am not friends with Donald Trump. He admitted that he likes to hang out with losers because it makes him feel better about himself. 
  • It is important to motivate your customers, not just inform. Marketers should strive to make their consumers feel–cherished, empowered, confident, satisfied–that what they are offering is going to positively impact their customers’ lives. 

This event will be discussed in more detail in the newsletter at beacon-marketing.com.

CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT IS STILL (ALWAYS!) RELEVANT

I was having a conversation with a media industry executive recently about consumer engagement, and they made the argument that that topic is pass, that it was hot last year or the year before, but was not now. I disagree. I don’t think consumer engagement should ever be pass. It is the critical element of any brand… relevance! If consumers engage with your brand consistently, you will never go hungry. Your bottom line will always reflect that you are providing something of value, something worth engaging in. There may be new buzzwords to describe it, but in the end, it’s involvement with your brand. I don’t know of any marketer worth his salt who would say that emotional connectivity is something he does not want or need for his brand. 

I realize this is a simple idea. I do think, however, that simple doesn’t necessarily mean boring or useless. In any of my jobs, I have gotten so caught up in whatever challenges I was facing, that I often would forget the basics. Being reminded of the simple truths, the clear principles of advertising and marketing that were just as important when David Ogilvy wrote about them as they are today, is worthwhile. Marketers need to find fresh ways to bring their ideas to consumers (Facebook, cell phones, podcasting, YouTube) but the principles remain the same.