“That’s a shame because there are two ways to position a brand: about and versus. In the ‘about’ approach we promote the features and, occasionally, the benefits of our brand to target customers. Positioning is all about the company C, us, and the customer C, them.
The versus position is one in which we make it clear what we stand for to customers by highlighting the differences between ourselves and others.
In the other approach, the less common ‘versus’ approach, we still focus on what the customer wants that we can deliver. However, to communicate the message more strongly, we pick out a specific competitor and position our brand against them as overly and aggressively as possible. The point of the ‘versus’ positioning is not simply to aggressively slight your rivals; it’s more nuanced than that.
The versus position is one in which we make it clear what we stand for to customers by highlighting the differences between ourselves and others.”
Derek Thompson writing in The Atlantic:
“[Raymond] Loewy had an uncanny sense of how to make things fashionable. He believed that consumers are torn between two opposing forces: neophilia, a curiosity about new things; and neophobia, a fear of anything too new. As a result, they gravitate to products that are bold, but instantly comprehensible. Loewy called his grand theory “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”—maya. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.”
I love that last line.
The following excerpt is taken from the article “Differentiation or Salience” by Andrew Ehrenberg (pictured), Neil Barnard and John Scriven as published in the Journal of Advertising Research in November/December 1997:
“There are also remarkable feedback loops and marketing-mix synergies in these relationships. The bigger brands are so much bigger because the promise of more advertising had slowly, and up to a limit, led to more shelf-space and display, to higher and more profitable sales, hence to bigger advertising budgets (and possibly less price-cutting) and to more shelf-space, etc, again. The benign spiral includes that the more marketing activity and display there is for Brand A, the more noticing the brand can again gain. Just seeing the brand around can reinforce its memorability and thus again its salience.”
It’s a virtuous cycle.
Big ad spend leads to more shelf space leads to more sales.
The bigger the brand becomes the more cash is required to compete.
This is how big brands are built.
In Dollar Shave Club and the Disruption of everything, the strategist and analyst Ben Thompson argues that the internet is enabling smaller brands by reducing the amount of investment required to compete.
For example YouTube and Facebook are dramatically reducing the cost of advertising media placement. And Amazon is reducing the monopoly big brands have over the limited shelf space of physical stores.
Perhaps, at them moment, this argument is over egged.
But if, over time, dollars continue to shift from traditional to digital media. And sales continue to shift from in store to online. Then the way to build a big brand may shift as well.
The following is taken from “Stop problem solving” by Gareth Kay.
“As part of its effort to reinvigorate itself, Toyota introduced the approach of kaizen (simply meaning ‘change for better’). Overall, this was about ensuring continuous improvement but one of its key tenets was the Five Whys technique. Taiichi Ohno [pictured], the architect of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s, encouraged his team to “observe the production floor without preconception. Ask ‘why’ five times about every matter … by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.” He goes on to offer the example of a robot stopping. By asking why five times, the problem to be solved becomes clearer: no filter on the oil pump, rather than an overloaded circuit to which initial analysis would point. The ability to ask why until you can ask why no more is an incredibly important skill we forget far too often. When we do this, we begin to find the real, root problem we need to solve, rather than the symptom that is far too frequently the result of the typical problem-solving approach.”
I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review titled ‘A Better Way to Map Brand Strategy’ by
Niraj Dawar and Charan K. Bagga.
If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading the article in full.
For the time being, however, I wanted to quote the article’s definition of “Centrality” and “Distinctiveness” when used in reference to a brand’s position within a category.
The following excerpt is taken from a Seth Godin blog post titled ‘The difference between strategy and tactics’:
“Here’s the difference: The right strategy makes any tactic work better. The right strategy puts less pressure on executing your tactics perfectly.
Here’s the obligatory January skiing analogy: Carving your turns better is a tactic. Choosing the right ski area in the first place is a strategy. Everyone skis better in Utah, it turns out.”
Strategy is the long game. It’s the broad, overarching direction. It’s the big decisions. Tactics is the short game. The individual moves. The many, small decisions that move you towards the bigger goal.
Dave Trott puts it best:
The best strategists do the ‘what’ and let the tacticians do the ‘how’.
“In a study into the neural bases of decision making, German neuroeconomist `Professor Peter Kenning and his associates looked at brain scans of people who had been shown photographs of pairs of brands. These photos either included the person’s stated favourite brand or did not. Every time they were shown one of the photographs, each person was told to choose a brand to buy. There were two main findings. First, when a favourite brand was included, the brain areas activated were different to when two non-favourite brands were exposed. When the favourite brand was present the choice was made instantly and, correspondingly, the brain showed significantly less activity in areas involved in reflective thinking, an effect the scientists named ‘cortical relief’. Instead, brain regions involved in intuitive decision making were activated (in particular the so-called ventro-medial prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe). In other words, strong brands have a real effect in the brain, and this effect is to enable intuitive and rapid decision making without thinking.
Secondly, this cortical relief effect occurs only for the respondent’s number one brand – even the brand ranked second does not trigger this intuitive decision making. The scientists call this the ‘first-choice brand effect’. One target we set as marketers is to be in our target consumer’s relevant, or consideration, set. This research indicates that the optimal target is to maximise the number of consumers for whom we are the number one brand – being in the relevant set is not sufficient to enable this intuitive decision making and, of course, no revenue is earned by the brand that was nearly bought!”
“Two kinds, it turns out: Brand ads and direct ads. Brand ads are the unmeasurable, widely seen ads you generally think of when you think of an ad. A billboard, a TV commercial, an imprinted mug. Direct ads, on the other hand, are action-oriented and measurable. Infomercials, mail order catalogs and many sorts of digital media are considered direct marketing.
It takes guts to be a brand marketer.
What’s the return on a $75,000 investment of a full-page ad in the New Yorker?
What’s the yield on a three-million dollar Super Bowl commercial?
We have no idea. Brand marketers don’t do math. They pay attention to the culture instead.
On the other hand, it takes math to be a direct marketer.
What’s the yield on this classified ad? How many people used that discount code? How many clicks did we get?”
This concept of brand and direct ads has been expanded by Shelly Palmer (pictured above) who divides direct ads into two different camps:
“When asked about the “future of advertising,” I am always struck by the lay notion that there is a single thing called “advertising.” There isn’t. There are at least three different general categories of advertising: call to action, direct response and brand/lifestyle.
From Episode 2 of the “Driving better growth” podcast from David Aaker’s agency, Prophet:
“There’s different flavours of growth.
So we look at organic growth as being trying to squeeze a little bit more out of an existing business model, an existing set of customers, an existing set of products and services.
Maybe more adjacent growth can be more transformative in nature, maybe a new business model, new channels, new products and services.
And then of course there’s M&A (mergers and acquisitions) which can supercharge growth in either area.”
Listen to the episode in full here.
The excerpt that I’ve quoted starts around 2 minutes 30 seconds.
In ‘The value of ideas‘ I discussed how ideas are worthless until they get acted upon. It seems people often avoid acting on an idea because they are afraid of making mistakes.
Paul Arden rallies against this hesitation in his book “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be“.