Read an Excerpt
Chapter 4: The Best Kept Secret of Branding
Developing A Relevant Yet Unexpected Strategic PositioningSuppose you are responsible for developing a marketing campaign for a terrific new car. Where do you begin? You could tell consumers about its luxurious interior or its sporty new look. You could boast about horsepower, safety, handling ability, roominess, or high-tech engineering. Or you could create a product image to appeal to a particular type of driver. Is it big and luxurious like a Cadillac, or irreverent fun like a Miata? Is it as safe and practical as a minivan, or as zippy and well-made as a Volkswagen Beetle?
If you were to produce a TV commercial about this car, you'd have thirty seconds to tell consumers why they should buy it. If your commercial was any good, it would define who you want to buy your car and what the most compelling reasons are that they should want it. You don't have enough time to say that the car is luxurious, roomy, has fine Corinthian leather, is fast, sporty, fun to drive, well engineered and sounds great -- and you probably can't appeal to everyone watching the commercial. So before you review the first commercial storyboard, you would have to make tough choices about what your product is and who it's for.
The way marketers define what it is they want to say about their product and who you are targeting to buy it is accomplished through the development of what's called a strategic positioning statement. This statement is the foundation of all of your consumer communications, including advertising, pricing, packaging, merchandising, promotions, public relations -- anything that reaches the consumer will be shaped by this statement. But despite its far reaching effects, it isn't an opus; it is a simple, clearly stated sentence -- yes, just one sentence -- that defines whom to target and what to say.
Think you need more than just one sentence to contain your thoughts? Then you're trying to say too much, and your message is surely becoming diluted. If you can't say it simply, your consumer can't understand it.
THE ART AND DISCIPLINE OF POSITIONINGSuccessful marketing companies hone the development of strategic positioning statements to a fine art. They have files full of case studies to indicate what type of strategies work and what type fail. And let's face it, product managers at these companies are very busy people. So how long do you suppose they spend on that one little positioning statement? Forty-five minutes? An entire afternoon?
Try months. Part of the effort is agonizing over every word to make sure that the strategic positioning statement is powerful, compelling, and specific. The real work and worry comes in analyzing the roads not taken. If you position your lipstick as old-time glamour, it can't also be youthful and new, so you'd better be sure that glamour has the bigger audience and stronger appeal. If you position sunglasses as the choice of the stars, you can't also be unbreakable sports lenses or the most comfortable fit. These difficult choices make strategy development the most troublesome task in marketing. It involves more than creative thinking in a vacuum; you must collect and analyze information and consumer learning from every available source, then boil it all down to a simple, clear, consumer-focused positioning that will maximize your product's consumer appeal. Everything the consumer knows and believes about the product is driven from the strategic positioning statement. There is no margin for error.
THE ABC'S OF STRATEGIC POSITIONINGThe thinking you invest in your strategic positioning statement is hard work, but the statement itself is as easy as ABC:
- Compelling Reason Why (this is actually sentence #2 of the statement)
Resist this trap. If you product stands for everything, it stands for nothing. Don't be afraid to define your product in the clearest, most intriguing terms possible. Only then will consumers appreciate your benefit and become loyal to your product.
SECRETS OF THE GAMETop marketers go beyond traditional thinking when developing their strategic positioning statements. They push to find a clear, relevant-yet-unexpected strategic positioning statement that creates a meaningful point of difference and competitive advantage for their product.
The best way to comprehend the power of the relevant-yet-unexpected idea is to look at the results of some great contemporary marketing campaigns that capture this concept.
One of my favorites is that of Dow Bathroom Cleaner. You've seen the commercials for years, with the little Scrubbing Bubbles racing around the bathtub to give it a clean shine. The strategic positioning statement for Dow Bathroom Cleaner is likely something like this: "For homemakers, Dow Bathroom Cleaner is the easy way to get a great, clean shine for your tub and tile. That's because only Dow Bathroom Cleaner contains Scrubbing Bubbles, which cut through the dirt and grime clean to the shine, so you don't have to!"
Note the ABC's of the strategy as follows:
- Target audience: homemakers
- Unique benefit: the easy way to get a great, clean shine for your tub and tile.
- Compelling reason why: because only Dow Bathroom Cleaner contains Scrubbing Bubbles, which cut through the dirt and grime so you won't have to!
DEVELOPING A UNIQUE MARKET POSITIONTo delve deeper into the "relevant-yet-unexpected", let's think about Michelin tires. Recall their advertising campaign featuring a baby inside a Michelin tire, with the copy "Michelin: Because so much is riding on your tires." The strategic positioning statement that led to this execution could be: "For parents with young children, Michelin is the safest tire you can buy to protect the lives of your loved ones. That's because dual-walled Michelin tires perform exceptionally well in all weather conditions, gripping the road so you won't have accidents."
Michelin has a specific target, a clear benefit, and a compelling, believable reason why. Through the insightful strategic decision to use babies as the way to define your loved ones, Michelin came up with a relevant-yet-unexpected way to create consumer appeal versus other tire companies.
Now consider for a moment how different the advertising would look and feel if the strategy were something like this: "For adults 18-45, Michelin tires give you the best performance in any driving situation. That's because dual-walled Michelin tires perform exceptionally well in all weather conditions, gripping the road so you won't have accidents."
The second strategy could easily -- and logically -- have been chosen as the positioning statement. After all, it has the same "reason why" and all the consumer research probably revealed that performance is a compelling consumer benefit. But, alas, this is pretty much how every competitive tire brand is positioned.
So why did the marketing team at Michelin choose the first statement? Because their research, their observations, and their gut instincts told them that the strongest emotional tie consumers have to their tires involves safety for the children they chauffeur (think of all those "Baby on Board" signs that used to be so popular and you'll have to agree). Sure, consumers want good performance, but most of them aren't revving fine-tuned sports cars on slippery mountain roads. They're too busy carpooling or taking the kids to soccer practice. ...