More thoughts on why positioning is wrong for your brand

The issue or issues I have with positioning are well documented in this blog.

But I still get a lot of resistance when I try to explain to companies that they are wasting their money relying on advertising agencies to manage their brands by developing a positioning strategy.

This is because another issue that is increasingly relevant is the fact that it takes time to develop a position, strategise it and then communicate it, normally across traditional media channels.

Please, not more messages!

Please, not more messages!

In a (reluctant) nod to the Internet and Social Media, agencies are beginning to use online channels (whilst online advertising is growing, I don’t think it is growing fast enough and one reason is because agencies can’t control it or rather it is too transparent) but they are using these channels in the same way as they use traditional media, ie trying to broadcast a position to as many people as possible.

Developing a position was alright in a ‘mono’ world such as the early to end 20th Century USA or in Europe where many of marketing’s traditional tools and tactics were developed.

Indeed, before commercial flights, mass migration of peoples, national TV and newspapers as well as a more localised population and limited competition, such a model had legs and made sense.

It was also easier to find those USPs – remember when quality was a USP? – imagine trying to build a brand on a product that wasn’t high quality. OK, Microsoft did it but there are always exceptions to every rule!

As Glen Myatt said in his response to one of my blog postings (read his reply in full here) Quote, “With the myriad touchpoints available to brands now, a better way of thinking about what a brand should represent is what its story is rather than what its positioning is.

This is beyond benefits and personality to its values, what it believes in, its purpose in ‘the world’, its ambition.

The result is usually a unique combination of associations rather than a single unique association. (For instance, some may argue Apple is positioned on simple & intuitive technology while others fall back on its creative values of ‘thinking differently’. Both of these are valid as are the myriad other associations that make up the Apple story).

A brand story is typically not single-minded though it often has a central theme. In this respect positioning as a single ownable thought that can be packaged in a 30 second television spot is probably redundant.

As the idea of a unique, ownable story it is alive and well. And companies need to have and steer those stories even as their customers may also be shaping them. As the saying goes, “If you don’t know what you stand for you’ll fall for anything”. End quote.

With 2 exceptions, I agree with What Glen says.

The first exception I have is that I don’t think Apple is positioned. I think it produces great products, tells a great story, creates a great experience and then lets consumers define the brand. In other words, it offers economic, experiential and emotional value to consumers and on their terms (it makes mistakes but generally addresses those mistakes in a transparent, emotional, fair and collaborative manner). It is very human in its approach. Unfamiliar corporate territory but in the social economy, branding dynamite.

Which leads onto my second exception. I don’t believe you can create a unique ownable story and then develop it into a position. And knowing what you stand for doesn’t equate to a position. Those are corporate values. Perhaps there is an overlap…

Going back to my original point, not many companies have the time, or for that matter the resources to go through what is traditionally required to build a brand.

The days of broadcasting a corporate driven message are over

The days of broadcasting a corporate driven message are over

I believe that instead they should focus on delivering economic, experiential and emotional value to customers and on their terms. And do this in a transparent, human, personal, collaborative manner. Everything else will fall into place.

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