There is a constant need to innovate, reinvigorate, update, recalibrate, or just simply fend off the competition in an effort to better explain “why buy our product?” This will at times require you to reposition a brand.
Just what is brand positioning, anyway?”
Brand positioning creates a specific place in the market for your brand (value offer). It reaches out to a a certain type of customer (the target segment) and delivers benefits that best meets their needs. At least better than competitive offers. The actual approach of a brand’s positioning in the marketplace is determined based on:
- understanding who their target segment is and what they want
- how it communicates the right benefits to them (Buyers and users).
- the current market environment/situation
As a result, the brand positioning of a firm seeks to differentiate itself. That is distinguish and distance itself from competitors based on a host of items based on those commonly seen in the Marketing Mix. Commonly these include:
The value offer, including pricing, quality,
product benefits (those benefits sought by the target market)
Firms need to take a look at their current brand positioning. But to begin with we need to answer the question, “Why reposition my brand?
Why reposition my brand?
As firms look to brand repositioning, they first have to ask, “What are the reasons to consider repositioning my brand?” The answer is usually some aspect of low or declining sales, due perhaps to:
loss of consumer/user base,
stagnant product benefits,
new technology and new features.
What are the actual reasons for low sales?
Low sales are not the actual problem. Something is the cause. We need to know what the actual problem is and what is creating it in order to make an effective fix.
It may not be the brand. It could be, for example:
Poor Promotion (particularly personal selling)
Poor distribution (logistics/availability and/or channels/intermediaries)
Or other non brand positioning/image problems
We will need to undertake some research and analysis – don’t jump into making changes too soon.
What do I do?”
After having identified the (real) reasons for the problem and decided on pursuing a brand repositioning strategy, you might now ask yourself, “What do I do?”
You need a plan. Don’t just start “doing things”, as much as you want to fix the problem quickly – do it smarter, or you may regret your impetuosity later.
Your plan needs to be based on resources, timing, and an overall view of competitive strategy
The process of planning will give you better insights into your business and your market – not just your brand
A brand repositioning plan
The following brand repositioning plan will help guide you through this process and help your firm to get the job done.
1. Understand the current status of your brand
In this phase the objective is to understand the brand, including exploring all the key variables – current issues, opportunities, and challenges.
The objective is to obtain a clear picture of the brand in present terms, in order to achieve a clear insight to problems and opportunities
Review and assessment.
Understanding the brand includes reviewing:
the history of the brand,
current brand positioning (what the brand stands for today)
any original positioning concepts,
how it has evolved
and , most importantly – has the market place changed in any way?
Key questions to ask and answer:
What differentiates our firm and brand from the competition?
What are the customer equity drivers? Equity drivers include value, the brand and relationships)
What are the historical ways to communicate the brand equity to customers and distributors?
The current brands customer profile
As we dive deeper into understanding the current status of the brand –we need to review the brand customers. Key questions to ask and answer:
Who is the current target customer base?
What is his/her profile? (What are the bases for target segmentation? Eg. Key situational variables such as: benefits sought; behavioural segmentation; lifestyle segmentation and descriptive (demographic) segmentation – plus other alternatives).
What are their reasons for purchase? (Situation/Benefits/Value sought)
What are the buying patterns?
What are the usage patterns?
Once we better understand the current brand customer, we can then review the brand sales history, including revenue, growth, and industry and category market share. Also important to look at are the specific core product (goods and service) offerings.
Current marketing strategy
This review should include a review of the current marketing strategy and marketing mix, with specific emphasis on understanding the current value offer/product strategy including a review of the total offerings and programs offered.
Key questions to ask and answer
Key questions to ask and answer: “Do all value offers/products exist under a single brand strategy?
Is your brand a category leader, or a player as a secondary brand?
This phase should also include looking at:
the firms resources, capabilities strengths and constraints,
distribution strategy, top key accounts,
key selling points,
along with a careful review of all sales and marketing promotional materials.
Review the competitive landscape:
the number of competitors,
keys to their success,
what they are doing right
some of their key challenges.
Key questions areas to look at are:
their customer profiles,
consumer buying trends,
and a review of the industry and category trends and forecasts.
2. What does the brand stand for today?
With a solid understanding and insights into your firm and brand, we now need to understand how consumers feel about your firm and brand today.
This will mean gathering any current and relevant secondary research (eg. Articles and published research findings) and undertaking some primary research – talking to people in your market and with relevant suppliers and supporters of your brand (such as distributors, installers, maintenance people. The object is to to determine what your brand stands for among your target market(s) – consumers.
Obtaining a clear insight into the way consumers feel
Obtaining a clear insight into the way consumers feel and relate to your firm and brand will provide the starting point of the repositioning work.
First we need to gain parameters, including the following:
identifying key growth areas for your brand,
marketplace, and industry opportunities;
looking at your brand positioning in the competitive landscape;
measuring the current equity of your brand;
determining opportunity areas of where to take the equity of your brand.
Your clear objectives are to:
Understand current consumer perceptions and needs of your brand.
Determine how far to move your brand without alienating customers and loyalty base.
Identify how to position your brand to attract new users and ultimately convert them into loyal purchasers/users/buyers.
The need for market research?
One of the difficulties organisations face with marketing occurs when the owner/manager thinks they know what the customer wants, how they want it, where they want it and when they want it.
Marketing research can help find the problem or opportunity and identify a solution. It helps managers to look outside of themselves for solutions.
Is marketing research only for large organisations?
Managers in large enterprises have access to many types of information services. Managers in small and medium-sized organisations often do not have such opportunities. They say, “We know we need marketing information to be good marketers, but how can we undertake it when we have small budgets?”
Obviously limited funds are a fact, but so is the cost of making unsupported investment decisions. It is false economy to save on the costs that will maximise investments and reduce the likelihood of failure. It is wise to consider how many products and enterprises fail in the first year.
The emphasis of marketing research is to shift management decision making from (risky) intuitive decisions to decisions based on systematic and objective investigations. Marketing research is undertaken to provide information that will assist decision making.
Marketing research aims to provide relevant, accurate, reliable, valid, and current information in order to make sound decisions. By doing this properly the chances of an incorrect or poor decision are reduced.
What are the objectives of marketing research?
The objectives of marketing research are to provide relevant, accurate, reliable, valid and current information to management in order to facilitate managerial decisions.
- Information which is relevant to the problem or issue.
- Information which is accurate is correct and precise.
- Information which is reliable originates from competent, trustworthy sources.
- Information which is valid is applicable to the problem at hand.
- Information which is current is timely and up-to-date for both the industry and issue under consideration.
- Who are the best target markets?
- What do they value?
- What is the size of the market (in terms of volume and/or value) and is it decreasing or increasing?
- What are the relative market shares of all the players/competitors and are these shares changing?
- How is the size and trend of the market influenced by various factors?
Brand focus groups
The first path to travel on the course of brand repositioning is to hold brand focus groups, which will directly ask groups of buyers and users of your brand key questions, including
“Why do they select your brand” and
“What was the key decision-making element?”
Do they use competitive products? (When and Why)
What are the benefits of the competitive brands V your brand
Beyond these general questions, the focus groups will seek to understand their reasons for purchase, determine their hierarchy of needs and what your brand currently delivers (and doesn’t deliver), understand usage occasions and patterns.
In addition, one of the most important functions of the focus groups is to identify similar affinity groups and lifestyle and behavior patterns among your customers and potential customers that can translate into better understanding in developing depth in your customer profiles.
A Survey asks questions (with either an interviewer completing a questionnaire or “self-completed” by the respondent)
Four broad methods are available:
(a) Personal interviews, (mall intercepts, in home/office, online);
(b) Telephone interviews (person to person or computer);
(c) Postal (mail) questionnaires; and
(d). Electronic media (internet, email).
Survey research is usually a more formal approach. To do this effectively, you would normally seek the advice of a marketing research specialist
Many times, just asking people questions will not provide useful answers (They don’t know, cannot remember or have another agenda in their response)
It is sometimes better to watch what people do rather than to ask them what they do. This has the advantage that it eliminates any problem of interviewer-bias and avoids the difficulty that people do not always remember their actions – especially trivial ones – very clearly. For example, an unobtrusive camera may be the best way of establishing how customers move through a shop. Often the best way to understand behaviour and usage of a product is to watch it in use.
The benefits of research.
Through this process you will identify needs, both unmet and met, in category and industry, determine the delights and dissatisfiers of your brand, as well as determine current brand equity drivers of your brand.
It aim to will provide you with a current measure of the value of your brand to your target market. It will provide not only a snapshot of today and where your brand sits but also an immediate look of where you can take your brand tomorrow.
The goal of the brand equity groups is to identify opportunities, including looking at growth areas for your brand as well as unmet consumer and user needs.
Once we can find the current equity value of the brand, the next step would be to run brand-positioning workshops.
A Brand Positioning Workshop is normally a facilitated, workshop is designed to gain complete consensus among your firms’s management team and marketing leadership on the brand’s target customers, essence, promise and personality.
3. Developing the Brand Positioning Platforms
What is needed to grow the brand?
Now that we have a good understanding of where the firm and brand sit within the overall marketplace, as well as a good understanding of its value to consumers, the next step is to find out how (and how far) to grow the brand.
The purpose of this part of the plan is to use all marketing research, brand, industry, and consumer information to reposition what your brand should and can stand for.
The key reasoning is that determining effective and successful brand repositioning will help retain current customers and acquire new ones. As we look to begin brand repositioning, we need to keep in mind that it needs to capture “How we want consumers to think and feel about your brand.”
Brand positioning platforms
This process will develop and create several key “brand positioning platform elements, such as:
Brand Vision The brand’s guiding insight into its world. A thoughtful, substantial, meaningful vision statement can communicate direction. Vision statements should be distinctive and strong so that anyone within the target group can identify the associated brand. For some reason most “visions” are disturbingly similar. Perhaps that reflects the fact that most companies’ objectives and most brands’ purposes are similar. Or perhaps that reflects the fact that courage is lacking, or nonexistent, in the business world.
Brand Mission How the brand will act on its insight. An aspirational purpose for the brand to exist. The brand mission can be refined to a simple, three-part directive: Grow the customer, grow the brand, grow the business. That’s what brand builders do. Their job is to grow their customers beyond the reach of competitors. Most brands have a defined “mission.” The problem is that most brand missions don’t go far enough. In broad brush strokes, we can identify three main areas where brand missions often fall short:
- They don’t provide strategic direction to the business
- They’re not primary tools to create customers, and customer value
- They’re framed as corporate communications rather than action steps to drive the company (and its customers) forward
How to approach the brand mission
Defining the brand mission is never an exercise in wordsmithing, although that’s often as far as it gets for many brands.
Effectively, the brand mission combines: company mission + customer mission + business mission.
What the brand mission delivers to customers is more important than what it says. Your brand is what you deliver, not what you promise.
While the purpose of the brand mission is to connect the company, customers and markets, the brand mission itself should not try to connect all the dots that exist in its brand universe. That’s too complicated.
Here are some basic questions
- Where can we lead our customers (so that our competitors can’t follow)?
- How can our brand help customers help themselves?
- What new forms of value can we deliver?
- How can our brand become a platform for creating customer opportunities?
- How can our brand become a richer context of living?
- How can our brand pave the way for our planned product innovations?
- How can our brand mission place employees, customers and other stakeholders on a shared path toward mutual goals?
Brand Values The code by which the brand lives. They are the beliefs of that a firm ascribes to the brand iwith the view that their target market will identify with it and form an emotional investment The terms of the brand’s values act as a benchmark to measure behaviours and performance. Brand values are composed of a small number of descriptive behaviours that the brand is to exemplify. These are to represent the company, brand and employees. Examples include passion, inventiveness, respect, honesty, collaboration, etc.
Brand Personality Distinguishing and identifiable characteristics which offer consistent, enduring and predictable messages and perceptions. What people associate the brand with. The brand’s humanlike personality traits, eg friendly, intelligent, innovative etc. It is an expression of the relationship between the consumer and the brand.
Brand personality must be differentiated from brand image, in sense that, while brand image denote the tangible (physical and functional) benefits and attributes of a brand, brand personality indicates emotional associations of the brand. If brand image is comprehensive brand according to consumers’ opinion, brand personality is that aspect of comprehensive brand which generates it’s emotional character and associations in consumers’ mind.
Brand personality sets the brand attitude. It is a key input into the look and feel of any communication or marketing activity by the brand. It helps in gaining thorough knowledge of customers feelings about the brand. Brand personality differentiates among brands specifically when they are alike in many attributes.
- Brand personality indicates the kind of relationship a customer has with the brand. It is a means by which a customer communicates his own identity.
- The Brand Personality Dimensions of Jennifer Aaker is a framework to describe and measure the ‘personality” of a brand in five core dimensions, each divided into a set of facets.
- It is an easy to understand model to describe the profile of a brand using an analogy with a human being.
The five core dimensions and their facets are:
• Sincerity (down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful)
• Excitement (daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date)
• Competence (reliable, intelligent, successful)
• Sophistication (upper class, charming)
• Ruggedness (outdoorsy, tough)
Each facet is in turn measured by a set of traits. The trait measures are taken using a five-point scale (1= not at all descriptive, 5=extremely descriptive) rating the extent to which each trait describes the specific brand of interest.
The traits belonging to each of the facets are:
• Down-to-earth (down-to-earth, family-oriented, small-town)
• Honest (honest, sincere, real)
• Wholesome (wholesome, original)
• Cheerful (cheerful, sentimental, friendly)
• Daring (daring, trendy, exciting)
• Spirited (spirited, cool, young)
• Imaginative (imaginative, unique)
• Up-to-date (up-to-date, independent, contemporary)
• Reliable (reliable, hard working, secure)
• Intelligent (intelligent, technical, corporate)
• Successful (successful, leader, confident)
• Upper class (upper class, glamorous, good looking)
• Charming (charming, feminine, smooth)
• Outdoorsy (outdoorsy, masculine, Western)
• Tough (tough, rugged)
Brand Tone of Voice How the brand speaks to its audiences. What this means in practice is that every piece of communication coming out of a firm should sound and/or look right. This includes everything – from web copy to brochures to customer service emails and letters
Dr. Brian Monger is the Executive Director of MAANZ International and a Principal Consultant with The Centre for Market Development. His profile can be found on LinkedIn.
He is available for consulting tasks and speaking engagements
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