Brand Positioning Tag

Appreciating Jack Trout

Jack Trout, and his partner, Al Ries, developed the seminal concept of Positioning, the most influential big idea in identity and branding in a generation. The books they have written explaining the existential importance of positioning have had major impact on the identity, branding and marketing industry – and on me personally during my 40- year career as Vice Chairman of Landor and Chairman of Marshall Strategy. Their positioning explanations, guidelines and insights are as important today, maybe more important in these disruptive times, than they were when first introduced. Although the industry today has been swept up by concepts of user experience, customer engagement, content creation, artificial intelligence and big data, we must not abandon the fundamentally important need for effective positioning.

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What If Your Brand Isn’t “Cool” Enough?

cool sunglasses
A large enterprise software client of ours recently decided to make a big bet on a new business direction. People internally were concerned that the new direction would never be successful unless it had a different brand as well—because the corporate brand just isn’t “cool enough.” Is it true that it’s uncool to be big and established? Does the small, “cool” newcomer win every time? And what makes a brand “cool” anyway?

Our opinion—your “cool factor” is not the point. Instead of worrying about being cool enough, established brands should focus on establishing clarity about who they are. Nobody is going to be enthusiastic about something they don’t understand. Large companies often become too complex to be easily understood or related to. Brands that have been acquired, or new “skunkworks” projects, want to get out from under this complexity, just to have a little breathing room.

In our experience, enterprise software customers are more concerned with effectiveness and responsiveness than they are with “coolness.” Is the product easy to use? Is service easily accessible? Does it save time and resources, and increase profitability? In other words, what matters is fulfilling a meaningful promise to customers.

3 Cures for the Uncool
A large organization can easily begin to feel slow, bureaucratic and hard to do business with. If that’s the case, how can you shift perception of your brand? Three things you need to demonstrate are:

• Responsiveness
• Relevance
• A sense of inspiration

Sometimes a new brand initiative with some link to the parent may be appropriate. But don’t underestimate the value and credibility a brand with longevity can lend.

Lessons From Established Brands
A few years ago, we worked with Boeing, a globally known brand founded nearly 100 years ago, to refocus its internal positioning. A number of internal groups, essentially acquired companies, were clinging to their old brands to try to carve a special niche for themselves within giant Boeing. We succeeded in convincing these brands that they were much better together than they were apart. As Boeing, they were the undisputed global leader in aerospace. Individually, no single brand could claim anything near that stature.

Other large companies have managed to maintain clarity about who they are, and to deliver what their customers want in highly responsive and relevant ways. As a result, they retain a cool factor, not because they are the shiny new object, but because they are relevant, responsive and inspirational. Think about Disney, Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola. The latter was recently awarded the first ever CLIO brand icon award. Not bad for a 100+ year-old (not to mention huge) brand!

The bottom line—if you make your brand relevant, responsive, and inspirational, your customers make it cool. As long as you are fulfilling a meaningful promise in a unique way, you have a great start. Just be sure you communicate that promise as well as you deliver it.

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