How to Reposition brands in a Connected World

Whether or not many companies and marketers accept it, we’re living in an extremely connected world. Mobile phones have revolutionized the way we verbally communicate with each other; Internet has drastically changed our behavior within our groups and society at large; and the integration of both these technologies, has shifted our perspectives of “reaching out” to the world outside of ourselves. As a result we’re discovering hundreds of different ways everyday to re-invent ourselves on every frontier of our existence – perhaps like never before!

However, what about the brands, which have been constantly giving us meaning and reasons to use them, since our toddler days?

Many brands have been able to retain their stronghold, by delivering the values they have been promising over all these years. It means that these brands have been extremely successful in differentiating themselves from the competition. It means that these brands have been consistently maintaining their presence within the purchase consideration set of their customers, and in most cases making sure that they are indeed the chosen ones from this set.

Then, there are many other brands who have found themselves cat-napping during the communication revolution happening around them. How can these brands re-invent / reposition themselves?

The answer lies within the “communication revolution” itself. Here’s how:

Creation of a new value-system of the customers (Image (C) Shantanu Sengupta)

A brand is after all a composite set of direct and indirect value-based proposition / promises delivered to the customer, in order to differentiate the core product from a competition. The best way to visualize brands is perhaps to visualize them as human beings / personalities in the real world. In this way, brands are able to mirror important facets of their target customer personalities, while creating a unique set of promises that satisfy the customer’s needs at the time of purchase.

Therefore, just the manner in which the customers are changing their ways of communicating and evolving into new “avatars” or personalities, these “cat-napping” brands too need to reposition, by following the changes embraced by their prospective customers, to evolve into new “avatars”. The figure below makes it clearer.

Today’s Customer M, who is connecting more and more frequently thru various virtual means, to other customers with different value-sets, is destined to adopt additional set of values, influenced by his network. As a result, Customer M has now an augmented value-set (Core + Influenced values). On a longer time frame his core values may have the chance of being proportionally dominated by influenced set of values – to the extent that he might now have a newer value system – “MX”.

Lesson for “cat-napping” brands:

  1. Augment the value proposition, by promise of the additional benefits that meet the needs of the socially enriched customer
  2. Retain the Core values intact during the process of augmenting the value-proposition
  3. However Give Up Control, if the core value system is meta-morphing into a new, but composite value system
  4. Re-Gain Control by promising long-term benefits, reflecting upon the new-composite value system
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How important is humour in brand-positioning?

  • In most parts of the world, luxury or premium goods stay away from embracing humour into the communication mix. Does incorporating humour give the firm an impression of being flippant and ‘not serious enough’ to be premium? LinkedIn question by: Sameer Vyas

Humour used in the context of explaining the differentiating benefits of the product or service definitely contributes to sales and long term brand recall. However humour should not be used as a part of the positioning for the brand – it should rather be used as a means to achieve / contribute to that positioning. e.g. if a brand’s benefit positioning is “Brand X makes me enjoy my home life in a lively manner” – Then humour could be used to drive suggestions towards “lively manner’, and could be retained for a long time as a differentiator among competitors’ benefits .

In case of luxury or premium goods, humour has not been used frequently, perhaps because the form of humour fitting these categories is not very easy to make a direct association to the benefits / positioning of the brand among premium customers. Long ago, a small premium Ericsson phone ad showed a sophisticated lady in a premium restaurant talking to her fiance on the phone, while fixing her gaze at a person sitting on a different table. However the phone was too small; hence this person thought she was proposing a dinner with him – till the moment she finished the call, and said: “One black coffee please”. The ad (see below) had excellent recall and contributed to the premium positioning of the product.

(The ad went on to win the Lion at Cannes Advertising Festival. Read about this ad. Also see Heinz example)

Therefore, it’s all a matter of finding how the benefits of a premium product could be associated to the sophisticated humour levels enjoyed by the prospective customers of the product, and translating this association into communication – thru ad or otherwise. Humour is a means to an end – not an end by itself, while positioning a brand.

Also look for Other Answers in LinkedIn.

How to build trust when competitors created skepticism?

  • A company wants to get in to market like air purifiers, detox products, or gas addittives. Its predecessors have created some skepticism with non-performing products, because they are a very ethical company and believe their product does just what it is supposed to do. How would you advise the newcomer to move ahead and buid trust with consumers? What must they do? What must they not do? LinkedIn Question by: Jeffri Epps

First and foremost, you need to do an in-depth research of customers, and specifically try to probe on the effects of competitor communication on them. It’s likely that one of the 3 results might emerge:

  • A – Consumers agree to competitors’ skepticism, and are content with that position, taking actions accordingly
  • B – Consumers are skeptical of competitors’ activities, but have decided to carry on with competition – because of herd mentality or due to no other alternatives available
  • C – Consumers neither agree or are skeptical about competitors’ position / messages – hence are not bothered who offers the products or services

In case of A, it might need further probe on additional factors they are looking for, which are currently not addressed by competitors. Depending on how strong and sustainable advantages these factors are, you may decide to take a course of action

In case of B, you might like to explore ways in which you’re able to present yourself (your product) as something that makes a difference in the attitudes towards the product.

In case of C, you might like to see in what ways the product could be seen – not necessarily in terms of benefits, but in terms of value. e.g. something like “well, you know, people say many things about this, but who cares!!”. But you’d have to really see how the values associate to the brand in the long term.

Long ago in India, domestic TV advertising started going the route of being “also ran” stereotyped communication. After all all TVs gave comparable picture an audio performances. At that time an imported TV was considered much superior, but was not available to 99% of the population! On researching, one brand discovered that actually, an imported TV immediately created an element of envy among the peer circle. this element was capitalized with huge success thru the “Neighbour’s envy; Owner’s Pride” campaign – even though “envy” was depicted with all its negative connotation.

I’m not sure what product category you’re in, but maybe by research, you’d get some insights that truly justify a “negative against the negative” approach, which ultimately could work positive for the brand.

(Please contact me should you need elaboration / clarification) Also Look for Other Answers.

Basic approach to position a Hotel Brand

  • How would your marketing strategy differ for launching and promoting a luxury city centre business hotel as a brand vis-a-vis a Destination spa? (LinkedIn question by: L. Aruna Dhir)

There are many angles to be looked into before we can really give a proper answer. However, in brief, the answer lies in the basic positioning and differentiation approach that would define the core strategy. The approach should be as follows:

  1. Where’s the property located? Is it within easy city limits or a bit on the secluded outskirts of the city? If it’s within city limits, “City Centre” business Hotel branding sounds good, while for a far-off location the “Destination Spa” would sound good. Premium destination Spa perhaps would have more appeal with an accommodation added in, if it’s located out of city – since possibility of promoting as “Spa and Resort” would have long term attraction.
  2. What’s the core benefit / value of your product for customers? Is it more towards the hassle-free stay / conference / meetings / banquets? Then positioning within the “City Centre Hotel” market would make good sense. Otherwise, if your core benefit / value on offer is “Leisure and Relaxation”, then it would make more sense in positioning it within the Leisure resort / Spa domain.
  3. What are the possibility of “packaging” the product and increasing its value? Once the above 2 fundamentals are decided, you’ll get a very clear cut core positioning of your product, which will define the next stage – strategy to promote in each case. However, it’s also important to note that it’s not the end of the other option , whichever position you choose. For example:
  • Once you have promoted / established your hotel as a Business Center, you can extend / branch out to the other offering as a part of the 24 hour package; e.g. Conference /Business, Dining, Pub, Spa, Relax… each at different time of the day. It also allows you to promote the Spa separately, and then adding up this sub-brand as a “total hospitality experience”
  • In case of promoting it as a Leisure Resort cum Destination Spa, you can take a similar approach too! Therein, to promote Conference /Banquet / Business products, you can just add: “Our weekend get-away package can also include your business seminars / conferences”

Therefore to answer the question in one sentence:

  • Marketing strategy in each of the cases quoted above differs in the basic orientation and approach one wishes to take in defining the core benefits and values of the brand, vis-a-vis competition (as pointed above).

Also look for additional Answers in LinkedIn

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