Adnalysis: How rigid should a brand positioning be?
by Bogosi Motshegwa (@Thinkerneur) The positioning of a brand is of paramount importance. Positioning, in theory, seeks to differentiate and make a brand distinct from its competitors or competing players. As a strategist, I believe that positioning is the holy grail and foundation of competitiveness in brand building (and I hope that other strategists, clients and creatives in general do so, too). A brand that is uniquely positioned stands a greater chance of ultimately being uniquely communicated. It is, or should be, the launch pad for any brand marketing effort.
But what happens when a brand is positioned in such a way that it limits or stifles its availability or distribution and accessibility to people? What happens when a positioning doesn’t match or meet customer expectations? Should it be altered? Should it still be kept but compromised where and when necessary?
For example, you’ve heard of the famous line that Bentley doesn’t advertise, right? It does engage in brand marketing but rarely does the average consumer come across it as much as other brands in different categories eg whisky.
How strong is a positioning strategy? Re-positioning in order to survive
Below is an example of a brand forced to tweak and compromise its positioning
DStv: Re-positioning in order to be truthful in communication
For a long time, DStv’s value proposition was based on its product. It was the better alternative outside of free-to-air television; it had more content; it had variety; and it gave people access to the rest of the world. It was TV entertainment on steroids. To capture the brand promise, its payoff line aptly read: “So much more”.
To cut a long story short, consumers felt that the promise of “so much more” wasn’t being delivered upon because of all the repeats. For consumers, there was a disconnect between what DStv was saying or promising and what people were actually experiencing. “So much more” literally became a false advertising promise. There’s a saying that a brand is not what it says it is but rather what people say it is. In this instance, according to people, as a brand, DStv was a liar that couldn’t deliver on its promise.
Naturally, DStv had to do something, and it did. It altered the payoff line completely, which meant that its value proposition changed, too, and in turn its positioning was nuanced differently. The new line is now: “Feel every moment”. A strategic masterpiece.
So, DStv shifted its focus from the product (content — emphasising the quantity of the content) to the benefits (the quality of the content — how the product makes you feel and the role it plays in your life). It moved from functional to emotional positioning. Technically, there’s less to argue against here, because the content does make people feel something, whether its love, laughter, pity, joy, sadness, etc — at the end of the day, the consumer feels something. All of sudden, there’s truth in “Feel every moment” vs “So much more”.
The positioning questions
If the positioning of a brand is meant to inform all that the brand does, what happens when markets and competitive landscape change? What happens when consumer demands change? Do we insist on the existing positioning or do we heed the call for a repositioning? Can it be limited in its possibilities? Can or should it be malleable? Should it be flexible? Should it alter, based on what’s relevant and best for the business? Or should we continue to remind ourselves that a brand is positioned in a certain way and thus its DNA shouldn’t be altered?
Can a brand have multiple brand-positioning statements? Is that even a consideration? In today’s world of multiple options for consumers and the proliferations of competitors, is it still relevant and viable to have a single-minded position for a brand? If so, why?
I’m starting to be of the opinion that a brand may have multiple iterations of a positioning statement. A brand may slightly tweak its positioning in the minds of consumers to suit the context. If brands may be likened to humans, and humans are complex, how can brand positioning exercising be simple?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Do you have examples of your own where a brand’s positioning limited its brand-building effort, where it couldn’t do or engage in certain activities and environments because of how it was positioned? Feel free to share!
Bogosi Motshegwa (@Thinkerneur) truly believes that advertising can really change the world. He believes that brands, marketers and ad agencies can do even better branding building and advertising. He shares his thoughts on the industry and sometimes has unconventional views. A former committee member of AMASA, an Advisory Council member, a guest speaker and lecturer at Vega, Rosebank College and Red & Yellow, he also does speaker management at TEDxJohannesburg. He is currently a freelance strategist and has founded Thinkerneur, a brand consultancy firm, and is also the co-founder of Melanoid Éclat (for finding black entrepreneurs). He contributes the monthly column, “Adnalysis”, which analyses adland from a strategist’s point of view, to MarkLives.com.
— One subscription form, three newsletters: sign up now for the MarkLives newsletter, including Ramify headlines; The Interlocker, our new monthly comms-focused mailer; and Brands & Branding, launching soon!