value

This tag is associated with 2 posts

Why does brand positioning matter and what must change?


I believe almost all great brands are built on a foundation of great positioning.

I feel so strongly about positioning that one of the core elements of this blog is a series of brand positioning tips I learned over the years as an eager student of classic brand positioning.

Sometimes great positioning is led by a branding genius such as Scott Bedbury (who helped grow the Nike and Starbucks brands); sometimes a great leader and communicator with a very clear vision (like Steve Jobs at Apple) drives it into the organization; sometimes people stumble on great positioning by pure luck; and more and more often, organizations are developing positioning by collaborating with the communities of people in and around the organization who care most passionately about the brand.

This last way is the ad-free brand way of developing brand positioning.

Why does great positioning matter? In my view, there are four key reasons brands should care about positioning.

1. Great positioning helps people understand the brand

The best brand positioning is always simple and clear. The greatest product or organization in the world won’t be successful if people can’t or don’t bother to comprehend why they should care about it. Your story must be able to break through the clutter.

2. Great positioning helps people value the brand

Getting people to understand the brand is the first step, but no less important is ensuring they value the brand. The best brands stand for things people care about or desire.

3. Great positioning helps people identify with the brand

Once people understand and value the brand, they must also understand how they fit in and how they can engage with the brand. They need to see some of themselves in it.

4. Great brand positioning helps people take ownership over the brand

It may sound like a brand’s worst nightmare to lose control and have the brand community take over. But the most self-actualized brands of the twenty-first century allow the communities of people surrounding them to take some ownership of and responsibility for the brand. Essentially, the brand owners become in command and out of control of the brand.

In 1981, when Jack Trout and Al Ries wrote Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (the book that really defined the discipline of brand positioning) traditional advertising was still a dominant force. In fact, as you glance through their book, you’ll notice that most of the examples they use to illustrate positioning concepts are classic advertisements or advertising campaigns like the Avis “We’re #2, so we try harder” or the 7-Up “Uncola” campaign.

In the book, Trout and Ries define positioning as follows:

“…positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.”

The Trout and Ries definition is a perfect way to achieve the first three of the four benefits above; it helps people understand, value, and identify with the brand.

Where the Trout and Ries model of positioning is all about what you do to the mind of the prospect, ad-free brands are less interested in creating meaning for a brand in people’s minds and more interested in creating meaning for a brand with the help of people’s minds.

By giving the communities of people who care about a brand some ownership over its future direction, we begin to build relationships based on trust, respect, and a mutual exchange of value.

Where 21st century brands will really shine is by mimicking the open, collaborative, meritocratic model of the open source software movement (and the Internet itself) in their positioning work. In my view, without beginning to engage the communities of people who care about a brand as co-owners, classic brand positioning by itself will continue to be less and less effective as traditional advertising and PR continue to be less and less effective.

The secret? Marrying those classic brand positioning principles to a 21st century way of collaborating with the communities of people who care about a brand. By doing both together, we’ll be able to build stronger, more resilient brands than ever before.

This is the second in a series of posts drawn from The Ad-Free Brand, which is available now.

Mitsubishi’s gift to the community of people affected by the Japan earthquake


When corporations engage with communities, many make the mistake of focusing first on what the community can do for them. I encourage companies not to start with the benefit they get from the community (buy my stuff! design my products! give me feedback!), but instead with the benefits they give to the community.

What can corporations bring to the table that helps communities? Some examples:

•    Funding: Companies can invest real money in projects that help the community achieve its goals.
•    Gifts: Many communities are in need of assets that individuals can’t buy on their own. Are there assets the company already owns or could buy then give to the community as a gift?
•    Time: The company probably has knowledgeable people who might have a lot to offer and could spend on-the-clock time helping on projects that further community goals.
•    Connections: Who do people in the organization know and how might these relationships be of value to others in the community?
•    Brand power: Could the company use the power of its brand to shine the light on important community efforts, drawing more attention and help to the cause?

This weekend, a story in The New York Times highlighted one example of a company that brought great value to a community in need with a well-timed gift.

After the March earthquake in Japan, many affected areas had electricity restored relatively quickly. Gasoline, however, still proved hard to come by.

So Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko donated almost 100 of his company’s i-MiEV electric cars to help ensure people and supplies could keep moving in the affected areas.

This gift, which cost Mitsubishi relatively little, has provided a huge benefit for the affected communities. One story from the article:

“There was almost no gas at the time, so I was extremely thankful when I heard about the offer,” said Tetsuo Ishii, a division chief in the environmental department in Sendai, which also got four Nissan Leaf electric cars. “If we hadn’t received the cars, it would have been very difficult to do what we needed to.”
Mr. Ishii and other officials in Sendai assigned the cars strategically. Two were used to bring food and supplies to the 23 remaining refugee centers in the city, while two others served doctors. Education officials have been using another two vehicles to inspect schools for structural damage. Others helped deliver supplies to kindergartens around the city or were loaned to volunteer groups.

Most corporations would view a gift like this as simple corporate philanthropy. But I believe giving back to communities is much more than a “do good” strategy. I believe it can be good business as well.
Mitsubishi’s story is a case in point. Not only has Mitsubishi garnered goodwill from citizens appreciative of the gift, they have created a wonderful, emotionally-resonant proof point of the practicality and reliability of electric vehicles at a time when many are still questioning how effective they will actually be.

The people at Mitsubishi will not only be able to sleep at night knowing they provided a valuable gift to a community in need, but they will also have a powerful story that can be used for years down the road illustrating the effectiveness and practicality of the electric vehicle.

The community benefits. The company creates value for its shareholders at the same time. In my view, gifts like this where everyone wins are the best gifts of all.

[This article originally appeared on opensource.com]

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