Category Archives: Branding Strategies

Brand the Business or Brand Its Offerings?

Your brand platform and your branding strategy should dictate which.

We all know Proctor and Gamble emphasizes product brands. Tide and Crest and Pringles stand on their own. As they say in hi-tech, the company is “transparent” to the consumer.

During my time at IBM, we didn’t brand the products as such, we just named them to differentiate one from another. The brand was, and still is those three initials and all they stand for: IBM.

So which is best? The answer of course is: it depends.

I just advised the CEO of a startup software company to brand the company and make the product offerings subordinate. Why? In this case, all the offerings were directed at a specific target market. The CEO assured me that would be the constant in his strategy: to be a single-market server.

In addition, the software applications would not only be compatible, but in all likelihood would be sold as a suite or as add-ons to first-product purchases. The names of the unique offerings should, I suggested, have the same structure, and the logos and graphics should have a similar look to help with the idea of integration and compatibility. But the dominant name should be the corporate name.

On another occasion, my client was known only as a supplier of commodity-like agricultural chemicals, all sold under the corporate name. The products carried the corporate name plus a designation to identify them.

So when he desired to enter a non-agricultural market with a garden spray, I advised him to brand it on its own. Because he had no history with the garden market, either at the consumer or outlet level, the corporate name had no equity or credibility. By focusing on the product brand, he could establish product awareness without inserting another name (for instance, GetOut by ABC, Inc.) that might cause confusion or mental fatigue. In addition, by adopting or creating a product name specific to the application, it would be more likely to be relevant to customers scanning a store shelf.

The decision to emphasize one or the other is strategic in nature. It, along with many other decisions concerning branding, should be addressed soon after a brand platform has been created.

One of the functions of the brand platform is to define the basis for establishing the brand structure for a company. The brand platform should be an integral part of the business strategic planning process. I’ll discuss the components of a brand platform in future blogs.

Martin Jelsema

Positioning Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Back Home

When Al Ries and Jack Trout first introduced positioning in their 1981 breakthrough book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (I own a first edition), they espoused the idea that market participants were responsible for positioning products. In other words, customers perceived products differently one from another. As marketers, we could measure those perceptions and perhaps change our messages to either reinforce or attempt to change those perceptions. But the perceptions were the “peoples”.

Somehow over time, marketers, in their conceit and backed by megadollars, attempted to position their offerings as favorably as possible through claiming a certain attribute, or a package of attributes as their own. They thought of it as a process they were in control of, and that if their messages seemed to express the attribute (aka a differentiator) in a compelling and memorable way, they could preempt that position in the collective thinking of their target market participants.

Sometimes they could. They were certainly leaving impressions.

Now several writers have proclaimed that “positioning is dead”.

Nick Wreden in Fusion Branding How to Forge Your Brand for the Future states: “…”positioning” is based on the premise that the consumer can be made to believe…what offerings mean to them.” If, indeed that is the premise most branders labored under, it wasn’t a very valid premise.

B.J. Bueno, author of Cult Branding, in an article entitled: The Death of Positioning, makes this statement: Positioning is not something you do, but rather, is the result of your customer’s perception. Positioning is not something you create – the act of positioning belongs to the customers.”

So we’re back full circle. And customers continued to experience brands, draw conclusions and position products, services and companies based on their own criteria just as they always have and always will.

So positioning isn’t dead. We just have to remember it takes place in the customer’s head, not in the agency conference room.