Tag Archives: brand evaluation

Positioning research – a two-part process

It’s unrealistic to plan your positioning strategy in a vacuum. Remember, you’re positioning against competitors who also have positioned their offerings – with the help of their customers and prospects.

The idea is to find an unfilled position that is relevant and compelling to your target market. Those people actually position you – but you can only help them through consistent messaging and performance.

So to find the positioning of competitors “owning” the attribute customers find important should be the first step in a positioning program, and that really involves two steps: 1) identifying attributes customers crave, and 2) determining how your competitors (and you) are positioned against those attributes.

Identifying attributes customers crave


My handy desktop dictionary defines attribute as, “an inherent characteristic”. And since we’re talking about a brand, not just the product/service itself, we want to explore all characteristics associated with a brand. This includes impressions and feelings, heritage and reputation, associations and experiences as well as the things marketers control: package design, pricing, distribution channels, customer service, environmental impact and social responsibility. All those and others can be thought of as attributes of the brand, and can be influential in the purchase decision and brand loyalty level.

So first, identify those attributes your marketplace perceives to be most important. Focus groups can help in this effort. But I like to do Internet surveys. I get quick response to structured, sequential questionnaires. There are several providers: Survey Monkey, Zoomerang and KwikSurveys come to mind.

I structure the questionnaire by defining the product category and then ask an open-ended question: What factors are most important or desirable when selecting a _________?
Then I provide them with screens of certain attributes, one attribute at a time but rotated so each is presented first, second, etc. For each attribute I ask them to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how desirable, how important and how beneficial the displayed attribute is for them.

After displaying no more than five attributes in this way, I provide a screen of all those attributes and ask that the respondent rank them in order of importance, desirability and benefit. I also allow them to enter a couple of “fill-in” attributes I hadn’t provided. If there are more than five attributes to measure, I rotate them through so that each attribute is presented an equal and significant number of times.

After analysis of the results – usually three-hundred respondents for each attribute – I am ready for phase two.

Determining competitive positions


This is a second questionnaire and research project, but I’ll use the same list as for attribute identification and ranking. Here I’ll first ask who provides the product/service in the category I’ve defined to get a top-of-mind measure of brand awareness. Then I’ll present the top five most important attributes from round one, one at a time. I’ll ask who provides that attribute. And for each competitor (and our brand, too, if I already have a presence in the category) they list, I’ll ask them to rate them against each attribute on a one-to-five scale. Finally, I’ll list their competitive choices along with other major category participants and ask respondents to rank them for each attribute.

From analysis of this data, I’m usually able to rank and position the players as shown in the star chart below.

attributes to determine brand position
Six attributes measured to determine a favorable position to occupy

This particular study was performed in a small market concerning sit-down restaurants, but any market, brand category or territory can be analyzed in this way.

Who “owns” what attribute?


As Reis and Trout expound in the pioneering book, Positioning: the Battlefield for Your Mind, a brand that “owns” a particular attribute – particularly if that attribute can be stated as a single word or phrase – will almost always be the market leader. This research can determine if such leadership exists in a particular market/category. If a brand already occupies a particular position in the minds of consumers, i.e. Volvo equals safety or Wal-Mart equals lowest cost, then you are advised to base your brand upon another attribute, even if that attribute is not as powerful as the leader’s ownership.

This is more than theory. We’ve seen how successful Target has been since they stopped competing on price with Wal-Mart and made “design” their position.

And it can happen in the smallest of markets. In my restaurant example, a gap was discovered that led my entrepreneurial client to open a family-style all-you-can-eat establishment instead of the linen-tableclothed, high cuisine  restaurant he had first envisioned.

Research really is cheap when it can help you position your brand advantageously.

Three Tagline Traps You’ll Want to Avoid

It’s really easy to create – or approve – an incredulous, self-serving platitude as a tagline.

It’s done every day, even by people who should “no” better.

I’m not going to be naming names in this post, but even without my help you’ll conjure up examples from your own experiences; examples from companies big and small whose advertising and promotion you are exposed to on a daily basis.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve learned to filter them out of your consciousness after a while because you realize they’re meaningless.

Lots of taglines are adopted as part of the branding process because folks think they’re critical to their marketing efforts. Certainly a tagline can crystallize a brand promise and make it memorable, but just as often you get an incredulous, self-serving platitude. In those situations, the tagline distracts and detracts from the brand’s promise and image.

Anyway, here are three questions I raise whenever I need to evaluate a tagline.

Is the tagline creditable?

Quite often taglines make sweeping claims that are not, or cannot be, substantiated. They sound good on the surface, but are too far from reality to be believed. Okay, I couldn’t resist naming this name: Dunkin’ Donut’s “American Runs on Dunkin’ Donuts”. Really? And all this time I thought it was gasoline. The point is that the statement just isn’t creditable. It’s an ad slogan straight from the ad agency’s “creative” department. (As an aside, someday I’ll share what I think are the distinctions and functions of taglines vs slogans vs headlines. That may take several blog posts, in fact.) Now I do expect a tagline to have a little zest to it. And some humor or even a double entandre will help make the tagline memorable. But claims to be first when it’s patently not true, declarations of superiority when your brand is number three or four, statements of capability that no one possesses: these are tagline traps that need to be avoided if credibility is to be prized.

Is the tagline self-serving?

This type of tagline was probably written for a fast approval by an egocentric executive. Well, maybe not all of them, but I’m pretty sure a great number of the self-serving lines were third or fourth attempts to get an approval from in-bred managers. So the creators, in desperation, serve back what management would like to think the brand represents when “the market” knows better. These taglines will usually begin with “We”, and then go on to claim whatever this year’s “hot button” (is it still “being green”?) happens to be – or at least what management has spent the most money developing most recently. The question is: “Where does the consumer fit in?” Quite often what management considers important is of no relevance to the consumer and this is reflected in a lot of self-serving taglines.

Is the tagline a platitude?

According to my copy of The American Heritage Dictionary, a platitude is “a trite remark or statement”. And “trite” is defined as “overused and commonplace; lacking interest or originality”. Platitudes do not make good taglines. Yet you’ll find a lot of taglines in this category. The folks from Y2 Marketing had a sure-fire way of identifying platitudes. They said if upon hearing or reading a tagline your reaction was, “Well, I should hope so!”, you’re experiencing a platitude. We run into these kinds of taglines all the time: “We care about our customers”, “Quality is what we strive for”, “Our people know ______”.

Two more ways to evaluate taglines

Here are a couple more criteria you can use in judging taglines. First, does it differentiate our business from our competitors? If not, back to the drawing board – no explanation required. Second, does it reflect and summarize the one idea our brand wants to communicate? This second question goes back to the branding process and has to do with having all the branding elements integrated in lock-step. There should be no disconnects

So, these are the negative points to keep in mind whether you’re creating or approving a tagline. Now you know what I suggest you not do. Next post I’ll attempt to provide some positive approaches to writing taglines.