The idea of positioning was created and developed in the years before the Internet and social media. Today in a 24 hour news and social media world the marketer or advertiser is not in control of the message. If a customer has a problem, before calling your 1800 number and going through the agonizing 1,2,3 prompts the customer might put out a nasty tweet! And if there were other customers who felt the same way… there would be re-tweets and so on.
But first to recap the powerful idea of positioning in marketing. Originally introduced by Jack Trout and Al Reis in 1973, positioning suggests that you must be clear about what your brand is to the customer compared to the competition. Positioning is thus about identifying key variables that the customer cares about and then investigating where the competition is on these variables. Your brand should occupy a space in the minds of the consumer that differentiates from the competitor. “We are different” is your battle cry and you expect the consumer to literally buy in to your brand. Thus if consumers are primarily looking for safety in a car they think of Volvo and Subaru at two different market price segments. However if you are looking for American made cars you think of GM and Ford whether or not many Toyotas and Honda’s are actually made in America. In other words facts don’t matter, perceptions do. And these perceptions are built over years of advertising.
Positioning is a market facing concept while authenticity is about looking inward at the organization.
The question is what does the marketer do in this fast changing Internet world? Before the Internet, if new competitors entered the field, consumer marketers would huddle with advertising agencies and work on “re-positioning” the brand. The re-positioning would be discussed with much gusto in the business press and the jury (i.e. customer) would make further choices to establish whether the re-positioning actually worked.
Today authenticity is more important than perception for enduring brand success. And how can a brand become more authentic? Here are some thoughts:
What difference are you trying to make in the world? Review your organization’s mission. We include values in the definition of mission for this post. What does the company stand for? It’s important to stand for something that is at the “soul” of the organization. When you formulated the mission you involved all stakeholders. If you are an entrepreneur you hired people based on the match of the mission. Revisit the mission and they key here is that you are trying a make a difference in the world. The millennials are less about simply making money and more about “making a difference.” If you are looking at the millennial market now or when they get older – the time to start is now. The difference could be quite mundane yet profound. A recent example is of Pepsi planning to reduce sugar in its drinks.
How does the particular brand aid this “difference in the world” effort? Just like SBU’s (Strategic Business Units) and departments need to have a mission that helps achieve the organization’s mission- so do individual brands. Note at this time you are not focused on competition the core idea behind traditional positioning. You are really soul searching about what your brand is about. A discussion with key internal partners like upstream suppliers in the supply chain, colleagues in production,marketing,finance and market facing partners like advertising agencies, distributors can help get everyone on the same page on the brand mission. What this clarity does is to make your brand and its appeal enduring.
But the world is changing fast Customers change their preferences, competitors emerge, technology changes even faster. And you see these changes rapidly happening in all parts of the economy. Some businesses are able to change but most refuse to accept the change they see around them and adapt.
A great example is between BestBuy and Circuit City. In our local mall Circuit City closed down while BestBuy continues to have customers. BestBuy recognized that customers will use the Amazon app to check prices and store reps were authorized to match prices. Even if you had Amazon Prime and did not have to pay shipping a consumer who was already in the store would be far more likely to buy from BestBuy if they had already liked a product that a price match was being offered. In addition, you had the comfort of speaking with a store rep that tried to answer the questions you had after you read the product reviews from your mobile phone, right in the store! Instead of being shocked showrooming the store reps accept it happily,You wonder why Circuit City did not think of this simple solution. As the holiday shopping season gets underway, bigger retailers are probably more prepared to do instant price matches, but as shopping crowds become larger it might become more difficult to have enough knowledgeable sales people who are able to spot buyers who are not buying after clearly liking a product. Perhaps more upfront price match and friendlier return policies can help. Prominently displaying these policies can encourage customers to make a buying decision when they are uncertain. If you are debating whether to display your price match policy – remember that you might be missing customers who were almost ready to buy from you.
A frequent review of how your customers are changing is a great way to review your organizations’ mission. Does your cause and larger reason for existing need to change with changing times? This is the big question to ask and your customer facing people already have the answer, and would tell you, if you only asked.
So what about your brand authenticity? What about being true to yourself? Do you need to be fake? To paraphrase Gandhi, truth changes as your world changes and you are not untrue to yourself if you have the humility to understand and accept it better. About StratoServe Digital Marketing Services.