The key to long-term competitive brand positioning is authenticity.
Most brands are sitting on a treasure trove of insight buried in their unstructured customer data. It’s worth the time to review, assess and analyze your existing data inventory.
Sometimes we become hyper focused on our business objectives and our internal goals that we overlook important changes happening within the market itself.
Things that make perfect sense internally might not be as clear to your target audience, and at the end of the day it’s the audiences’ interpretation that matters most.
Way back in the 6th century BCE, Greek philosopher Heraclitus made an astute observation; “The only constant in life is change.”
Fast forward through time and we see this to be true. Whether social, political, environmental, or any number of other variables, change is constant and it leaves us doing our best to make adjustments along the way.
The impact of this ancient philosophical concept is on full display when looking at something like modern consumer markets. As the world rapidly changes so do consumer preferences, needs and demands; then it’s up to each us to make the necessary adjustments along the way.
With such frequent and unpredictable changes, keeping a competitive edge requires a balance between strategic agility and risk aversion. It’s about making quick decisions (agility) without being rushed or reckless (risk aversion). Those who maintain this balance in spite of market shifts will maintain their competitive foothold.
So, what is the secret to maintaining a competitive balance in this world of constant change?
Here’s another cliché observation; “perception is reality.” Similar to the ancient concept of change, the impact of perception is seen within the consumer market as well. Your brand’s identity is less about what you WANT it to be and more about what customers BELIEVE it is. Here we arrive at an important intersection where your intended brand image meets the consumer’s actual brand perception. The best way to approach this intersection is through strategic brand positioning, and that’s what I’m going to discuss in more detail.
Whether it’s at the top or bottom of your to-do list, brand positioning is a topic that is sure to arise at one point or another. So I’d like to pose a few questions that have been coming up a lot lately as we’re working on strategic brand positioning projects with hopes that it will give you something to consider and discuss when the time comes within your own company.
You don’t know what you don’t know, but do you know what you do know?
Our first step with any client is a Data Inventory Assessment which is a careful review of their existing data inventory. More times than not, brands are sitting on A TON of useful information but their data is fragmented and disorganized or it is difficult to interpret because of its complexity; or all of the above. Whatever the case may be, many brands are currently sitting on a treasure trove of insight without even knowing it. Hence the header question, do you know what you do know?
Furthermore, while it may seem counterintuitive because it is adding a phase of the project, starting with this process actually saves time and money. By establishing a solid foundation of what is already known, we avoid taking repetitive steps and start building upon the existing foundation. We even increase ROI from past investments by opening the vault and making use of the stagnant data files that haven’t been opened in quite some time.
How well do you know your surroundings?
Whenever someone new visits my home, they always seem to notice something I missed even though I am in that environment every day. The same happens within our businesses – we are so immersed in our daily environment that we unknowingly develop blind spots.
A few weeks ago I had family visit and shortly after they arrived my cousin noticed water stains on the ceiling of our dining area. I’m there every day but I missed it! As it turns out, there was a leak and I was able to get it fixed which avoided more serious damage.
Looking back, I realized how easy it was to focus the things within my home and pay less attention to the home itself. Similarly, we become so focused on our business objectives and tasks within our market that we often overlook important changes happening to the market itself; even though it’s right there in plain sight.
This is where Market Mapping plays an important role. We take a close look at the past, present and future of an industry by leveraging the extensive secondary resources available. Pulling data from published reports and insights from expert analysis paints a clear picture of the market as it exists today. Adding to this, we bring all the pieces together to identify key drivers which brought our market to this point. As things move forward, we convert market insights into market foresight which guides decisions framed within an objective, educated market perspective.
How well do you know yourself?
Similar to our environmental blind spots, we often overlook or misjudge our own characteristics even though it’s clear and obvious to those on the outside. Even the most creative, fully-baked marketing strategies can be ineffective at delivering the intended message. Things that make perfect sense internally might not be as clear to the audience, and at the end of the day it’s the audience’s interpretation that matters most.
Conducting a Brand Perception Study will clarify how consumers view your brand and establish a benchmark for measuring future marketing effectiveness. Perspective gained through the Market Mapping process (which is recommended to precede any market research) will ensure the questions you ask are aligned with current market conditions and designed to directly answer questions that arise after identifying key market trends.
Up Next: Authentic Brand Positioning – Part 2 of 2
Now that we’ve established a clear perspective of where we are (Market Mapping) and who we are (Brand Perception), we can clarify where we want to go (Strategic Brand Positioning) and how best to get there (Action Plan).