17 Nov Positioning with a Purpose

Making sense of many marketing choices is challenging. Positioning is a strategic tool that narrows the choices.

Think of positioning as a navigation tool. It identifies where your brand belongs on the marketplace map. The simplest way to visualize a markeplace map is on two dimensions: quality and price.

A high quality/high price positioning will narrow the competitors and marketing tools, certainly. But within this competitive niche, a positioning statement with a purpose distinguishes the brand even more. For example, in the home furnishing business, one brand’s purpose may be modern and smart for a young adult with a tiny, yet expensive apartment versus another brand, whose purpose is to be classic and traditional to signal affluence and prestige.

A well-defined purpose helps to inspire marketing choices which capitalize on the brand’s competitive advantages.

Buble tapeFor example, the leading bubble gum brands, shapped in discreet cubes, promoted long-lasting flavor when we launched BUBBLE TAPE. There’s nothing discreet about a cannister of 6 feet of gum. We defined the brand’s purpose to be “kid” cool – as in purely uninhibited, attention-getting fun. Research told us that 12 year old boys were the most uninhibited and into getting attention – i.e., the “ring leaders”. Convenience stores near schools, where kids make purchase decisions uninhibitied by an adult, was their channel of choice.

We produced television ads “For You Not Them” (“them” being grown-ups) to run in the kid’s television shows that 12 year old boys spent several hours a day watching. Salesforce time and efforts were concentrated on Convenience Stores.

The results were stunning. In Year I, with only Convenience Store distribution, BUBBLE TAPE became a leading bubble gum brand.

It is natural for an established brand to invest marketing dollars everywhere to defend against competitors. But consider that narrowing marketing choices to capitalize on competitive advantages could be the most effective way to get more for their money.

6a00d8347d063969e201a511ebb915970c-200wiIn the 1980’s many leading consumer packaged goods brands began to see increased competition from discount brands. When increasing advertising support didn’t help Procter & Gamble’s SECRET antiperspirant compete with lower priced “white label” competitors, they chose to shift advertising dollars into trade promotion – i.e., discounts to maintain valuable distribution real estate, pulled through by couponing in local newspapers.

Why didn’t increasing advertising work? As background, the purpose of SECRET Antiperspirant is to meet the unique antiperspirant needs of women. The “secret” is that the PH balance of women’s sweat is different than men’s and therefore harder to neutralize.

Strong enough for a manBut the legacy advertising campaign wasn’t working as hard as it did in the earlier days of the “Women’s Movement”.  Known internally as “Jack and Shirley”, the stories were based on women’s relationships with husbands. By the 1980’s, (as evidenced by a plummeting birthrate), women were more likely to be working and facing relationship  issues with men like discrimination at work. The tagline “strong enough for a man but made for a woman” didn’t work very hard to overcome a woman’s challenge to prove that she was equal to men. And “strong enough for a man” actually contradicts the true story that a woman’s antiperspirant has to work harder than a man’s. (a very relevant metaphor for young women in the workplace.)

Imagine what the SECRET marketing plan would be like its packaging and advertising were updated to align with its purpose to meet the unique antiperspirant needs of women. Specifcaly to communicate that SECRET works as hard as women.

Who are the women who will most relate to this message? For example, Young High School and College athletes, young women studying in STEM subjects or entering the workforce.

Where are they most likely to buy it? Probably drug and convenience stores.

Where do they spend a lot of time? Working hard – getting in shape for their sport, studying, or at their desk.

The outcome would be a marketing plan that doesn’t look anything like the competitor’s. And the dollars, energy, and time spent will be concentrated on opportunities where the return on investment is highest.