January 28, 2015

Set the Stage for a Successful Brand Strategy

advertising, small business, brand strategy, marketing

Prevent your brand from sending the wrong message with proper strategy and positioning.

How do I position my brand for success? What is the most compelling story I can tell about my business? Those are two of the most substantial questions marketers and entrepreneurs have to answer when running their business. In fact, the answers will determine whether their brand will gain traction in the marketplace, grow, and get shared by consumers—or not.

An analysis of over 1,000 case studies from around the world of successful brand building has found that there are 26 different “approaches” to telling a brand story, each representing a different but proven opportunity to positioning your brand and telling your brand story. Each approach can be summarized by a key question (or set of questions), which I share below.

Tapping into this collective marketing intelligence by answering those 26 questions will help marketers sharpen their brand positioning platforms and tell better brand stories.

Setting the Stage

The first 10 questions deal with the context in which the brand can be positioned. They set the stage of the brand story, if you will.

1. Redefine your business: What other categories satisfy a similar need or provide the similar emotional reward that yours does? And what opportunities would this new perspective offer for building your brand and your portfolio? (Example: Cirque du Soleil)
2. Claim the gold standard: What is collectively understood and accepted to be the “ideal” your category has to offer, and how can your brand claim, utilize, or position itself against this ideal and its associations? (Example: DiGiorno’s “It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno.”)
3. Be a part of culture: What cultural movement or subculture (and associated set of values) could your brand fit into or position itself against? (Example: the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty) For instance, remember this video (shown below)?
4. Tap into consumer rituals: How does your brand fit into your consumers’ existing rituals? What emotional transformation do they go through during those rituals? How can your brand become a believable part of these rituals and help in the transformation? (Example: the way people eat Oreo cookies)
5. Harness the usage context: Where do consumers consume or use your brand, and what expectations, associations (both positive and negative), and opportunities does this environment provide? (Example: the original Got Milk campaign)
6. Disrupt category conventions: What are the generally accepted rules for how your category operates, and which ones could you break to change the category dynamics and the way your brand is perceived? (Example: Pedigree’s Dogs Rules)
7. Resolve a category paradox: What are the biggest consumer frustrations in your category? What is your category’s biggest paradox? How can your brand help resolve them? (Example: Dyson doesn’t lose suction.)
8. Overcome consumption barriers: What barriers (real or perceived) are preventing consumers from purchasing or using your brand, and how can your brand help overcome those? [Example: the user imagery of Harley-Davidson’s core riders, the OWG (old white guys), preventing younger riders from identifying with the brand]
9. Identify an enemy: What threat (real or imagined, conscious or unconscious) could your brand mitigate in your consumers’ lives? (Example: the Truth anti-smoking campaign focusing on the corporate executives of the tobacco industry)
10. Brand archaeology: What lessons can be learned from the strategies and tactics that lead to your brand’s growth in the past, and how can those lessons be translated into a contemporary solution? (Example: Buddy Lee)
Jump to the extended list of marketing tips on creating your brand’s story and making it relevant to its audience.
-Ulli Appelbaum for MarketingProfs; image via
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