The Branding Misconception You’re Still Under (And Why It’s Hurting Your Marketing)
You may have heard that “branding” and “positioning” is important to your marketing, but have you ever wondered what that means for your business? First, you need to know the difference between the two.
Let's start with positioning. It's a marketing term that means to take a product or service and “position” it in the mind of your prospects or clients by comparing it with or against something already familiar in their minds. Al Reis and Howard Geltzer first published a book about this in the 1970s.
To give you an idea of positioning, take Avis. Everyone knew that Hertz car rental was #1 in the market. By being first place, they pre-empted that position. So, Avis, to get any recognition at all, had to position themselves with Hertz, but actually couldn't say they were number one. Do you recall what they did? “Avis. We try harder.” By positioning themselves as the best alternative to Hertz, they were able to capitalize on a larger portion of that market.
Some people think branding is like positioning, but it is different. The main difference is that positioning is a fluid concept. In other words, you can position yourself at different times in different markets as different things. Branding is more set in stone – it's a fixed recognition factor.
To give you a better idea, the other day one of my employees saw a cup with red circles on it. He said it looked like a Target cup. That is branding. That red bulls-eye logo is branded in that person's mind. He saw it and immediately thought of the chain store.
However, Target is positioned differently – it's a discount chain with good style. Some people even refer to it as “TargÃ©” – that is positioning. It positions the store with some hoity-toity posh boutique, but everyone knows their prices are comparable with Wal-Mart's. Target positions itself as stylish, while Wal-Mart, their main competitor, positions itself as inexpensive. Same basic product, totally different brand positioning.
Branding is more about being consistent in your message and image. If you don't stay consistent and messages don't look the same, people won't remember you. What if you changed your body periodically – I mean, really changed your body. You say, “Today, I think I'll be Asian” – but yesterday, you were Caucasian. How do you expect anyone to remember who you are when they see you on the street? It's the same concept. When you put out your marketing pieces, you want to create a similar look and feel so that people remember you. And you want that similar look and feel on everything you put out.
You get to make the rules of your brand. You choose your colors, style of lettering, logo and message. There is some flexibility, as long as you follow the general rules you set for your brand. You can't go too far out of bounds, but you can change some details within the set standard of what others will recognize. There was an actual study done by GE (General Electric) that found out it only takes 22% of their logo for people to recognize it. That's where your “wiggle room” comes from: the other 78%.
Remember how I said, “the same look and feel?” We've covered the look. The other side of branding is what others feel about your brand.
Chevrolet used to say it was America's vehicle â€” baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Then, it was “like a rock.” The slogan made you feel a certain way about Chevrolet as a brand, but was still in line with the old idea about Chevrolet. Americanism = loyalty = dependable = Chevrolet. The song that comes on in the commercial defines their brand. Being America's vehicle is their position. Both give you a certain feel. Branding in your marketing has to make you feel something.
Branding is just like the old coat of arms that families used to have connected with their name. It would instill respect, fear, wealth… fill in the blank. Likewise, a country's flag gets people to feel a certain way about their country. Stalin even used branding! He used the same picture to portray who he was to his people – I am this, I am this, I am this. He wanted the people to think a certain thing. It's really not a new idea – it has been around for quite some time.
So, it is sort of like the Western concept of branding your cattle – make sure people recognize what is yours. And through that branding, you can sway your customers' opinion and emotional reaction to your company.
Think about what message you want to portray. What do you want recipients of your promotion to think about you? What image of your company do you want to put out there? That is your brand. When people see you continually as one message, they begin to expect the same from you and they get used to you – and once they get used to you, it means you've successfully injected your brand image into their heads. The person most likely to change that image is you – no one else.