Too many communications strategies are developed by first asking, “What do we want people to think we are.”
That idea, first formally put forward by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their landmark book from 1981, Positioning, is built around the paradigm that there are consumer needs that aren’t being met (either functionally or emotionally) in any category, and if you can identify one that resonates with people, and “sell yourself” as the solution, then your brand will take off like a rocket. “Positioning” was primarily about communication. The idea was “control the communication, and you can control the customer.” And since what the customer “knew” about your product or brand is what you told them, way more thought went into advertising, PR, etc. than went into the actual experience with the brand.
The fundamentals of “Positioning” worked to perfection if the “unaddressed need” identified by the brand was what that brand truly delivered; in many cases, however, the “brand’s solution” didn’t live up to the promise. Either it was mere “window dressing” and wasn’t what the brand was really all about, or it was something the brand didn’t do noticably better than most other performers in the category.
Here, 30 years later, we’re working with a totally different marketing paradigm. The advance of the Internet, social networks and 24/7 peer-to-peer connectivity has made transparency a must. You can no longer be what you say you are; you are now what your customers say you are.
When a brand spots an opportunity in the marketplace, it’s important to not just say you’re the solution (either because it sounds good or it’s who you’d like to be), but to prove that you are the solution, in every action, every customer touch point and every communication–operationally as well as in marketing and communications.
A better question to ask when developing a brand strategy is “Who are we, in the eyes of our most loyal customers? Why do they keep coming back?”
Then ask, ‘How can we demonstrate this so that all customers and prospects experience this?” Not just through communications, but by “living it” top-to-bottom in the organization.
While it’s important for a marketing strategy to be “aspirational,” it’s even more important that it be true. At its best, a marketing strategy is not just a blueprint for selling stuff. It is a blueprint for how you will create a relationship with your customer.
Posted by Mickey