Should you proactively reposition your brand?


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Brands develop over time and one of the most over looked branding exercises required by any company is to pro-position. By this, I mean that leading brands remain leading brands because they do not rest on their positioning laurels and take proactive steps to review their core positioning every few years. Avoiding change has been proven time and time again to be counterproductive. Once a brand gets too comfortable that’s when you have to start to act. Any business that is standing still is actually going backwards because the competition is doing anything but standing still.

Sometimes, however, it’s just too late: Repositioning is required and the whole brand requires an overhaul to put it back on a growth trajectory. Repositioning is indicative of a brand that it no longer healthy and in a state of business decline. Repositioning is reactive and MArchitects should not be reacting. That’s like trying to repair your house after something has decayed and broken instead of maintaining the property in tip top shape all the time.

There are always risks involved as the rebranding of Gap in 2010 demonstrated, but in most cases, consumer reaction is not so extreme and the reshaping of the brand transforms the fortunes of the company.

My opinion is that ALL brands should carry out some sort of brand review or proactive positioning every three years. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Change is good. Change is essential, provided that the objective of the change is to exploit the full potential of the brand or to respond against major marketplace shifts.
  • You don’t need to change the brand essence. I am a believer in purposeful positioning for brands. This means that the brand should stand for something at a societal level. It is unlikely that that this would change over a three year period (in fact it should not), but there will be other drivers for change that need to be considered within the context of brand positioning. Adaptive, iterative and proactive recreation of the brand over time is a good thing.
  • Start while the brand is still healthy. If you start the process of reviewing the positioning while the brand is still healthy and growing, you are much more likely to increase the rate of growth. Stagnant brands stay just that. Stagnant.
  • Demographics/psychographics and technologies do change over time. Competition and the external environment do not sit still. These days, so much changes over a very short period of time (where was facebook 10 years ago?) that you simply cannot sit still.
  • Proactive positioning has many advantages: If you actively look at your positioning it is likely you will extend the life cycle of that brand, improve the brand’s strategic health and customer relationships – because you will be getting back to the basics of what makes the brand attractive to the target market. It also helps to protect the brand against competitive attacks because they can be understood more quickly.

There are some stellar examples of companies that have successfully reinvented themselves following a proactive positioning exercise. IBM, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and most recently Starbucks. Others who constantly work on the positioning of their brands are not quite so noticeable – except in their financial results. Nike, the Dirt Is Good team from Unilever, Akzo Nobels Dulux are great examples of brands that continually manage their positioning for growth.

Part of their success comes for their purposeful positioning (they all have greater societal aims than simply being a brand leader) which vision, going beyond the conventional category boundaries offers a much higher level emotional connection with consumers. It is also driven by their willingness to continually question the conceptual framework of the competitive framework within which they operate. Companies that are always looking at their positioning are very sensitive to future development in consumer attitudes, behaviors, market place dynamics and many other factors.

It does lead to the question why more companies do not engage in proactive positioning and take the risk of engaging in repositioning. I think that the answer is that it does not sit well within the current corporate environment that is focused on the next quarter’s results. Additionally:

  • There are few early warning signs for diminishing brand health. Increasing sales can often be a mask for poor brand performance.
  • If the company is making the numbers, why change anything – it’s working.
  • The average lifetime in a company of a Chief Marketing Officer is 18 months – there’s simply not enough time to deal with the major strategic issues.
  • It’s dangerous politically – who wants to tell senior management that they want to invest in ‘changing’ the flagship brand.
  • Many people do not know how to go about achieving a new positioning.
  • It requires change – and as we all know, people resist change.

Don’t miss the opportunity to make your brand stronger while it is still strong.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Kohn
Results driven, inspirational innovator with extensive global experience. Blue-chip experience in FMCG, B2B & professional services. Respected for delivering actionable & game changing business solutions across all aspects of a commercial operation.


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