The Game of Brand Positioning and Understanding your Customer

We tend to think of advertising as brand – which of course, it can be. Coke advertising is brand positioning for instance, but much advertising is more about telling a customer about what you do or who you are. The challenge with brand positioning is to not only make your customer look good – though that is often a core requirement, but to reach a certain demographic and tell them that your product is perfect for them, achieves what they need it to achieve, and gives them the emotional response they want.

I recently happened upon a great example of how brand positioning can be subtle, and how brand positioning requires thought beyond creating a nice look and feel and pounding that message. Regardless of your product, positioning it for various markets, customer groups and various demographics within that group is a complex business that requires planning, strategy and a true understanding of both your business and who your customers are. Get this wrong and you will waste time, money and lose sales.

A scenario – A customer wants to position as a high end brand. They request the generic high-end characteristics they believe their customers will understand to be high end – blacks, golds, serif fonts – the works. Our argument seemed counter to their intuition, which was that if you want to come across as high-end, project class, style, and an air of the unobtainable. In other words, look good, but also look a little like you don’t need to explain that your product is in the luxury category, and be careful to portray style and elegance, not brashness and tackiness.

Here is a great example – same brand – of two different positions that reach their target Audience:

real RR card

The Rolls Royce Dealership Card. This is a template as used by all British Rolls Royce Dealers. It is plain and subtle. Their customers know what they sell, the last thing they want is for the product to become the new Bentley, and Rolls Royce makes sure that they don’t project any brashness at all at the point of sale. Their customers expect a conservative, business-like atmosphere where manners and decorum are understood and observed.

rental RR card

The Limo Driver – trying to convey what his customers may understand to be ‘luxury’. His customer is entirely different in many cases. A business customer needs to understand that the limo company is established and credible, and a high end card achieves that goal. The casual customer is looking for the Rolls Royce fantasy, and wants the trappings of that. Chances are that casual customer does indeed want to shout it from the rooftops that they are living it up, and expects the brand to be portrayed in a more outgoing manner.

The key takeaway is that brand and positioning are much more than telling people what you want them to think about you. In the long run, the customer will judge the quality of your product and how it suits their needs, and the job of positioning is simply to convey to the customer that you live in their world, fit in their home, think like they think and UNDERSTAND their needs.

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