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MARKETING RX

Why change brand positioning?

/ 12:10 AM October 16, 2015

Question:  We’re marketing majors in college and we regularly discuss your MRx column in one elective marketing course.  There was one class session that ended in a deadlock.

There were 2 MRx columns that our marketing professor asked the class to compare.

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But this directive came after our discussion of the Friday column on the sustained Jollibee brand positioning on “Langhap Sarap.”

The class’ conclusion at that time was that it was worthwhile to sustain successful brand positioning.

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But before we ended the class, a classmate who works in an ad agency said: “Langhap Sarap” is an exception.  The rule says it’s better to change brand positioning.”

The class asked our professor and from his answer, it seemed that he was more in favor of changing rather than sustaining brand positioning.

He said: “Over a longer period of time, other Unilab brands like Enervon-C and Revicon did change their brand positioning.  And if they had not changed, it’s doubtful if they would continue to be the billionaire brands that they are now.”

Outside the classroom, every now and then, our debate continues.  Sir, would you mind giving us your diagnosis and MRx?

Answer: To reach a satisfactory issue resolution, there are at least two related considerations to take.

The first is to be clear about what brand positioning is.  Over a series of MRx columns, I spoke of seven brand positioning models.

Differentiator

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There are many differences, but one thing these models have in common is the concept of positioning being about the brand’s differentiator.

If this is true, then the issue you raised can now be transformed into this question: “Can your brand’s differentiator stay the same so that you can sustain brand positioning?”

We once agreed that positioning is both a marketer and consumer behavior.

But it is the consumer positioning behavior that matters more because revenue comes from consumers.

So if positioning is about the brand’s differentiator, we then ask: “Does your consumers’ perception of your brand differentiator change or stay the same over time?”

The usual answer is that it changes.

If your brand has effectively differentiated itself from competition, this very success guarantees that your differentiator will be imitated.

Because the barrier to imitation is in most cases almost zero, then in no time at all, once competition has successfully imitated, your point of difference disappears.  It then becomes the common property of all imitator brands, including yours.

Positioning

So you have to change brand positioning and search for a new differentiator if your brand is to continue leading the pack.

If you don’t, you can no longer expect to motivate consumers in favor of your brand because you’ve become no different from all other brands.  That’s what happened to the consumers of Enervon-C and Revicon.  But that did not happen to Jollibee’s “Langhap Sarap.”

And this is why we must now proceed to the second consideration.  This requires that you distinguish between product and corporate brand positioning.

Product brand positioning follows the consumers’ priority values for the product.  Priorities can change and what is important to consumers now may not be so later.  Values can also change.

A new consumer value may be added as in fresher breath in toothpaste or an “old” value may disappear as in the case of steel bumpers in cars.

Changes in product differentiator are therefore many and frequent.  It’s much more difficult to sustain.  Change is the rule.

On the other hand, corporate brand positioning is largely a matter of brand association.

Cognitive psychology tells us that there’s nothing that, when repeated often enough, can not be remembered.  It is stored in the short-term memory.  And when still repeated often, it then reaches critical mass.  The short-term memory then throws it to the long-term memory.

Then, the brand association becomes owned, becomes a brand equity.  This is why “safety” is Biogesic and “Langhap Sarap” is Jollibee.

This is not to say that there won’t be imitators. There are and there will be.

But in successful corporate brand positioning cases, the brand association has gotten too sticky to be almost permanent.

My own students ask: “What is more important?  Product brand positioning or corporate brand positioning?”

Both are important.  If you succeed in both, the total value of the success is greater than the sum of the value of each positioning.

This is especially true when the brand equity owns not just a consumer value but a market segment.

Consider the J&J brand.  Its product brand equity as well as its corporate brand equity is about ownership of the baby market segment.  That enables it to extend the brand to so many products related to babies.

In contrast, Dove soap’s product brand equity is about a product value and so is the corporate brand equity of Unilever.  Its ability to extend the brand is restricted to its product category values.

Keep your questions coming.  Send them to me at [email protected]

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