Part One: Know Thy Position
31/10/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , , , , , ,

Part One: Know Thy Position

This article is the first of a 5-part series about Vigor’s strategic framework.

Imagine that you’re preparing to interview for your dream job. As you carefully comb through your wardrobe, you imagine how each item might strike the interviewer—this shirt is conservative, these glasses make me look smart, these socks are coy, et cetera (we all think about these things, right?) In a moment of inspiration, you make the daring move to wear dressy boots to the interview. “Hard working and independent,” you think. Then, to your horror, you’re seated behind 5 other candidates who made the same bold, unique decision as you.

Now you’ve gone from hard working and independent to a lazy lemming.

You expected to create one impression, but because you didn’t know what you were up against—what the interviewer’s other options were—you ended up making the opposite impression.

The problem was not with the boots, but with a poor understanding of your context. Such is the life of a brand that has a great product but no positioning strategy. Because no brand lives in a vacuum, the experience you offer will always be understood in direct comparison with other options that your patron considers to be most similar to you.

In this context, the worst thing that can happen is that there is little understandable difference between you and the competitor. It’s not enough to have a secret sauce or different colored chairs. You need to put as much space as possible between you and your competitor, you need that space to be along an axis that your patron cares about, and you need to express that space in everything from your personality to your product.

In other words, you need a positioning strategy.

Let’s reimagine the horror-show interview. This time, you have photos, bios, and even the planned wardrobes of every other candidate that will be interviewed that day. You glance through your intel.

“No boots” you mutter to yourself.

As you begin to understand your context, you realize that even though there are 30 other candidates, they’re all playing one of three basic cards—”hard-worker,” “young blood,” and “the veteran.” These are the occupied positions in your market. You re-work your resume, your look, and your whole approach to provide a 4th option, “the strategist.” Now, all things being equal, rather than having a 1/30 chance of getting the job, you have a 1/4 chance, because you are the only candidate representing your position.

But all things aren’t equal—your newfound focus on your position actually allows you to prepare better than anybody else. You rehearse topics relevant to your position, your wardrobe is on-point, and your resume emphasizes your strategic experience. So you now have two layers of advantage: a clear position and better execution within that position.

You crush the interview. You get the job.

With the power of positioning, you can elevate yourself even in a crowded market. That’s why it’s the first step in every strategy we create.

Step two is coming soon, and it’s all about knowing thy patron.

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The key to humanizing your brand: Don’t forget your roots
22/01/14 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , ,

The key to humanizing your brand: Don’t forget your roots

Originally published on Branding Magazine

There was a song I used to listen to way back when by a band called H2O. The song was called “Don’t Forget Your Roots” and the message was obvious. Recently this song popped back into my mind when I found myself discussing new ideas in building brands. Because the way I see it, strong brands maintain their roots despite their innovation and growth.

As companies grow, their sights are set on constantly innovating and trying to change the game. Innovation is rarely identified with a look of heritage or classic style. However, brands can indeed be forward-thinking and innovative, while still maintaining their roots. In fact, when done right, brands that embrace their past often have a more humanized feel.

Every locale has its own special brand of roots and history. These elements are unbreakable, and there is a part of every person that holds on to this nostalgia. Brands who understand the power of this solidify their future by fortifying their past.

The strength of roots-based branding can be experienced in New Zealand’s rugby team. The All Blacksbegin every match with their Haka, an ancient Maori war dance that displays power and instills intimidation while unifying and energizing the team. While performing the Haka, the All Blacks and their fans are united, and the brand becomes stronger. The unforgettable performance is a hallmark that only that particular team can own.

Using nostalgia and localization as a branding device doesn’t mean sacrificing innovation. Innovation should still be pursued and developed to grow the brand. The brand’s image can be forward thinking and fresh. That’s exactly what Starbucks is doing with their new concept. Using their Seattle roots and nautical, maritime inspiration, Starbucks is able to innovate the coffee experience while still delivering a nostalgic experience.

One of their New Orleans storefronts localizes the brand through an apothecary style interior featuring New Orleans inspired art installations. This creates a Starbucks experience that destroys the cookie-cutter, rigid branding methodology and takes a new direction. They’re letting the locale’s history and roots inform the brand instead of just hammering a square peg into a round hole. This makes Starbuck’s a part of the community while creating a unique, unforgettable brand experience.

As a final example, take a look at Banana Republic with their “classics never die” approach to fashion. Some may say this isn’t a nostalgic brand, but when compared to competing brands, their approach is much more nostalgic while still being innovative.
Case in point: The Monogram Collection. Banana Republic’s retooling of men’s suits pulls away from the baggy, zoot suit style tailoring with which Americans have become accustomed. They created a higher end, tailored suit that can be worn off the rack in a classic cut that’s always in style. They’ve brought the well-tailored suit and made it approachable and accessible – in essence innovating while still being nostalgic.

Nostalgia can work in any industry for any brand that understands how important it is to maintain roots. Whether locally or globally, roots add richness and depth to an individual’s personality, and brands that understand this become more human. Humanized brands are easy to befriend and love. So, like the gents from New York’s H2O once sang, “Don’t forget your roots.”

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