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Find Your Rapid-Growth Purpose Category – Key To Successful Brand Positioning

NOTE: This blog post is reprinted from December, 2016. Reading recommendations below and in sidebar are new.

In his incredibly valuable book, Grow, ex-Procter & Gamble Global CMO, Jim Stengel, identified the 50 fastest-growing companies worldwide – now, known as the Stengel 50 – and sleuthed out the one characteristic they all held in common, the one thing that explained their phenomenal growth. After a decade-long study, he found these businesses crossed all sectors and industries, originated from many continents and countries, subscribed to all manner of management philosophies, sourcing, hiring, manufacturing and distribution practices. In the end, he determined they shared only one trait – they all rooted their company values in what Stengel calls the “Five Fields of Fundamental Human Values.” That is, all 50 of these businesses declare, as their originating purpose, a dedication to one of five categories of values. Stengel purists may object, but we’ve found it helpful to simplify the assertion. Let’s just say every business has a purpose and there are five categories of purpose that can be associated with rapid growth. So the question then becomes, can your brand be positioned in a way that aligns with one of these five rapid-growth purpose categories?

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Topics: Positioning

How Social Purpose Affects Brand Positioning

Marketing 2020 – Organizing for Growth is a comprehensive global marketing leadership initiative led by Kantar (formerly Kantar Millward Brown) in partnership with some other leading organizations. Already, their research has turned up some interesting, if not surprising, insights. I should say the findings are actually unsurprising to those of us who have been studying positioning and brand purpose for a while. Those who have only a passing interest may indeed find the research results to be eye-opening. It comes down to social purpose which is a cause a business may adopt in order to help make the world a better place. This differs from brand purpose, which is the purpose a market assigns to the brand, as in “I engage with the XYZ Brand to fulfill this purpose in my life.” Brand purpose has been around forever although marketers only started thinking about it in modern times. Social purpose is a relatively new phenomenon and, as such, hasn’t been studied all that much. But the folks at Marketing 2020 have taken a comprehensive look and guess what? Turns out that brands that adopt a social purpose actually do outperform those that do not.

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Topics: Positioning

Auto Brands Facing Disruption

It’s clear to everyone by now that the auto industry is in the painful throes of explosive, disruptive change. Even the near future of the sector is difficult to predict. There are so many new forces impacting the industry, no one can yet say what a future car business will look like, or whether there will be one at all. The climate crisis is the primary “driver” of the change. It’s clear that auto emissions, worldwide, must be brought down. That leads to efforts to build fleets of electric vehicles even though it’s uncertain if the market for so many EVs now exists. It also inspires experimentation with hydrogen propulsion and other clean energy options. But that’s just the beginning. Safety concerns lead to experiments with much better-performing self-driving vehicles. When all this is perfected, one won’t need to own a personal vehicle. It will be cheaper, easier – and cleaner – to simply engage with a public transportation infrastructure, greatly reducing the number of vehicles sold each year. Where will that leave the car companies? And is this what the market wants? Artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, blockchain, internet of things, 5G networks – all these exciting new technologies are pushing and accelerating the transformation. The breadth and depth of this kind of market-transforming upheaval is sure to have profound effects on the auto brands – the shared relationships between the car companies and their markets. The big media companies are grappling with this kind of large-scale disruption too. What about where you work? Think your industry is immune? Of course not. You’re probably also already seeing the writing on the wall.

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Topics: Positioning

Finding “Open Space” For Your Brand’s Positioning

Open space. White space. Unclaimed territory. You often hear these metaphors when discussions of brand positioning are on the table. Obviously, no one is talking about actual geographic positions here. We’re talking about positions in the market’s collective mind, otherwise known as mindshare. But, mindshare alone, as valuable as it may be, is not enough. It only means that the market knows who you are. That’s it. If Oprah Winfrey only had mindshare, it would just mean we know she’s a celebrity. But there’s so much more to know about her. She’s a media mogul, she’s a self-made billionaire, she’s universally beloved, etc. A business wants to be known, true. But a modicum of fame is not enough to build a powerful brand. You have to be known for something. Like Oprah is known for something. Like Malala Yousafzai is known for something. Like Elizabeth Taylor is known for something. We experience all three of these famous women in unique and memorable ways. We wouldn’t want any one of them to be more like another. That’s how a business needs to be perceived. That leads to a powerful brand.

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Topics: Positioning

5 “Easy” Steps To A Great Brand

I was recently invited to submit an outline for a publication entitled “5 things you need to do to create a believable, trusted and beloved brand”. The invitation quoted Seth Godin as defining a brand as “an implicit promise”. I think Mr. Godin has it about right – mmm, almost. And that's the problem with these kinds of queries. Everyone will be basing their submissions on a different definition of brand. There is no definition of "brand" that is universally accepted. But the whole exercise sounds like fun so I’m going to submit anyway. My five steps are at the end of this article. But we’ll have to start with my definition of what a brand is because that’s what informs my five points. I tell all my clients to memorize these six words: “A brand is a promise kept.” I tell them that’s the most profitable way that they could define the term when thinking about their brands. You have to know what your brand promise is. You have to communicate that promise to your market. And you have to keep your promise. To see how it works, let’s first parse the sentence.

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Topics: Positioning

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