Brand Strategic Platforms - The key Positioning element

Recently in our Brand Management classes, we were taught a very interesting topic of Brand Strategic Platform by Prof. Ashley Konson. 
A positioning strategy is essential for a brand/product. Brand positioning refers to the specific, intended meaning for a brand in a consumer's mind. The brand positioning should be clear in a marketer's mind before the same can be conveyed to the end customer through advertising/communication channels etc.  

As Prof. Konson puts it. "The managerial challenge is getting everyone seeing the same green apple the same way". 

Thus, there is a need to clearly layout the product positioning strategy internally so that the product idea is consistent throughout the organization. Kellogg provides a powerful framework to lay out a Positioning statement. Will discuss that in detail followed by some illustrations after the following example of a wonderful product which lost out due to the lack of a clear positioning strategy.

The failure of TiVo:  When TiVo launched its digital video recorder (DVR) system in 1999, which was a totally innovative and breakthrough product, Forrester was predicted to have a household penetration of 50% by 2005. They were optimistic because TiVo allowed viewers to store a library of shows tailored to their preferences, pause or rewind live TV, and quickly skip through commercials. In addition, TiVo was easy to program. In its initial advertising, TiVo announced it would revolutionize television by empowering viewers to "Watch what you want, when you want." 

However, the product did not do well and sales were way less than the expectations. As on Jan, 2005, only 2% of the household in US had TiVo (against expectations of 50%). A lack of clear positioning strategy lead to TiVo's disaster. The brand was positioned as empowering customers, but how and why it accomplished this goal was never clear. Was TiVo like a VCR in allowing consumers to record programs for playback at a later time? If so, what made it a superior means of performing this function? If TiVo wasn't a better version of the VCR, then what was it and why was it uniquely empowering? Advertisements used to launch TiVo failed to answer these questions.

 Kellogg framework for creating a Brand Strategic Platform:

A formal positioning statement can be developed to ensure a shared vision for the brand throughout the organization and to guide tactical thinking.
A brand positioning statement may be distributed widely within the firm and even shared with the firm's partners (i.e. advertising agency and retailers). 

Although the positioning may be written in a consumer-friendly language, consumers are not expected to read the positioning statement. Rather, the consumer will see the end results of the positioning statement - the brand design, pricing communications, and channels of distribution.
Kellogg lays out the following four positioning components required to create a positioning statement:

1) Target: It is to identify the target customers on the basis of demographics and psycho-graphics. These target characteristics are typically selected on the basis of category and brand usage.

2) Frame of Reference (FOR):  It provides the customer a reference point for the brand consumption. For e.g. Subway might use fast food as a frame of reference for its target consumers to easily identify with the product category or intended usage.

3) Point of Difference (POD): It shows how the brand is better or different from its competitors/alternatives. For example Subway might say that is the healthiest and most fresh fast food.

4) Reasons to believe (RTB): These are supporting evidence for claims related to the frame or reference and point of difference. They help to raise the confidence level of a consumer and establish credibility about the claims.

Lets have a look at the following positioning statement for Black & Decker's DeWalt line of power tools:

To the tradesmen who uses his power tools to make a living and cannot afford downtime on the job (target), DeWalt professional power tools (frame of reference) are more dependable than other brands of professional power tools (point of difference) because they are engineered to the brand's historic high-quality standards and are backed Black & Decker's extensive service network and guarantee to repair or replace any tool within 48 hours (reasons to believe).

The above positioning targets the tradesmen and focuses on his goal of generating a reliable income by practicing his trade. DeWalt promises to help the tradesmen achieve this goal more effectively than other brands of power tolls by being more dependable. The essence of this positioning was captured in communications to the tradesmen that promised "No downtime with DeWalt."

If Black & Decker had instead wished to target the Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY) segment, a different frame of reference and point of difference would have been necessary. Here, the goal might be to complete home repair projects in a professional manner. DeWalt might claim that these tools are better as they are trusted by tradesmen. A positioning statement would look like:

To the Do-It-Yourselfer who takes pride in achieving a professional result when doing home improvement projects (Target), DeWalt power tools (FOR) are superior to other power tools (POD) in helping you create a high-quality finish because they are engineered for and chosen by tradesmen, who depend on their tools to make a living (RTB).

You can observe the difference between these positioning statements. Though they are meant for the same product but the FOR, POD and RTB are completely different. Once the positioning statement is finalized, the communication/marketing strategies convey the intended message to the end consumer.

Looking back into the failure of TiVo, TiVo was positioned as serving the abstract goal of viewer freedom and was not associated with a specific product category. Ads depicted a person engaging in self-expressive acts such as removing parking meters and driving the wrong way down a one-way street to represent the feeling of freedom that comes from owning TiVo. Although TiVo did enhance personal freedom, the viewer was left to conjure up the TiVo features that would accomplish this goal. The slogan "TiVo, TV your way" indicated that the freedom pertained to television watching, but it was a mystery to consumers just how TiVo accomplished this goal. One of TiVo ads featured on television:

A more successful strategy might have involved comparing TiVo to a familiar category. For example, TiVo might have been compared to the home video category, which represents the freedom to choose your own movie whenever you like.

Thus, when introducing a new product, a frame of reference based on abstract consumer goals is likely to be inappropriate  Framing the brand concretely using other products is necessary because consumers learn about new brands by relating them to familiar ones.

I hope you liked the concept of brand positioning as a critical brand strategic platform.
As an exercise, you can try and create a brand positioning statement for Redbull, post you replies in the comments section.

Wish you a great day.


1) Inputs from the book 'Kellogg on Branding'
2) Teachings by Ashley Konson, he blogs here:


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