THE S-FACTOR BLOG
Brand Positioning with Purpose – The Ultimate Transformer
Building a brand positioning is the critical first step for every brand. However, remarkable, breakthrough brands add another element to traditional positioning to power them – the power of purpose.
By definition, traditional brand positioning is what we want people to think, feel and perceive about the brand relative to other options in the marketplace. It carves out the space that the brand can uniquely occupy and defend within an inevitably over-crowded market. It’s the foundation to create enduring value for the brand, consumer, employee and various other stakeholders. It’s essential to direct the strategy and tactics for executing the brand across all aspects of the brand’s experience – from product, to advertising creative, to media, to logistics, to recruiting, to the customer service experience.
In articulating an ironclad brand positioning, marketers from P&G to PepsiCo work hard to mine key insights on their markets, competition, consumer and customers. They gracefully overlay their unique advantages and capabilities to find their sweet spot positioning. It works and it will continue to work.
What makes up a traditional positioning blueprint? It includes these simple –but, to be clear, rarely easy to build – components.
- Target consumer and need: Who is the target and what problem or need are they looking to solve?
- Market Segment: In what market segment are you playing?
- The Offer: What solution does the brand and product provide to the target market?
- Key Benefit: What does the product allow you to do? What is the benefit to the consumer of using it? How does it make the consumer feel by using it? What’s the emotional pay-off?
- Reason Why: Why can a consumer can trust the product and brand will deliver the benefits?
Good to know but, while this traditional framework is essential to landing the brand, leading brands take it to the next level by injecting it with purpose – an authentic why inside and all around the brand and its work.
Take Starbucks. Starbucks gives you the same brilliant latte in Seattle and Shanghai. They care about that. They care a lot. But, the truth is, great coffee is not the end. Making great coffee is not why Starbucks exists and it’s not why people work there or buy coffee there. Starbucks exists to create the 3rd place – a space created for connection and conversation and, in the process, inspire and nurture the human spirit one cup at a time. Coffee is the purveyor of Starbucks’ purpose, not vice versa. When Howard Shultz defends his company’s support of marriage equality in front of an auditorium of 30,000 shareholders, he does so to defend the brand’s purpose to nurture the human spirit.
The examples don’t end with Starbucks. Yvonne Chouinard, dirt bag, reluctant businessman and founder of Patagonia, to transforms commerce. In their own words, Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Everything they do at Patagonia – from walking away from the Outdoor Retailer Show to protest Utah environmental policy, to sourcing organic cotton, to telling people not to buy shirts, to giving men extended paternity leave – supports this purpose. Sure, employees and consumers love the product. But it’s not the product that bonds them to the brand. Just like any leader, they are motivated and loyal because of Patagonia’s purpose and its actions.
While positioning is essential for brands to operate, pairing positioning with purpose transforms a small coffee shop at Seattle’s Pike Place Market into a $21 billion brand. Purpose is what moves a fledgling piton manufacturer dabbling in bunting jackets into a $750 million outdoor brand. Any brand, leader or person can advance fast upon a strong foundation of purpose. With resilience and commitment, it will be rewarded with highly loyal consumers, highly committed and talented employees, a thriving business and, ideally, creating a better world.
If you want to learn more about purpose-driven positioning and strategy, you can reach me here to talk further.
As an undergraduate, I studied androgyny as a force for creativity and transformation. It wasn’t my idea. Truth be told, I was carrying a “big bag of nothing” for a thesis topic and time was running out. My mentor offered it up. She said the future would be owned by creators powered by an androgynous mindset. Was I ever confused. But was she ever right.
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