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March 03, 2004

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Comments

suresh

This is the first time i visited this site. Simply amazing stuff to know and learn. My regards to the team.

IT WILL BE COOL IF WE COULD SHARE OUR REAL TIME EXPERIENCE IN BRAND POSITONING

Rayan

i enjoyed it

jeremiah

I know this conversation's getting long in the tooth, but I was hoping to reopen it in light of Tivo's recent announcement they will begin placing ads on owner's TV screens when they skip commercials.

This seems to me it will create a brand dissonance - i.e., it *completely* violates the existing position of the Tivo brand in consumer's heads. Perhaps the suits @ Tivo are unaware as to how people actually relate to the TIVO brand (Tivo=no ads. Simple), and I wonder how the marketplace will (if at all) reconcile this.

Does this create an opportunity for another company to create a strong market presence by taking over the Buy-Our-Box-No-More-Commercials pitch? Will consumers abandon TIVO? Will sales slow as people wonder what the point is of having a TIVO if it doesn't allow them to skip the ads?

....which leads me to another question: What is it about advertising we despise so much that we'll spend extra money to simply avoid it completely??

(Note to Jennifer: Thank you for keeping this thread open.)

EX Microsoft

Jennifer: I agree with some of the statements you have discussed regarding " Microsoft doesn't need classic positioning because it's a virtual monopoly".

And I'm positive on this because I've worked in Microsoft Marketing in one of the European Subsidiaries!

Although our experience on Mktg and advises on the best strategy or positioning, executives don't simply care with this kind of critical issues.

They just have to do the Contracts numbers on every quarter, and keep selling to make good figure on theirs European VP. They are more concerned in getting contracts, or push the channel to sell more, but it's as you said a monopoly! In my country we were one of the companies with major budget for Marketing activities, and you don’t imagine the lack of focus executives can get, when they can spend billions of dollars and don’t even bother if they had return on investment or not. With an enormous budget, it doesn't matter if you are doing great campaigns or not, because with all the advertisement noise they do, no one cares if it happens to be a stupid campaign! This is their personal positioning. It's such a waste!

The frustration is that is rare when they pay you attention on Mktg issues, this only happens when they are compromised to do one more billion on new contracts and really need your help to generate "some" demand!! This is crazy!

So although they have great US guys defining Go To Markets on each product interests, they are not really caring in positioning.
They don’t care if a customer is more concerned with a solution that corresponds to its needs.
Microsoft is more concerned selling one specific product, than a whole solution that fits customer expectations.

So when will these guys wake up? Well they are really starting to be concerned with Linux competition and open-source, and European Commission pressuring them to be more rigorous on theirs market approach, that is something they never expected: Resistance!

Let's wait and see!

Scott Miller

Jennifer, just discovered your blog and killed some spare time plowing through it. Great stuff. I'm very impressed. Anyway...

Positioning is not close to dead -- it's more important than ever, and its importance can only grow. I my view, positioning is the science of consumer behavior. It is a beautiful set of psychological principles best used to slice through all of the brand and product confusion prevalent in today's over-advertised society.

I constantly used positioning in my own company -- we are one of the world's leading makers of video games, such as Max Payne and Duke Nukem, also located in Dallas -- to create brands that sold themselves and become industry leaders. (We recently sold our Max Payne IP for $70 million, as an example.) Every key product design decision we make goes through positioning filters. Positioning is one of the most important keys to our success.

BTW, I see positioning as a super-set of branding. Or, look it it this way: Branding is the bucket that stores all of a product's (or company's) qualities. Positioning is how to create those qualities.

Specifically regarding MSoft's Xbox, I publicly (I'm often interviewed in my industry's mags) stated that the Xbox was a positioning blunder upon its announcement, many years ago. And, to this date, it has cost MSoft nearly two billion bucks in losses. With any other company, the Xbox would have sent it into bankruptcy, or at minimum gotten the top execs fired. The problem is that no one thinks of MSoft as a game company -- this is not what their brand represents. However, MSoft will undoubtedly release an Xbox 2 (already announced) and a third one, in a desperate, misguided effort to save face, before finally announcing something to the effect, "We are leaving the console market in order to refocus, blah, blah, blah..."

Nokia with their N-gage is going through the same mistake, too, and I've written about it on my blog.

http://dukenukem.typepad.com/game_matters/2004/03/not_ngaging.html

Keep up the good work, and now I'll get back to catching up on your entries.

P.S. I've blogged many times on marketing topics, including my latest update. I hope you have time to read them, given your interest in video games. Here's one you should enjoy:

http://dukenukem.typepad.com/game_matters/2003/11/max_payne_the_m.html

fouroboros

Good point, John. Spadework is less than glamorous in an over celebritized business-environment.

I read Jennifer's initial comments as saying Brand is much larger than mere marketing. If so, I agree.

Pardon the icky term, but when the "positioning" of Brand perception and its value is reoriented within organizations, it allows marketers to come out the ghetto. That's a chicken or the egg situation in many cases though. To which I offer three thoughts:

1. Don't curse the darkness, light a candle.
2. Execute the idea, not yourself.
2. Tis better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

Translation: Think about your true problem and the first audience you must persuade--follow the ambition trail up to the top within your marketing organization and feed that latent, often unsatisfied need with your new language and approach.

Match passion with process and process with profit and people with everything--each alone is DOA.

And, be gutsy when you have your Eureka moments--don't let them die, keep refining and proofing it. Even if your idea doesn't survive where you are, if it is good it will be remembered. And it will make for one kick-ass interview the next time you're looking to jump. Seriously.

johnmoore (unitedstates)

Rob... you're right - Sunny Delight - is a classic example of a company/brand "making up a story" and not "telling the story." A shameless positioning puff indeed. Companies that tell their story in a meaningful, authentic, and genuine manner are built to last. Companies that are all style and no substance are built to live a quick life.

RE: fouroboros' reply (see above thread)
I agree with you that marketers tend to lack the discipline to stay focused. It is so tough for the marketing department to stay focused when everyone around them at the company is asking them to "do this" and "do that" (i.e. inconsequential stuff). To me, that unfocused activity leads to much of the over-thinking that goes on in the world of marketing. Focus entails sacrifice and many times, we are not prepared to scarifice and instead, glady get distracted by the inconsequential stuff.

johnmoore

fouroboros

Nicely said, Rob.

Kudos on fostering a great conversation, Jennifer

Rob Paterson

Possibly the wost outcome is when a brand is under pressure from the market and yet the marketers continue to crank out the same old spin.

Take Sunny Delight. SD is being destroyed on the web by a tidal wave of comment about what a shameless puff the whole idea is. sales are falling and PG wants out. But they are spending a fortune of ads making it out as a health drink for kids. Such a approach only increaces the dissonance.

No amount of technique gives a speaker power over a crowd. Real power comes from the alignment between the person and the message. So too will be the fate of organizations. In my mind advertising and branding as we know it are dead and a huge waste of money. When confronted by a brand that has evolved from the essential truth of an ogranization that fits the truth of its custmers - power is created. WOM will be the main source of brand and tools like Google will showcase it. WOM can be faked for a bit but not over time. WOM can be validated in a way that advertising and positioning cannot.

Why do I feel that this is our new reality? Becuase we have breached all aspects of satiety in the consumer. We are therefore overwhlemed by ad and marketing noise. Only the truth can make it through the noise and truth cannot be manufactured or positioned. It is up to organization to assess who they are. As Jenifer suggests, if they don't like what they find they have to change themselves or perish.

fouroboros

Wow. Thank you Jeremiah.

John, I reread your posts above. But I need a clarification: Are you saying what I wrote was still resorting to jargon? I'll assume yes, for now.

You seem to feel strongly that "we've overcomplicated" branding and marketing, that we are " over-thinking it."

I can't agree. You're asking for more simplicity in what I view as an already superficial approach. Throw out an anchor. Backtrack a bit. We are often thinking and talking about the wrong things, and talking past each other and past the real opportunities. In part, yes, because the language is wrong. In these cases, the "role" of marketer becomes the driver and the poses of jargon and buzzwords help them "play the part." You want real words that have genuine meaning and are easily understood by Sr. Execs and by target customers? Great. Try these.

Clear and concise and genuine enough?

You see, the challenge is not "too much thinking" in my opinion. It's thinking and talking too damn much about inconsequential stuff. How do you create clear and compelling communication without understanding on a fundamental level what drives and motivates the people you are addressing? In that vacuum, surface analysis and "ad-like objects" are the norm. The mere fact that campaigns get produced are viewed as successes. Discussions of emotion, hope, fear, vice, virtue--discussions of consumers' internal reality, are absent where they are most needed. And many marketers are unaware of the power and the responsibiltiy latent in their tools.

As you can see, I feel very strongly about this. That's because I tired of people:

1. in a hurry
2. for huge gains
3. via simple answers
4. that spun or lied about who they really were
5. causing them to miss amazing opportunities.

Depressing? Not at all. It's a business opportunity. The reason so much money gets wasted and marketing is regarded as fluff by many is because many marketers are fluffy in their thinking and waste money because of it. My company partners from finance, organizational development and architecture found the same about their generic industries. Sorry, but it's true. Malpractice is a term not just reserved for medicine.

jeremiah

fouroboros said: "I think we'd all agree a brand's job is mobilizing affinity."

This is one of the most profound insights I've come across. I'm not a marketer, and posess only a basic sense of what "branding" is about, but have been working to understand the perspectives of my peers who's job it is to...well, mobilize affinity.

A great discussion - and testament to the foundation of idea exchanges fostered by blogging. This is what it's all about.

David St Lawrence

Jennifer,
Excellent work.
Your blog is always a pleasure to read.

fouroboros

John, again, I agree. Speaking of opaque language, I don't knoiw if my reply revealed it but I don't believe in jargon either--it's how hacks "play the part" of professionals, and anyone I respect or would want to do business with can sniff that out in nanoseconds.

Likewise, in a synthetic age, the one thing people are hungry for is a deeper clarity in the sense of what really matters and how to advance towards it. Brands that purpose (ooh, was that jargon?) themselves around more fundamental drivers than Feature Advantage Benefit are the ones that will redefine the meaning of company and product in the coming years. Finding a new metric for this idea of Market Weight as opposed to simple Market share is what we're working on.

I'd post an example of what we use in some cases but I'm not sure what the ettiquette is on that. (Jennifer?)

johnmoore (unitedstates)

My branding/positioning argument is this -- we've overcomplicated it.

There are many reasons why we have overcomplicated it -- most of it seeming to stem from the fact that we have a difficult time measuring the impact of our branding/marketing activity. And thus, we tend to rationalize our activity by hiding behind jargon and textbook marketing theory to justify our actions.

To me, hiding behind jargon is an act of smoke and mirrors marketing. Its dealing more in opacity than transparency. (Damn, I just used business jargon. Sorry.)

You asked what “being remarkable” means. It essentially means what you wrote (see above reply) about the purpose of branding sans the jargon.

I truly believe marketers have a responsibility to be more transparent than opaque in the language that we use with internal customers and with external customers. Why do we have to hide behind marketing jargon? What do we have to lose by using real words that have genuine meaning and are easily understood by Sr. Execs and by target customers?

fouroboros

Jennifer: Cool post. Aye, branding IS too important to be left to marketers. A whiffle bat and and MBA is often necessary to get this across to some C-levels. Personally, I try to stay away from those types of outright interventions. Too much blood on the floor.

Branding is about being remarkable. Branding answers the question of why a company or product exists .... heart, the soul, and the essence of a company or a product. Without a brand, a company would cease to exist.

Well, that's what's branding really ought to do, but there's a lot of folks who didn't ge tthe memo, yes? John, I definitely agree brand is far more about metaphysics than sillyness such as finagling some wormhole that nobody else can claim. But what's "remarkable"? That's the bugaboo.

We overcome it by pointing out that Ideals --> Bonds --> Communities. And another word for community is Brand.

Viewed through this prism, one can easily posit that Brands are people too, so to speak. (As such, they are also operational personalities as well, as Jenifer notes.) In this framework, Brand Character is far more portable, and sustaining. than a position that's often more Hope than Truth. And one that deeper pockets or lots of emulators could easily come along and squish.

When you get to the character element, that's when you really get into the right brain and limbic stuff that tells us people do things for reasons they often don't understand. And that's high margin, transformative country. Just use it for good, not evil, eh?

I think we'd all agree a brand's job is mobilizing affinity, and assuming leadership of that community--sometimes benignly, sometimes forcefully, but always in service of the shared ideals of the group--company and consumer. In this way, I'd say the most effective brands do have an almost visionary quality about them(Virgin, etc.) They mirror back to consumers and employees and even competitors an imagined ideal future they often can't enunciuate themselves. They guide. They imprint. And that's gold.

Jennifer Rice

Great simplification, thanks! Although I'd add that not only is branding the core around which marketing revolves, but around which every department in the company revolves. I think this is an important point because too often sr. execs think branding is a marketing exercise when it's really a corporate strategy exercise. I run into roadblocks on this all the time with clients.

johnmoore(unitedstates)

Marketers get paid to “over-think.” It is our job to think analytically and creatively to ensure every marketing activity we are responsible for is strategically sound and will deliver the results (financial or perceptual) that we expect. After all, most marketers are curious-inclined and in being such, our noggins stay in overdrive mode; which results in us thinking far too much.

To me, this branding/positioning debate is one where we are over-thinking it.

Simply put, “branding” is about being remarkable and “marketing” is about telling the story of about how/why a company or product is remarkable.

For further explanation, read below:

Branding is about being remarkable. Branding answers the question of why a company or product exists. Branding is the heart, the soul, and the essence of a company or a product. Without a brand, a company would cease to exist. Branding serves as the anchor, as the core … as the gravitational force that every marketing activity revolves around.

Marketing is the articulation of the brand. Marketing is about telling the story of about how/why a company or product is remarkable. Marketing happens at every customer touch-point from an encounter with a customer service rep on the phone, to a television commercial, to a conversation between a store employee and a customer, to an email from the company, to a conversation between two customers about a company or a product. Marketing is everywhere communication (verbal and non-verbal) about a company or product happens.

(Heck, this may confuse the matter even more. But at least my explanation is jargon free.)

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