Developing an Enduring Brand Positioning

Does it ever pain you when you see a brand too quickly move away from a positioning they own? Every time, I am reminded that CMOs and brand managers tire of campaigns or even brand positions long before their audiences do.

It’s as if marketers sometimes forget that consistency is a foundational tenet of branding. Sure, there are times when market conditions or a change in strategy warrant ceding a position you’ve invested in building, but those decisions need to be weighed carefully. Because if a brand can own a position in consumers’ minds that can be reinforced and built over time, it allows marketing investment to be truly cumulative.

Our most tenured client, Interstate Batteries, decided to embrace dependability as their promise over a decade ago, Today, they own this mental territory, and they don’t plan to give it up anytime soon. Perhaps understanding some of what has enabled this positioning to stand the test of time may help others looking to identify their own brand promise.

Know What Matters Most

If you feel you don’t truly understand why someone chooses a brand in your category, then you’ve got some work to do. And today, there are so many innovative ways to get below the surface on this that the discovery process can be really rich.

In Interstate’s case, that process included stakeholder interviews, focus groups, one-on-ones, quick online surveys and full-scale quantitative, all pointing to the one thing customers wanted most and the brand was best able to deliver.

Make the Tent Big Enough

Identify a positioning that has legs, one that you can envision coming to life or being expressed in a thousand different ways. And, make sure it’s an idea, not a campaign. Involve your creative team in evaluating the positioning and making sure it lends itself to interesting creative expression.  The stretchiness of a big idea is key to a positioning with longevity (and one flexible enough that even those closest to the brand won’t tire of it).

Dependability is an idea we’ve been able to express and support in countless unique ways in successive campaigns. To make it an ownable idea that cannot be usurped, we pegged it as outrageous dependability, adding a word that signals Interstate’s deep commitment to delivering it.

Challenge, Don’t Abandon

Several years ago, we revisited Interstate’s positioning, this time enlisting a third-party to conduct independent discovery. After considerable diligence, we arrived at a very similar place, ratifying a continued focus on delivering outrageous dependability. 

While there is merit in being deliberate before shifting your brand position, it’s also important not to rest on your laurels - to stay in touch with your audiences, the market and changing dynamic. If you’re too close to it to assess your positioning with fresh eyes, enlist outside help. Challenge your thinking but don’t abandon value that’s been created simply because you’re ready for a new flavor.

Investing in building a brand positioning, when done well, can be like money in the bank. Sometimes, it will make sense to walk away from that investment, but weigh that decision carefully. And, if you are just beginning to invest in building a brand, consider some of the ways you might identify a positioning that will endure.