Now that the mid-term election is at full fever pitch and pundits are doing their best to predict who will win the various races come November, the issue of brand is the subtext. When they ask who will win, what they are really asking is which brand will carry the day. Each party has staked out its brand position for the season by now, and media advertising is about to go full throttle. I am not writing this article to make any predictions, nor to share my political views. However, I can make one prediction based on twenty years of conducting brand research at Silicon Valley Research Group: the brand(s) with the simplest brand positioning and message will win the day.
We call this concept Brand Singularity and offer up the following five principles for those amongst us who are responsible for branding and messaging for their respective organizations.
- Principle 1: Brands that attempt to stand for too many things end up standing for nothing. That brings up the question of what's too many? The simple answer is MORE THAN ONE. Think Volvo=Safety and other similar examples. Corporate messaging frameworks are often too complex and result in complicated and confusing messages and brand identity diffusion.
- Principle 2: Messaging around first or largest additionally “powerizes” your singular brand message by conferring referral and credibility to the message. In their seminal book, “Positioning, Al Reis and Jack Trout describe the process of positioning as an organized system for finding a window into the prospective customer’s mind. They describe using firsts as your positioning method as the easy way into the customer’s mind using as examples how easily consumers can recall firsts (first person to run the 4-minute mile, etc.) versus seconds.
- Principle 3: A singular brand promise that also counter-positions your largest competitor adds brand power. Let’s refer to Ries and Truot again. Although their examples are somewhat dated given their book was first published in the early eighties, Seven-Up’s positioning as the “Uncola” was highly successful in that not only did it carry a singular brand message, but in the process also counter-positioned cola-based drinks which were leading in consumer preference at the time.
- Principle 4: Building a “story-brand” further amplifies the singular brand message, but this must be done right. Too many B2B case studies we have reviewed and evaluated in our research try to hard to illustrate how the product saved the day, with the result that the case study reads more like an informercial script for the product and less like a brand story. According to Wall Street Journal best-selling author, Donald Miller, when creating a story around your brand, the customer is the hero of the story, not your brand. While citing statistics on how the product benefited the customer organization are important, the POV and orientation of these “brand stories” needs to put the customer at the center of the journey.
- Principle 5: Our last principle deals with the ‘how”. If you are pursuing brand singularity as a guiding principle for your company’s branding efforts, here are some guidelines to consider:
- Throw away those messaging framework templates that have been used for so long to and have resulted in so many diffused messages and wasted marketing efforts and start with a clean slate.
- Use customer-benefits segmentation methods to uncover the singular benefit or brand promise that your ideal or best customer seeks in using your product.
- Verify that the brand promise is uncontested by any of your competitors. Another brand singularity concept is that only ONE product can occupy a given position space in the customer’s mind. One of the longest standing consumer goods success stories is Crest toothpaste, a result of Procter and Gamble using benefits segmentation to uncover the unmet need of no-cavity dental check-ups and positioning Crest around that SINGULAR brand promise in an otherwise crowded product category.
- If the position is contested, mine your segmentation research data to look for the most compelling singular concept that your brand can credibly occupy with your customers and prospects.
- And of course, test before you launch!
Alan Nazarelli is President & CEO of Silicon Valley Research Group.