By Tom Dougherty
Marketing and Brand Preference
If your brand does not command greater preference or produce increased margins then you do not have a brand — you have a business. The only reasons to invest in competitive brand development are to grow margins and/or increase preference. If your brand is not adequately delivering one of the afore mentioned values, then this is an imperative read. Too often the foundation of your marketing strategy, your brand, is ignored when developing marketing strategy and tactics.
It is where your strategic marketing and resulting brand strategy gets its permission to play that proves to be the most important part of your entire marketing strategy.
In the Art of War, Sun-Tzu states, “Those known as sophisticated at strategy do not have unorthodox victories, are not known for genius or valor — because their victories contain no miscalculations,” and his thinking is point-blank.
The question now becomes, what constitutes an “unorthodox” victory in the marketing arena?
The temporary victory that comes from developing a marketing strategy without redeveloping or redeploying your brand strategy is anything but orthodox.
Branding As Marketing Strategy
At Stealing Share, we cross the boundaries because we know that your brand needs to steer your marketing strategy. Branding and marketing need to blend organically. (Read how to make brand a marketing tool here)
When we discuss brand permission, we are referring to the permission attributed to the brand by the customers in order to accomplish a particular meaning, advantage, or to occupy a specific position. Most marketing strategies lack this permission because they have confused their brand with their corporate proposition or product efficacy. As a result, the expensive marketing juggernaut fails to fulfill marketing department expectations.
The reason most marketing strategies fail is not because the marketing strategy was wrong, rather because the marketing department was unable to observe the brand dispassionately. Just take a look around and see how many people have no idea as to how they appear to others. Look for example, how many bald men think the “comb over” is an effective disguise. People cannot see themselves as others do, and marketing departments quickly reinforce this fundamental truth when they step into the “corporate body” — unable to see itself dispassionately.
The corporate body sees its circumstances in terms of its own precepts. Such blindness presents an opportunity for visionary brands that are willing to see brand development as central to its marketing development and not simply as something to be “managed” by the best intentioned of brand managers and marketing mavens.
Napoleon warned, “The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.” In this case, “means” can be defined as “brand truth,” as surly as it can be defined as marketing budget. There is often a wide gap between what we push to be true and what the consumer believes to be true. The good news is that your main competitor is sitting in the same boat.
How Strategic Marketing Has Changed
Brand IS about persuasion (You can read more about persuasion here) because it is all about the beliefs that drive your target audience to covet it. It is not static and needs to illuminate marketing activities and strategies that were submerged. Your marketing strategy needs to be about how that is implemented.
Stealing Share is a brand development company, but brand development without a concrete marketing strategy as part of its deliverables is like going to the finest restaurants in the world, deciding what it is you want to eat, and then eating the laminated menu rather than what you ordered. This meal has the same taste and nourishment value as tree bark.
The current market environment is a living and breathing example of “Who Moved My Cheese?” The market seems more competitive and crowded than ever, and new fresh ideas are scarce. Promotions seem run of the mill, and they often reduce the brand’s ability to command good margins.
Collaboration with advertising agencies seems to be increasingly adverse because there is a growing gap between what the agencies consider great and the brand’s understanding of outcome. Marketing messages tend to define category benefits (i.e. ATM availability in the banking market). The positioning differences only exist in the minds of the marketers and seem to be completely lost for the customer. Large gaps and incomplete perception in the market is good news for any brand that is willing to undergo a rigorous and dispassionate brand overhaul.
Are you willing to challenge everything for the sake of profits and preference? Are you willing to partner with outsiders who have the benefit of objective viewpoints? Are you willing to really listen to your target market and build your entire strategy on their beliefs and self-affirmation?
The worse news you can get from Stealing Share is that you are doing everything right — it is as good as it gets. Change and opportunity is always possible when you round the corner of the track and hit the gas at exactly the moment that your competition taps the brakes. We agree with Sun Tzu when he says, “Attack their weakness and emerge to their surprise.”