Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Repositioning a brand.

Last week BD’M presented a deep dive into brand repositioning case studies to identify the strategies that drive success, as well as the mistakes marketers must avoid.

Dave Daily, Christine Dennis and Amber Greenwalt worked with me on researching these cases. We examined repositioning efforts over the last several years across a range of CPG, B2B and corporate brands.
As a starting point we isolated the most common strategies that marketers employ, levers that are often used in tandem for maximum effect:
  • New visual identity
  • New meaning and context.
  • New behaviors (distribution, media, promotion, product, etc).
  • New target audience.
  • New pricing.
After examining each of these brands we identified seven success factors shared by many of these marketers, and some cautionary notes:
  1. Clearly define the problem. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. (Walmart did this particularly well.)
  2. Find a new positioning from within the truth of the brand. Be credible. No skin grafts. (Cisco is a good example of extending a core brand truth.)
  3. Create tight alignment throughout the value chain. The experience must line up with the advertising. (Few have done this better than Target. Sun Chips is another interesting example.)
  4. Change behavior, not just words and symbols. Provide tangible evidence of change. (Hyundai nailed this several times over. As did Old Spice.)
  5. Seek inspiration from your best customers. (Holiday Inn conducted extensive research among customers. )
  6. Execute a seamless re-launch, no patchwork roll-out. (Holiday Inn seems to be doing this well, with real penalties for franchisees that do not meet spec.)
  7. Pre-plan Phase 2 of the re-launch. Demonstrate continuous improvement. (Hyundai has successfully sequenced image-shifting initiatives over time.)
This is just a executive summary of the presentation. If you are a marketer contemplating a repositioning in 2010, please drop me a note (david.murphy@bdm.net) or tweet (@wikimurph). We'll be happy to share our full findings and implications, as well as examples of repositioning work we've executed for brands such as United Airlines and Applied Materials.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Design as a business strategy.

I've written on several occasions about the value of embracing design thinking as a business discipline, not just as an aesthetic process.

Design thinking forces executives to view the world from the customer's standpoint. It focuses on the overall experience and not just the tangible product. It requires reductive thinking. All very healthy business practices, not simply design practices.

Roger Martin, Head of Canada's Rotman School of Management, brings some fresh thinking to the topic, continuing the trend of B-Schools thinking and educating more like D-Schools. According to Martin, business leaders who embrace design thinking focus more on the possibilities over the existing framework, they balance analysis with intuition, and they discard templates in favor of fresh solutions when attempting to solve strategic challenges.

Another piece I read recently by Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds in the MIT Sloan Management Review further illuminates the similarities between great managers and designers. According to Duarte and Reynolds, "Managers and designers have to do the same things: Embrace restraints, question everything, and make sure tools don't get in the way of ideas. Design concepts such as hierarchy, balance, contrast and harmony are just as relevant to managers."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finding the competition's Achilles' heel.

We often see companies attempt to compete against a successful category leader through price cuts and other forms of discounting in an attempt to maintain market share. This is usually the sign of a company that is out of ideas.

A smarter strategic response is to see if you can turn the leader's strength into their vulnerability.

I was reminded of this while reading a Wall Street Journal article on how Illy has chosen to compete with Starbucks. Starbucks’ strength is its ubiquity. Illy cannot compete by building more brick and mortar. So its response is to piggyback on the ubiquity of local independent coffee shops, signing contracts with cafes that agree to serve Illy exclusively and allow Illy to exert quality control. Starbucks’ strength becomes its vulnerability – too many stores result in too much overhead and fewer opportunities to grow. Illy becomes the cool indie brand.

We see this same dynamic at work in other categories.

Amazon turned Barnes & Noble’s success in building bookstores around the country into bloated overhead that hangs around the retailer’s neck like a lead weight.

Apple reshaped Microsoft’s long time dominance in the corporate market into the image of a tweedy bureaucrat.

Enterprise built an entirely new category – temporary replacement cars for suburbanites – that Hertz and Avis cannot easily serve from their deeply entrenched airport locations.

And then there is Google, a company that uses the power of "free" as a competitive wedge to disrupt categories.

Your competitor's strength also can be its Achilles' heel. Find it and exploit it. Don't play the game by their rules. They'll win every time.