Few brands ever truly reach the Holy Grail of marketing: Positioning so universal that the brand literally owns a word or phrase in the mind of the consumer.
What pops into your mind when I say Starbucks. . . Volvo . . . Geek Squad? That word or phrase represents that brand’s positioning to the most important person in the world: You.
As marketers, we talk about re-positioning a brand as if we are the all-being, capable of shifting public opinion by changing the wording on a website, a package or in an ad. But there’s so much more to a brand than that.
If we’ve really listened, if we’ve really paid attention, we can indeed influence positioning. But positioning really happens in the mind of the customer based on all of the personal and word of mouth experiences they have had with the brand.
“Grab life by the horns” sounds like a great phrase to plant in the minds of consumers if you are Dodge, manufacturer of Ram trucks and the high-output Hemi motor. But if “big,” “cheap,” “crap,” and “redneck,” are among the first words used to describe your brand, you’ve got problems.
Sadly for Dodge, these are indeed among the largest words in the Dodge tag cloud on Brand Tags along with “ram tough,” “tough,” and “truck.”
Dodge didn’t use these words to describe their brand—the marketplace did.
The fact is, the words we choose aren’t influencing customer opinion as much as the customer’s interaction with the product, service or organization—before, during and after the sale.
What say you?
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My mantra is “brands live in brains, not in boxes”. Marketers forget that at their peril.
I addressed this issue in my article on Wal-Mart (http://coolrulespronto.wordpress.com/2008/01/24/wal-mart/), and how they’re trying to re-position themselves as a green company. As one who detests Wal-Mart, I hate to admit it, but I think their campaign is working.