Posted by : Amitha Amarasinghe Monday, January 10, 2011
Segmenting, Targeting and Positioning had been the long-standing steps of formulating a brand’s entire marketing strategy. Out of these three steps in the strategic marketing decision making process, I believe ‘positioning’ is the most important step which could differentiate your brand from the competition. According to Al Ries and Jack Trout, the pioneering authors who coined the word “positioning” into marketing vocabulary, positioning involves ‘owning a word in the prospect’s mind’. This is such a powerful definition of the word ‘positioning’ in marketing context, as it cleverly summarize how (and why) Apple computers is so strongly positioned as the ‘innovator’ in the industry. It wasn’t just coincidence how Apple became synonymous with ‘innovation’. It was part of their years long strategy, to own the word ‘innovative’ in the minds of prospective computer (and gadget) buyers.
I will not discuss about positioning in detail, as my topic for this post is about ‘moving beyond positioning’. I highly recommend you to read (if you haven’t already) the book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, which I believe is the greatest marketing book ever written in the 20th century. Even after 30 years of it’s first publication, most of the points Ries and Trout raised in the book are still valid for this social media era.
Why Positioning is Not Enough for Your Brand?
Positioning still is a must have element in your marketing strategy. Its theoretical validity is still unquestionable. However, the macro environmental changes happened during last two decades has made the practicability of positioning theory a little more difficult. During 1980’s, it was simple and straight forward as agreeing on a positioning strategy and creating advertising campaigns to communicate that strategy. When 7-Up said “un-cola cola” in their advertisement, there were no bloggers those days to say “that’s bullshit!”. During those days, brands used to have more authority regarding the communications with consumers. There were less clutter in the media consumed by the prospects and there were no interactivity at all (readers were not allowed to make comments on press releases by companies).
However, things stand in a very different footing in this second decade of 21st century. Mass encroachment of worldwide web and social communication tools via internet had changed the way your prospect gather, consume, and share information regarding your products. According to research, only 14% of consumers believe what you say in your advertisements. 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of unknown users. (Econsultancy, July 2009). Consumer reviews on the internet are significantly more trusted- nearly 12 times more- than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US mom Internet users by online video review site EXPO. (eMarketer, February 2010). Facebook, blogs, Twitter and customer reviews are considered the most effective tactics for mobilizing consumers to talk up products online. And to add more fuel to this fire, more than 25% of search results on Google for world's 20 largest brands are links to Consumer Generated Content (Nielsen Buzz Matrices).
All in all, these changes leave us with two obvious observations regarding the way consumers interact with brands.
1. Companies no longer control the 100% of the brand related communications to the prospects
2. People trust other people most; rather than trusting faceless companies when it comes to acquire brand related information
Because of these two factors, now it has become more challenging for companies to ‘own a word in the prospect’s mind’ which is associated with their brand. The inevitable solution for companies to adopt is, ‘moving beyond positioning’.
If people no longer rely on faceless corporations to obtain brand related information, and if they trust other people as an information source; the solution for this dilemma is to introduce a ‘human personality’ to your brand. By introducing a ‘human personality’ to your brand, you make it much easier and smoother for your brand to interact with other people. I recognize this process as ‘peopleizing’ a brand.
Peopleizing is defined as “giving your brand a human personality and networking with target consumers who share the same personality”. In other words, peopleizing is about making your brand a part of a social network of target consumers. Peopleizing involves bringing forward the real faces behind your brand, and make them part of the brand’s identity. It involves passing the message to the market that, your brand is a collective effort of a set of human beings who are just like other human beings. At the peak of successful peopleizing of a brand, the prospects start to perceive the brand as another individual with a distinct personality. They will not see your brand as yet another faceless entity. This will inevitably enhance the ‘likeability’ of your brand compared to the competition.
Social Media and Peopleizing
In my opinion, the entire effort of social media marketing (as we call it now) is to achieve this broader outcome of ‘peopleizing’. Whole purpose of improving the likeability of your brand on Facebook, and improving the Klout score of your brand is to create a more ‘humanized’ personality for your brand. In a way, social media is the vehicle of getting to the ultimate destination of ‘peopleizing’.