by Robert Gelphman
seems to be all the rage these
days with declining sales and
profit margins. However, the
influx of new and available
products, some actually very
interesting and useful, has not
To jump start sales, many people
are asking me about branding. But
their question should be
positioning. Often what goes wrong
with marketing campaigns is the
underlying strategy. Too many VPs
of marketing and their product
managers choose a branding
campaign when they cannot even
articulate a position.
The pursuit of brand is expensive,
time consuming and is designed to
elicit an emotional reaction from
the audience. It generally works
best for commodity-type products
where there is little distinction
among the competition. Positioning
is based on a demonstration of
real value, can be done in a much
shorter time frame (months rather
than years), and consequently is
significantly less expensive. Most
importantly, for many industries
and companies, positioning is the
best strategy for improving sales
and market share, not branding.
The real problem, however, is that
many people do not know the
difference between the two.
Instead of pursuing brand, or
ubiquity (everyone knows you), it
is often more appropriate to
establish positioning, or value
(everyone wants you). When market
share is the objective, the
fastest and least expensive
marketing strategy is positioning.
The building of a brand not only
takes more time and money than
originally budgeted, but can be
difficult to measure, as brand
does not always show up in the
form of sales.
Many of the dot-coms fell into
this trap. Basically, they failed
to communicate a value
proposition. People knew who they
were but did not know why they
needed them. They thought the road
to market share was paved by brand
creation. They succeeded in
generating Web hits but not sales.
Positioning creates demand for a
product. Brand works best when
leveraging this already
established need or demand for
Positioning helps create brand but
brand does not always or
necessarily contribute to
position. Some companies have
achieved brand in a short time but
are still suffering from an
unclear positioning. This is a
situation that currently affects
Yahoo! It could be argued that
Yahoo! has brand but no position.
Is Yahoo! a search engine? A
portal? An online auction site ? A
content aggregator? Online store?
All of the above? What is the
value proposition to its
customers? What is the company's
position vis a vis its
In every one of these categories,
Yahoo! has formidable competition.
What is least understood about
building brand is the amount of
time required. Amazon did it in a
relatively short time but anyone
can articulate its reason for
Hence, the call to action is visit
the site for eventual purchase of
a particular product. People go
there expecting to spend money and
this in turn creates market share.
So before creating brand,
establish a position. Define
positioning as that desirable
place in the customer's mind where
he not only recognizes the product
but can also recite the attributes
of the product or service being
offered. Effective positioning
makes the customer a part of the
sales team while reinforcing your
Positioning is dynamic and fluid.
Yesterday's unique position is
today's commodity provider. Useful
positioning statements should
describe who the company is AND
who it wants to be.
Associates is an integrated
agency serving companies in high
technology for the
of a single, efficient
and effective message platform.
for more information or
write Robert Gelphman at firstname.lastname@example.org.