Six Brand Archetypes To Guide Positioning Strategy

Businesses often engage in an analytical and creative process to develop or review their brand positioning. Without a strong strategic foundation, however, the outcome may not be as effective.

The use of “Brand Archetype” models can be valuable in the positioning process. These help define the space in which brands should play, given the understanding that the company’s assets, business situation, future strategy and appetite for category disruption all factor in to the position. The six most common are as follows.

1.  Owning key drivers

This archetype is usually present in industries with clear and stable drivers. Brands here are typically incumbent or strong leaders; the archetype involves reinforcing leadership versus forcing an “emotional positioning.” Verizon, for example, consistently positions its brand around the quality, reach, and superiority of its network. Brands that can own key drivers of choice in their categories should definitely develop a positioning that anchors on Archetype 1.



2.  Making conflict work

This archetype involves joining two seemingly conflicting ideas. It is pursued by brands that can identify and make these “conflicting” ideas work in a relevant and credible way. A classic example: The soda category’s development of diet or light versions at a time when soft drinks were associated with sugar and weight gain. At least one major retailer proved that shopping for the best prices does not conflict with a premium -- even stylish -- experience.

3.  Finding another way

A brand will aim to destroy established thinking with this archetype by commoditizing the key drivers of choice. This model is pursued by brands that may not have the key assets to compete, but believe there is “another way” in their category. European insurer Direct Line has reframed the industry, arguing that car insurance is a commodity that should be acquired through a less time-consuming process and at the lowest possible price.

4.  Making positives from negatives

Sometimes, a company can win by turning a negative into a positive, having learned from failures to emerge stronger and more confident. A major pizza chain has rebranded around this positioning. To win in this archetype, the brand must publicly acknowledge its flaws and commit to dealing with them. This is not an easy process. It requires transparent communications, long-term commitment, and an internal desire for real change.

5.  Feeling the customer’s pain

This archetype focuses on solving key customer pain points in a category, an approach to be pursued if a brand understands that customers are open to a "new way." Category pain points are often widely understood, but not addressed because of the high levels of investment needed to do so or the potential to damage revenue sources. In Europe, a major insurance-based financial services firm positioned its brand in this archetype after finding that customers generally didn’t believe their insurer would be there for them when needed. As part of its rebranding, it launched an aggressive customer service campaign across all the relevant touchpoints of the customer journey.

6.  Going after the unexpected

This is the most difficult archetype, as it involves investing in an unexpected driver for the category. Identifying white space for differentiation can prove challenging, and it requires a great deal of out-of-the-box thinking that translates into new, big and bold ideas to anchor the brand. When done successfully, it represents a long-term source of competitive advantage. The classic example: Apple, with its focus on design, simplicity, and style in a category that at one stage was dominated by hardcore technology and performance.

The nuances represented by brand archetypes enable businesses to more easily develop and refine their brand positionings with a stronger strategic perspective, and a greater chance to win with customers and in the market.

1 comment about "Six Brand Archetypes To Guide Positioning Strategy ".
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  1. David Capece from Sparxoo, February 25, 2013 at 8:19 p.m.

    This is a good overview of branding approaches. From my perspective, category 5 and 6 require the most advanced thinking. In the case of category 6, it requires innovation, and is an approach usually reserved for a market leader that wants to stay a step ahead of the competition, or for a laggard that is finally ready to reinvent themselves. Of course, category 5 is the most straightforward. As branding experts, the most direct path to success is listening to customers and solving their needs better than the competition!

    David Capece, Sparxoo

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