CPG brands have lived in the world of USPs (unique selling propositions) since the Forties. In 1981, the USP evolved into positioning. Given how much marketing has evolved in the past 36 years, maybe it’s time for a brand’s strategic foundation to evolve.
When brands controlled what was communicated about them, the positioning statement was critical to creating focus, consistency and believability of message. In today’s world of search engines and social media, consumers’ awareness and understanding of your brand won’t necessarily come from your advertising, packaging or website. It could come from a shared recipe, an influencer, a customer review or a recommendation.
So, in this world of empowered consumers and touchpoints that brands can’t control, what can a brand manager do so that regardless of how someone encounters the brand, they will want to engage with it?
Number one, don’t start with the positioning; the relevancy of your brand will be too one-dimensional. Start with something more meaningful to the consumer. Start with a Brand Truth or Mission that is relevant to your product category, but broader and more altruistic.
It needs to be something where your brand can add value to more than just itself — where it can add value to a community that your brand has a stake in. It needs to be something that will guide not just the marketing, but the whole organization. Two examples that I like are KIND: Do the KIND thing – for your body, your taste buds & the world! and TOMS: To make life more comfortable.
The most successful brands coming of age today, like KIND or TOMS, and brands that have been consistently successful over many years, like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Apple, Nike, Dove and Always, share common DNA. Whether they had it from birth or found it along the way, they are all brands on missions, missions that are easy to get behind, and missions for which their products fit like a glove on a hand.
This is not to advocate that all brands need a cause or need to become a B Corp, but do need to be pragmatic, disciplined, innovative, customer-focused, all those things that a good USP or positioning requires. The difference is, do them around your Brand Truth, or Mission, not just your product benefits and reasons why.