Do you feel as though your brand positioning is missing the mark?
Are your marketing tactics stale – the same old ones you’ve been using for the last 5 years?
Does your brand positioning feel any different from every other competing brand in your category?
Is profit down and sales revenue plateaued or dropping?
Are you not seeing the organic sales growth you once were?
Have new competitors entered the market and disrupted your business model?
Is your culture flat and staff turnover high?
Maybe you’ve just got lost in the maze of past successes and need to find a new way forward?
When some or all of these signs are appearing in your business it’s probably time to do something different and take another look at your brand positioning. So how do you do this, in such a way that you set yourself up for growth and don’t send your business into a tail spin?
These are six solid strategies I have learnt from 30 years in the marketing industry and being actively involved with over 20 significant brand positioning projects in New Zealand and Australia.
Find your original voice
When your brand is stuck in a rut, it’s easy to get distracted by the advice of the so-called marketing experts out there – with their new fandangled marketing tactics. But sometimes the best approach is “Back to the Future”. Simply look to the past to find your brand’s original, authentic voice again. The brand positioning, voice and messaging that made it successful in the first place. Go back to basics, ask the tough questions, re-acquaint yourself with your brand’s unique DNA, then use it as a springboard to find a new way forward.
A company that did this is LEGO. Back in the late 90s they expanded their product range with lots of new innovative designs. Unfortunately it flopped because the new action figure style designs had no connection to the classic LEGO blocks. They were losing millions of dollars a year. In 2004 a new CEO came in and he went back to basics. He asked the kids what they wanted, and they said they wanted simple blocks to build with. So LEGO got rid of all the fancy pieces and created products that kids actually wanted to build with. And it worked, big time.
Engage in deep listening
Rumour has it that several years out from the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump sent a team into the mid-west and they spent a year listening to all local talk back shows, recording the most salient conversations and creating a list of all the main issues people had with the current government. Clearly it worked, as he was able to craft campaign messages that resonated deeply with large groups of angry and disaffected voters. The lesson here is that deep customer listening gives you a greater sense of empathy (towards the needs of your prospects) and often provides the spark of inspiration you need to move your brand forward again. Our job, as Steve Jobs put it, is to ‘Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves.’
Extend into adjacent categories
Often the best opportunities for your business or brand are next door – in an adjacent product or services category. If you seriously re-think the business you are really in, it can open up opportunities to extend what you do into new areas. Apple is a great example of this. Just a computer company in the 1980s and 90s, they then leveraged the iPod as a way to move from being a computer brand to a lifestyle brand, with great success. The rest is history. Netflix started off as an online DVD mail order company and after unsuccessfully trying to sell the business to Blockbuster they developed their current online subscription model and never looked back.
Jump off the high diving board
Many businesses and brands are driven by fear and an over-riding philosophy of mitigating risk and covering their arses. This might help you keep a clean record in certain areas of your business, but it can also stifle growth as you tend to see the fish hooks in every new idea, rather than the opportunities. Sometimes the best approach is to take a big leap off the high diving board. Launch a bold new initiative that might fail, but if it succeeds will absolutely transform your business. As someone once said… winning ideas are a by-product of taking risks. No one exemplifies this principle more than Elon Musk. Arguably the world’s biggest dreamer, Musk is the driving force behind SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity and Hyperloop.
Get a much bigger purpose
One of my favourite quotes is…
Get a much much bigger why – the bigger the why, the easier the how.
I have witnessed the power of having a strong and clearly defined purpose in many businesses in NZ and internationally over the years. Purpose is the real reason behind why your company or brand exists. When leaders, brands and businesses operate from a higher level than simply just generating a commercial return, it’s amazing how everything else falls into place. Staff are engaged, and customers are naturally drawn in.
Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, once said: “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart.” Dove and The Body Shop are also examples of brands that live their purpose. This has allowed them to occupy a special place in their customers’ minds and catapult their growth.
Get your brand out of the rut
One of the best things you can do when your brand is stuck in a rut is to get outside help. The old expression “can’t see the wood for the trees” is certainly true and getting advice from someone who knows the industry well can offer a fresh perspective.
I hope these ideas have given you reason to stop and think. Email (email@example.com) if you would like help to get your brand or business out of a rut.