Here’s why branding is worthless without positioning: It usually happens before a significant company milestone or event – an important conference, a new product launch, a merger. It’s called “the rebranding itch”. Someone, usually an executive, scratches his or her head and decides it’s time for rebranding. We know it because it is at this point that we at Forabilis usually get the call. When we dig a bit deeper to try and understand the need for rebranding, we usually find that something isn’t working out – something bigger than the logo or the tagline – it usually has to do with challenges related to business objectives which tie directly to the company’s go-to-market strategy.
Rebranding as a painkiller
So, why do highly intelligent, talented, often experienced executives ask for new branding at this stage? It’s a bit like insisting on getting your teeth cleaned while what you should really get is root canal.
And there lies the answer. Going deeper, searching for misalignment, finding true answers to what should be done to fix it, what we call “repositioning” – that’s just as painful as root canal, maybe even more. It is much easier to go for the painkiller – the rebranding. If you go for the painkiller, you’ll soon find yourself fighting over colors, fonts, tagline, and the right words to package your product or service. Question is, would that save you from yet another visit to the doctor just a few months down the line?
Wait, so is branding not important?
Hey, we’re in marketing. Of course, we love branding and believe it’s important! We love it because it’s the fun part that comes after the root canal, assuming you survived. But here’s the thing about branding: It’s about telling your story. At the beginning of the branding process, you’ll be asked to tell your story in your own words, so that the branding agency or consultant you hired for the job can package it creatively, tightly, in a precise manner. And, if you were lucky to hire someone good, you’ll be asked all the right questions: Who are your competitors? What are your differentiators? Etc.
But what if you get your story wrong? That’s when it gets tricky. Because your branding consultant would rarely know to tell you so – the underlying foundation of the branding process assumes you have the right answers – they just need to be packaged by a branding pro.
For brand positioning, doubt is a necessity
When the challenge runs deeper – examples may be low product sales, marketing and sales misalignment, low customer retention, or even market trends which make your product irrelevant – that’s when we at Forabilis come in for the root canal. It’s not always a popular role, it’s hard to be the people that doubt your answers. Because you may think that all you need is branding. We may think differently. We may not accept your answers as is. We may search for answers in different places. This is a long, highly demanding process. It’s not for everyone. The outcome is a brand positioning document, which is the foundation for a plan and other activities such as branding. Branding works best when it comes after positioning. Otherwise, it holds little value, and the same problem will continue to haunt you.
How do you know if you should do branding or start with positioning?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I sure of what I need? If you’re not sure, usually this means you probably need positioning.
- Why do I need rebranding? Does the current brand speak my product or service language?
- Am I expecting any major changes to my product or service offering?
- Am I planning to go to new markets?
- Is my company under merger, acquisition or reconstruction?
If the answer for one of the above is “Yes” – you probably need positioning
Do you really know how to answer the following questions, and is there a consensus among team members and company stakeholders on the answers?
- What is it that you offer?
- What is your promise to your customers? (no, it is not the same question)
- What is your market or markets?
- Who are your customers, users and buyers? What are their pains and needs?
- What are your clear differentiators? (being better is not a good answer)
- Why would your customers buy from you?
If you are not sure about the answer to one of the above, or there are disagreements among team members and company stakeholders – you probably need positioning.