Three Questions You Need to Ask
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
RADITIONALLY, the people responsible for positioning brands have concentrated on points of difference -the benefits that set each brand apart from the competition. Maytag is distinguished by dependability, Tide by whitening power, BMW by superior handling. Such points of differentiation are, In many cases, what consumers remember about a brand. But points of differentiation alone are not enough to sustain a brand against competitors. Managers often pay too little attention to two other aspects of competitive positioning: understanding the frame of reference within which their brands work and addressing the features that ...view middle of the document...
Subway's research suggested that the company, which has more stores than any other fast-food operation, could successfully compete on taste with the burger giants, whose sales dwarf Subway's. And executives knew that fast-food consumers often perceive good taste and healthfulness to be at odds. Management feared that a strong health-centered campaign would jeopardize the perception of Subway as a fast-food establishment.
Conventional wisdom says creating a brand is about differentiating your product Think again.
Subway began running the agency's advertisements nationwide. But recently it has been simultaneously running another campaign promoting new products on the basis of taste. Whichever approach turns out to be right for the brand in the long term, the example shows that brand positioning focusing only on a point of difference leaves out important issues. Sound competitive positioning requires tbe identification of an appropriate frame of reference and associated points of parity and points of difference. Subway can continue to differentiate, of course-differentiating is a smart way to keep other potential health-focused fast-food purveyors out of its business-but it can't forget what business it's in.
Three Questions You Need to Ask About Your Brand
Have We Established a Frame?
Brand positioning starts with establishing a frame of reference, which signals to consumers the goal they can expect to achieve by using a brand. Choosing the proper frame is important because it dictates the types of associations that will function as points of parity and points of difference. In some cases, the frame of reference is other brands in the same category. Coca-Cola is a soft drink. It competes with Pepsi-Cola and RC. But in certain instances, the ft-ame of reference might be brands in quite disparate categories. Coke, Gatorade, and Snapple belong to the soft drink, sport drink, and iced tea categories, but they potentially share the frame of reference that consists of all thirst-quenching drinks. One variable that may influence the choice of frame of reference is the product's stage in the life cycle. When a new product is launched, competing products are often enlisted to serve as the frame of reference so that consumers can quickly discern what the product is and what goal it serves. In later stages of the product life cycle, growth opportunities (and threats) may emerge outside the product category. Accordingly, shifting the frame of reference may be necessary. The case of FedEx illustrates this evolution. When Federal Express launched its service, it offered a clear point of difference from traditional mail delivery via the U.S. Postal Service: overnight delivery. As other providers of overnight delivery services appeared, the new competitors served as a new frame of reference. FedEx positioned itself as superior to them based on speed and dependability. This point of difference was reflected in its advertising slogan, "When it absolutely,...