Flying Seraph
Here’s Why You Can’t Reposition Your Brand

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‘We’ve re-positioned our Brand’ a rather enthusiastic speaker declared at a recent event.

Now that’s an announcement that made me sit up and listen.

But you need to know, when I hear it these days, my finger is on the ‘Bullshit trigger’, the safety catch is off and I start taking aim.

“Yes. We ran some strategy workshops. Briefed our Agency. We have a new end line and the ads started running a few days ago. And we’ve re-positioned our brand.”

Just like that. Hey presto. Change some ads. Re-positioning done.

What utter tripe.

You may well have adopted a new Position. Clarified your Purpose. Set out your values, vision, mission or any other jargon you may care to rearrange.

But you have most certainly not changed your positioning.

Let’s go back to basics.

A brand’s positioning is not yours to own.

Positioning – metaphorically speaking – is the place in the mental filing cabinet that people choose to allocate to your brand.

At best, you may influence this – to a greater or lesser degree. But if you think you can simply re-position a brand, you’re having yourself on.

‘Your’ brand doesn’t belong to you at all.

It’s a bundle of feelings, thoughts and associations stored in someone’s memory.

A re-positioning occurs when they accord it different meaning and re-file it in a different place (or not).

As they choose.

Now here’s what we do know (Wendy Gordon wrote a lovely explanation of this, from memory):

There are three challenges we face with varying degrees of difficulty:

1.     We can try to get people to add to existing memory

2.     We can try to get them to adjust/amend existing memory

3.     We can try to get them to change their minds entirely

You underestimate the difficulty of challenges 2 and (especially) 3 at your peril.

In 99% of cases your brand is, at most, a peripheral event in people’s lives. They really would prefer not to think about it at all.

If you are to achieve a re-positioning, it’s going to need something really compelling.

For a re-positioning is a clear-cut case of the difference between stimulus and response.

It’s how they respond that counts. Not simply what you do.

So doing something to ‘force reappraisal’ (another buzz term) is merely an application to head office for a change of heart or mind. It is not a re-positioning.

It’s only when the response (notionally) is: ‘hmm…didn’t think of it like that’ that you may have begun to re-position your brand.

That is something only done by your audience.

Not you.

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