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Monday, April 29, 2013



This past week we had the privilege of working with a marketing team in Buenos Aires—on Brand Positioning. And during our conversations with them we not only learned a great deal about the Argentina market, but we also heard again a familiar “marketer’s dilemma.” That dilemma is simply this: in virtually every product category these days, there are several leading brands that perform similarly and that perform well; making superior-performance claims has become more and more an exception. So, what to do in order to gain a positioning advantage over some very worthy competition?


Our best advice in answer to this dilemma is always to look at the other 4 essential parts of the brand’s positioning strategy, to look beyond the Benefit where brands typically make their performance claims. As we’ve urged many times in these Dispatches, the Target-Needs, Competitive Framework, Reason Why and Brand Character (or Personality) all offer marketers ample opportunity to position the brand with meaningful differentiation. If we were asked which one of these four to focus on (as we were last week in Buenos Aires), most of the time we would say, “Start with the positioning element most closely linked with the Benefit—the Reason Why.” 


We recommend this because this element comprises a breadth of options…features and attributes that are intrinsic to the product or how the product is made, as well as endorsements and associations that are extrinsic to the product (but can become valuable reason why “properties” for the brand). In addition, clever and well-developed reasons why often become so well linked to a given brand that they “trigger” or automatically suggest a perceived better benefit. In short, what we’re saying is to create meaningful differentiation—real or perceived—with the reason why. And there are a couple of “sure-fire” methods that brand teams can pursue to “get creative” with the reason why:


1.  Establish a regular, on-going Reason Why “Exploratory”;

2.  And, study success models from a broad range of categories.


The RW ExploratoryAs the name implies, a reason why exploratory is a kind of “hunt” for new benefit-support ideas and angles, both inside and outside the product, how it works, or how it’s made. Just as when brands commission their communication agencies to conduct an exploratory for new campaign ideas (usually with a number of an agency’s creative teams to get the broadest possible range of new ideas), so should any serious reason why exploratory engage a broad range of creative talent. First and foremost among this talent would be the brand’s R&D experts—both those who typically create new products and those who create the best ways to commercialize them (sometimes referred to as the “mad scientists” and the “erector set”). It's a great practice to set up a quarterly round-table dialogue with these R&D experts…a chance for everyone on the brand to ask lots of questions, to “explore” the product in-depth and to find out things about it that, as often happens, no one knew before.


But there is no reason to limit the exploratory to R&D talent. Creative teams at communication agencies and innovation agencies/consultancies should also be included. In this way, some exploratory talent is looking more closely at intrinsic possibilities (the R&D teams) and some at the extrinsic ones. The truth is that we need all the “push-out” thinking we can get—whether aiming for some new product ingredient or for some new-to-our category endorsement that will support our positioning benefit.


Success ModelsAll of which leads us to some examples of brands that have, in fact, created some new-to-category reasons why, which have not only supported their brand’s benefit but have, at least for some time, added perceived differentiation for that benefit. Here are just a few that stand out—from the past and present:

  •  Lucky Strike Cigarettes: Brought back into our consciousness thanks to an episode on Mad Men, this is the brand that found itself years ago one of a large number of cigarettes with no meaningful benefit differentiation. As the story goes, when asked, “How do you make your Lucky Strike cigarettes?” among the various processes described was “we toast (the tobacco).” While it’s true that any number of competitors could have also said—in support of a great taste benefit—“It’s Toasted,” Luckies grabbed the line, marketed the heck out of it…and, even better, assumed ownership of it.
  •  Jeep: The brand may have been the first bona fide SUV, but drivers now have any number of high-performing SUV options. So, a few years back the Jeep Brand created its own kind of endorsement: the “Trail Rated” seal that verifies each Jeep has been thoroughly tested over all kinds of difficult terrain for maneuverability, traction, articulation and so on. The testing is, naturally, legitimate; the intent, also naturally, is to create the impression of better performance across all of these required “hard core” SUV benefits.
  •  Orbit, Extra & Eclipse Sugarless Gums: It was about three or four years ago when Wrigley’s secured, for the first time ever in the gum business, the endorsement of the American Dental Association for a chewing gum brand—actually, for their three leading sugarless chewing gum brands. This was a most clever move, if for no other reason than it was totally unexpected. The sugarless gum category is a competitive one, and many consumers see many brands as interchangeable. To suggest that their brands performed better than all the others Wrigley’s marketing took a page from a related, but not directly associated with, category: toothpaste. Of course, we know that among toothpaste brands today the ADA endorsement is “COE” (as in Cost Of Entry); but for some time that same endorsement in gum, supporting a reduced cavity benefit, has been “POD” (as in Point Of Difference) for the Wrigley brands.
  •  Dove Beauty Care: What likely started out, as part of the “Campaign for Real Beauty,” as a good-will interactive program, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund has actually evolved into a sustainable reason why property. Think about it. In the first place, emotional benefits are usually the hardest ones to link an intrinsic product feature or attribute to for credibility support. More often than not, marketers seek out extrinsic endorsements (such as “Hospitals recommend most”) to support emotional benefits like trust. But what has transpired with the immense popularity of the Self-Esteem Fund is that it has become a brand “tangible” that can support an emotional Dove Brand benefit such as “Feel you are building your daughter’s self-worth.” And, like the Jeep “Trail Rated” seal, because the Dove Brand created it, no one else can use it.
  • Johnson’s Baby Soap & Powder (India): Doctor recommendations and endorsements are, as they say, a dime a dozen. But that does not have to mean that they cannot still be impactful in creating an impression of better performance. A very recent ad campaign for Johnson’s Baby that has been running in India has added a thoughtful twist to the standard doctor endorsement: the Brand conducted a survey among a representative sample of Indian doctors who were also themselves mothers; and they discovered that 70%+ had elected to use only Johnson’s Baby Soap & Powder for their own babies. Of course, there are no benefit claims in the advertising about better results with Johnson’s…but a clever, never-before-used in the category endorsement such as this likely “triggers” that conclusion.

There are so many more examples of unorthodox, highly creative types of Reasons Why out there in the marketplace—in your marketplace. Do yourself and your Brand a big favor—seek them out. Look at a wide range of categories, not merely the ones you play in or that are “next door” to your category. We are absolutely convinced that Reason Why is the new frontier in meaningful differentiation for today’s brands.

Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

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