Monday, March 23, 2015
PROSITIONING VERSUS REPOSITIONING
In last week’s DISPATCHES article, “How to Prevent Brands from Going Belly-up,” we touched upon the concept of “prositioning.” A large number of readers requested our earlier article, “Prositioning versus Repositioning,” which deals with the subject in greater detail. Here’s a copy of the article in its entirety.
Repositioning is typically indicative of a brand that is no longer healthy, and in a state of serious business decline. It’s reactive behavior to increasing declines in sales, market share and/or profitability. By the time most companies attempt to reposition a brand, it’s too late. The brand’s strategic health has deteriorated to the point that is difficult to restore.
Attempts at repositioning generally lead to failure. Oh sure, there are plenty of examples of successes. Those are the ones we remember. But for the many repositioning tends to be a case of too little too late. This can be traced to a number of factors among which are weak commitment of management as evidenced by limited support, extremely short time horizons for recovery, reluctance to change the product offering and the stubborn hold on the very practices that led to the undermining of the brand’s health … among others.
As such, we believe marketers should consider and engage in “prositioning,” a word we have coined that means “proactive positioning.” Prositioning begins while the brand is still healthy. Well before its business begins to decline. The time to engage in prositioning is while the brand is still growing – but its rate of growth has slowed down. This will ensure needed proactive management before the brand’s current positioning goes stale (i.e., no longer is as impactful as previously) in the marketplace.
Among the many dynamics to trigger consideration of prositioning are: changes in customer demographics and/or psychographics; development and availability of new technologies; product improvements; sustainable competitive actions that threaten your brand; new products in the marketplace (especially those that re-segment the category); and new strategic customer insights that could benefit the brand if exploited.
Prositioning affords a brand with many advantages. One, it serves to extend the lifecycle of the brand. Another advantage is the prositioning serves to ensure the brand’s strategic health and its relationships with customers. Also, successful prositioning can serve to protect the brand against competitive inroads. Finally, it can help in avoiding the anguish, and likely failure, of repositioning.
There are numerous examples of companies that have been successfully prositioned. Johnson & Johnson has transformed itself from a consumer giant into pharmaceuticals. General Electric has moved into financial services. Charles Schwab is no longer just a discount broker. And Pepsi with its acquisitions of Tropicana Products and, more recently, Gatorade, is truly becoming a total beverage company. Among successful brand prositionings we see the same examples over and over again. Starbucks, Nike, Gatorade, Neutrogena and Tide are examples that spring to mind. (Last week we alluded to the Tide Detergent brand which dominates the laundry detergent category in North America. Sales of Tide are larger than the next nine brands combined. Moreover, the brand has been able to extend its lifecycle and leadership for fifty-seven years now.)
These companies and brands share some common traits. There appears to be a vision for the company and/or brand that goes beyond conventional category boundaries. Moreover, there’s a willingness to repeatedly question the perception of what business they are engaged in. This can come in the form of how they view what they do (e.g., for Nike it might be make athletic apparel that makes a statement) or what is in it for their customers (e.g., empowerment to “just do it” regardless of athletic proclivities and/or talent) or what company capabilities enable them to provide (e.g., inspiration). There is also sensitivity to future developments whether they are related to customer attitudes and behaviors, marketplace dynamics, regulatory issues, technologies - whatever. Add to this list of traits openness to new strategies and a willingness to try them out in the marketplace. We also believe that insightful and strong “leadership” is another critical trait.
Yet for all its advantages, prositioning is an alien concept in today’s corporate environment. Certainly prositioning takes a back seat in practice to repositioning. This traces to a number of factors among which are:
- An absence of indicators to provide an early warning regarding the brand’s strategic health and consequently a focus on business results, which lag behind brand health;
- A smug satisfaction with results (i.e., we’re making our numbers) and reluctance to challenge the status quo;
- Limited vision of the future and/or understanding of marketplace dynamics and its potential impact on the brand;
- Resource constraints (i.e., people, time and/or money) and/or the lack of desire to seek-out and test new strategies;
- Fear of failure; and
- Organizational issues, particularly politics … among others.
Another deterrent to prositioning is a company’s lack of understanding about how to go about achieving the new positioning, particularly if it is a stretch from the current positioning. But this can be solved by planning designed to achieve the new positioning in sequential stages over a designated period of time, with each stage being defined by a major initiative such as a product improvement, acquisition, introduction of a new technology, etc. In other words, it can be achieved through engineering its evolution.
Prositioning is not a readily understood or welcomed concept. It requires a change in mindset from being satisfied and/or reactive to being proactive. But its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. Consider prositioning before you are forced to engage in repositioning to resuscitate your brand’s squandered health.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:
- Find a way, beyond financials, to assess the brand’s strategic health;
- Formally revisit your brand positioning statement on an annual basis to explore new strategic opportunities;
- During the review question, question, question the conventional wisdom of the organization – the business the brand is engaged in, assumptions regarding the marketplace and the advantages of current brand practices;
- Envision and plan for alternate future scenarios that are favorable and unfavorable to your brand;
- Create a plan designed to achieve the new positioning over time through the thoughtful launch of meaningful initiatives that communicate, through action, the intended positioning; and
- Create a dialogue with customers and test alternate strategic directions through specific initiatives, and adapt accordingly.
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney
© 2003 Brand Development Network (BDN) International. All rights reserved.