Do your homework before hitting the playground.
I was the keynote speaker during a client’s event, in charge of presenting the brand’s new positioning to the whole company. As soon as I entered the stage, I asked the audience:
-Who among you believes that Brand Positioning aims to find a gap or unoccupied market territory?
A good part of the audience raised their hands. I quickly amended it:
-That’s not what Brand Positioning is.
Many entrepreneurs dream of the ‘blue ocean strategy’. The power to ingeniously identify how to exploit a latent, but not yet fully served segment. Yet, others dream of something more down-to-earth: to study the market and, like a stratagem, or treasure hunt, identify a market universe with few competitors. The goal is almost the same as entering a child’s room and finding your way without stepping on any toys.
The ‘Eureka’ moment for a marketing professional is to find a niche. Identifying a promising place in the sun and planting a flag.
However, with modern life’s velocity combined with the incessant technological evolution, it’s more than evident how difficult it is to be innovative and unique explorers of a territory.
I must say though, that I particularly hate the idea of exploiting the field alone for too long. Why? Because it’s boring when there is no one to raise the bar. Facing no challenge opens room for stagnation.
For example, my husband and I usually run away from restaurants that are blatantly well located next to some tourist attractions. Why? Because too good of a location usually makes the owner lazy. He will be lured into not putting much effort into bringing positive experiences, after all, he can always count on the unsuspecting tourist to fill the tables.
Thus, at some point having a competitor is always a good idea. The evolution of the brand and its category depends on who is on the field. There are no major scores, nor epic moments when there’s only one team playing.
But it’s important to reaffirm that positioning a brand needs to consider the market, its threats, opportunities, needs, and dare I say it, the unconscious longings of people. This is an important truth: a strategy can only survive if it understands people.
However, many strategies seeking differentiation are first consolidated based on these external factors, which open the way to determine how the company can develop a response to the chosen niche. Therein lies the problem. One of the biggest enemies of good Positioning is the act of predicting a strategy using the external environment as the first building block. If from the outset the company leaders focus only on what the market needs, they will become blind to themost rewarding and real talents that signify their Brand as unique.
Powerful and victorious generals know and choose their best platoons even before there is a battle. They are experts in understanding what their company is made of. In my case, if my daughter does not yet have a sense of danger and the motor skills to give her some autonomy, it’s better not to take her to the playground. The ideal choice is to look for a place more in line with her abilities so that she can have some fun.
So, the ideal course would be to “start at the beginning”. — as Hercule Poirot would say.
Therefore, the first building block that predicates a strategy must come from inside, not outside. The market is the same for all players. Before going hunting for niches, one should study the talents, the Purpose, the culture, and their business philosophy. The real differentiation lies in the knowledge of this unique inner configuration.
Therefore, it is easier to stipulate the market objectives and Brand Positioning from an unbiased and honest vision of what can be delivered, instead of trying to mold the whole company and brand essence according to what we think is a promising niche.
Entering the battlefield with the best and truest in-configuration is the most promising success factor for engaging in any niche, even if it’s inhabited territory. That’s why a Positioning strategy must be a bold move, in the sense of analyzing and proposing exactly what the Brand really is.
Ana Negreiros is a working mom, entrepreneur in the Hospitality and Gastronomy sector, and founder of Branding Aurora.