In the past fifteen years, I have conducted and analyzed brand equity studies for hundreds of brands. Usually, there is one intended brand position and one intended brand promise. However, that is the marketer’s intention, not the customer’s perception. In my brand equity studies, I ask the following types of questions:
- When thinking about the XYZ brand, what comes to your mind?
- What makes the XYZ brand different from or superior to other brands in the ABC category?
- If the XYZ brand ceased to exist, what would the world miss most?
- How well does each of the following personality attributes describe the XYZ brand?
- To what degree does the XYZ brand deliver each of these benefits?
- If you had to define the XYZ brand in one word, what would it be?
- What is the XYZ brand’s essence using the form “adjective adjective noun”?
Not only do the answers to these questions vary by customer segment but also by individual customer. Remember, the position a brand holds in a customer’s mind is based on the sum total of experiences that customer has had with the brand, directly or indirectly. And each customer has had a different set of experiences. Further, those experiences are interpreted in the context of individual preconceived notions and prejudices.
So there is not just one brand position, there are conceivably as many brand positions as there are individual customers. Having said that, I have found that some brands have a much narrower range of positions and often a dominant one, while others are as scattered as the people who have awareness of those brands. The difference between these two ends of the continuum tells me a lot about the quality and consistency of the brand’s management over time.
So, when you are trying to manage your brand’s position in the minds of its customers, know that more likely than not you need to be managing from a variety of perceptions, not just one dominant one. This becomes particularly important if you are trying to alter perceptions.
One of the more difficult tasks in repositioning a brand is to decide off from which positive brand association one will build the intended brand promise as there are likely to be many of them. While we like to think of our brands in terms of one promise and one position, it is never quite that simple.