Saturday, July 11, 2015

Brands and Category Definitions

Marketers often take for granted the category that their brand is in. The category may be a given or at least seem intuitively obvious. However, often the obvious can be misleading or not helpful or even harmful to the brand’s growth potential.

What do I mean by this? Let’s consider a symphony orchestra as an example. Its marketing manager likely thinks of the orchestra’s category as "cultural institutions" or "cultural attractions" or perhaps "live musical performances" or "live classical music performances." What competitors might this imply? Chamber orchestras, music festivals, ballet companies, modern dance companies, opera companies, equity theaters, public art galleries including contemporary art galleries, historic homes, recreated cultural villages and architecture tours to name a few.

But do the same types of people attend or otherwise support all of these cultural institutions or attractions?

Is it more about music and people who appreciate music? How about jazz festivals and bluegrass festivals and rock concerts and raves and swing dancing classes, and ballroom dancing classes and nightclubs at which one can dance to electronica and house music? Are they competitors?

To what age ranges do symphony concerts appeal? The general consensus is that symphony orchestras appeal to an older crowd. What income segments are most likely to attend symphony concerts and support symphony orchestras?  Again, general consensus is that symphony orchestras primarily appeal to wealthier people. Do these two assumptions limit the brand’s growth and success potential?

Is there a geographic boundary to the category? A given metropolitan area? That and anything that can be experienced on television or online?  What if there is another metropolitan area nearby? Do brands in proximate markets also compete? Is the target customer likely to travel for other musical or cultural experiences?

What else competes for the symphony concert goer’s time and attention? A night out at the movies? Dinner with friends? A television show? A bridge game? A night at the baseball game? An evening on the sailboat? Travel?

To create your brand’s unique value proposition, you need to know what it is competing against. The way to do this is to understand who your current customers are and what their consideration set was before they chose your brand. That is, what other products or services were they willing to substitute for yours? What were their other options? These may lead you to an entirely different category definition, one that could lead to a stronger brand position or allow for greater growth.

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