If you try to apply Brand-Wheels, Brand-Cores, Brand-Pyramid, Brand Keys, Brand-XYZs and Brand-Whatsoevers in current times you will fail in everyday brand work. Why? Are they wrong? Outdated? Or are they just as dysfunctional as they have been always?
Oh Snap … Brand Positioning Models are dead!
Let’s start with the most important first.
1. Brands are not absolute – they are relational.
Brands are nothing fix. Neither do they stand in a vacuum, nor are they isolated objects of art – brand models, however, behave as if that were the case. All of the famous brand models don’t put brands into relationships (not relations). But consumers do. And good brand managers do. Not in writing but in their mind.
A relationship is not about the relating poles („competitive set“ and names and logos) . It is the fine line in between that matters. I never saw that in a model.
2. Zombie brands.
Thats an easy explanation why models HAVE to fail. Research suggests that at least 90% of the brands consumers are in contact with are dispensable to them. Only 90%? If the brand has nothing to offer – how should a brand positioning tool help?
Quick check: if you have a hard time defining a reason for being in consumers mind – you are among the walking dead. Not to bad if your company is profitable! Do not feel desperate and keep on going. A nice logo and good packaging will do.
3. Political correctness, whishful thinking, phrases people don’t care of.
Even the best model would get useless by words that don’t relate to reality. A model is not an advertising campaign – it is a tool to understand and handle the complexity of reality . „Innovative, dynamic, friendly,…“ is useless bla bla. Because real people don’t think or feel that way.
They would say: „Audi is the best option for VW-drivers who are too snooty to drive a VW.“ And brand-strategists would say: Bingo! Thats the key to our business model since we melted ourselves into VW. (Love to read this in an official Audi brand-paper. Maybe it would start with: Audi is a Premium-Zombie Brand that has lost its core since we …)
4. Tangible beats intangible.
That’s the most dangerous trap. Counting on the tangible things contains 50% truth. It is not wrong – but not right neither. Anything that can be put in excel matters. But what about the other 50%? Instinct, intuition, emotional contradictions,…. Typical models have no room for that.
5. Intellectual versus intelligent.
Companies spend a lot of energy in putting „rocket science“ where common knowledge (Gesunder Menschenverstand) would be best. Creating an artificial universe apart from reality? That has been wrong always and it is disastrous nowadays.
Old models obviously fail. Not because times have changed – but because times no longer have tolerance for wrong tools.
6. Simplicity versus convenience.
Models are made to handle the complexity of reality. And our reality has gotten complex in an unprecedented way. Simplicity has always been an attractive but useless answer. Today simplicity kills future-fitness. Convenience does the opposite: making something complex easy and inviting. There is no „simple“ model – but no convenient neither among the famous ones.
7. Click-term versus right term.
Instead of searching, creating and worshipping for a right model the brand activity ends with Google and facebook. Google Analytics, Adwords and Mailchimp are NOT a substitute to brand models. In lack of alternatives managers start to go for „no-brainers“.
Generic bla bla at the brands back-end accompanied by clicks and buys at the marketing front-end. This is not going to create ANYTHING useful nor inspiring for brands.
Are brand models dead?
Every model is a tool. A tool should help in daily business.
Anything not suitable for daily business is „dead“. So let’s put it this way: brand models never were alive.
In fact: some of them may have killed the brand if they would have make it into daily business.
Most of the successful brands are not on the top because of brand models – but of the difficult to grasp and unconsciously existing brand-truth within the hearts ands minds of those people who do their daily job – and consumers who share that truth. I would call it one of the best models. This (and only this) should be the grounding-formula of a brand positioning model.
Let’s develop something to stop them dying! I got some ideas already – but have to close some gaps to achieve truth+convenience.
Get in contact with me if coding semantic networks and/or convenient UI is your profession