David Milliken's Brand Marketing Blog

Brand Positioning, Part 2

Posted in Brand Positioning by dlmilli on November 25, 2009

…Now back to our story about developing a new brand positioning

Step 3: Gathering employee input. This step made sure our outcome captured the organization’s passion points and unstated truths. Our agency conducted one-on-one interviews with employees from across the winery. One interview involved an ATV tour of the vineyard and tales of coyote sightings.

This step also included a cross-functional day of brainstorming. To reach the meeting, we had to traverse a narrow, windy road up a steep hill. From the top we could see beautiful gardens and rugged vineyards; an inspiring spot for evaluating the future of our brand. After a day of great debate, and a white knuckled trip back down to the valley, we had all the inputs for the next step …

The view from the top

Now that is a nice garden

Step 4: Developing the positioning statement. No pressure, but with limited word real estate, you must define what you are, what you are not, and your external voice.

This step is where the outside experts added the most value. They helped us express a brand positioning that is in line with consumers’ existing perceptions, is true to our product line, and is unique to our winery.

Step 5: Communicating our positioning to employees. In the words of Jim Newcomb, Boeing’s Director of Brand Management, “once employees understand the reason behind the branding strategy and design, they can implement the guidelines, tools, and best practices correctly”. Remember, positioning is greater than marketing communications, it drives your entire organization. This makes employees the most critical and vital audience for your brand positioning.

My first step was asking employees to nominate co-workers they believe embodied the brand. It was touching to see employees pouring their hearts out on behalf of their co-workers. One story finished with “I admit to purposefully making a trip to the administration building each morning to absorb her infectious energy.” These stories became the centerpiece of a book that detailed every aspect of our positioning. The last pages gave every employee space to reflect on how they can live the brand.

Step 6: Execution. All is for naught unless the company lives the brand positioning. While working on Coors Light, this meant asking ourselves whether any activity supported “Rocky Mountain cold refreshment”. If yes, we proceeded. Otherwise, we put our efforts elsewhere. At my current company, we are beginning to evaluate nearly every activity and communication. Over time, they will all reflect our current brand positioning.

Summary: I expect this new brand positioning will serve the winery well for years to come and look forward to sharing brand marketing activities driven by this positioning soon. In the meantime, please share your ideas, questions, or experiences with brand positioning.


Why should I buy [your brand]? AKA, Brand Positioning.

Posted in Brand Positioning by dlmilli on November 19, 2009

Positioning, according to Merriam-Webster.com, is not a word (unless within “Global Positioning System”). But positioning is central to the lives of brand marketers. If used optimally, it underscores every activity, marketing or otherwise, a brand undertakes.

Forget definitions, here is an example …

= “15 minutes could save you 15% or more”.

(Says the sole message of billions in ad spend.)

Lots of experts (and blogs) can espouse about positioning. But the positioning of David Milliken’s Brand Marketing Blog is for you to live the life of a brand marketer. So let’s walk through the steps I recently undertook building a brand positioning.

Step 1: Hiring an agency that specializes in brand strategy. I developed a small list of potential agencies based on prior experiences and recommendations. (brandchannel.com is a good resource.) I gave each agency the same objectives and criteria. The agencies positioned themselves in their pitches – one for example, as the ultimate wine agency, and another as the ultimate wine outsider. After evaluating their proposals for methodology, experience, and cost, we selected the ultimate wine outsider.

Step 2: Conducting a communications audit of the messages our brand and our competitors were conveying to consumers and retailers. Along with the agency, I took winery tours (I get paid for this?!), reviewed websites, analyzed point-of-sales materials, visited wine shops, and viewed advertising.

… Come back soon for more experiences building a positioning …