One of the core premises of my book “The Brand Positioning Workbook: A simple how-to guide to more compelling brand positionings faster”, and one of my fundamental beliefs, is that the process of developing a brand positioning platform, the quest for the most interesting, relevant, and compelling positioning idea or solution for a specific brand, is a creative problem-solving process.
All too often, I see positionings being developed in a very rational, linear, and deductive way, typically leading to obvious and generic positioning statements. There is a time and space in the process for rational thinking. And every process should be data driven. But logic and data alone will not lead to a unique and motivating positioning platform. Rather, the team’s creative interpretation of the data is what will lead to truly innovative solutions.
Defining “Creative Problem Solving”
Wikipedia defines Creative Problem Solving as “the mental process of searching for an original and previously unknown solution to a problem”. And that’s exactly what you are trying to do when defining the positioning of your brand. You are exploring potential options or hypotheses of what your brand’s positioning could be with the objective being to identify an original and hopefully fresh or novel territory in which to anchor our brand and that will resonate with and appeal to your consumers.
Creative Problem-Solving Examples
A marketer once was looking into the positioning of one of its butter brands. The brand team had come to the conclusion, based on the research they had done, that consumers wanted butter that tastes good and is healthy. So they decided to position their brand around these two key consumer benefits or brand associations. Logical, consumer-focused, and supported by data. Yet, also category-generic and not at all differentiating.
It failed to tell consumers why they should choose this specific brand over all the other “healthy great-tasting” brands out there.
This approach—and it is very common in the marketing industry—focuses on the obvious (what do consumers want?) and the superficial rather than on trying to “find an original and previously unknown solution to their problem”. It focuses on the left side of the lemonade stand picture.
A much smarter and more successful way to position your butter brand in this case is illustrated by two other brands: Lurpark and Kerrygold.
Lurpak stayed away from the generic “taste good and is healthy” positioning and instead positioned itself as “a champion of good food”. In fact, it decided to focus on so-called “gourmet foodies” as its core target audience—people who like cooking at home and enjoy doing everything from scratch. This approach of identifying and understanding a specific consumer segment and by associating the brand with “foodie homemade cooking” was so successful in the UK, where it was originally introduced, that it was rolled out globally. A great example of creative problem solving and finding an original and previously unknown solution to their problem.
Another brand that was smart in the way it positioned itself is Kerrygold, a European style butter that built brand associations around its country of origin, Ireland, and the positive associations coming from there (the green rolling hills of Ireland, quirky sense of humor, etc.).
These two examples show that even in a fairly boring and generic category, brands can carve out unique, original and previously unoccupied positions. And last time I checked both brands were outperforming the category in most of the markets where they were available.
The Creative Problem-Solving Process
Since developing a brand positioning is a creative problem-solving exercise, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the process of creative problem-solving is very similar to the process of developing a brand positioning. The steps of this process include:
These steps are very similar whether you are developing a strategy for a brand positioning platform, or you are looking for a creative solution to a problem. As such, all brand positioning processes should follow these steps. But this is often not the case. Lack of time, resources, and know-how often leads to shortcuts that reduce the quality of the input and, therefore, the quality of the outcome.
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Interested in insights and how to generate them instead? Then the Aha! The Indispensable Insight Generation Toolkit might be for you. Available as a set of method cards in the US and as a Kindle document outside the US.
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