Positioning-Roulette: The Value Of Identifying An Enemy For Your brand

Know thy self,
Know thy enemy.
A thousand battles,
A thousand victories.

Sun Tzu

Most good stories, including brand stories, include an antagonist, a rival, an enemy that the hero (and his followers) has to go up against and sometimes fight. Cain had Abel, Luke Skywalker had Darth Vader, Tom had Jerry, and Apple had IBM.

Identifying and taking a stand against an enemy can be a very effective mechanism to grow and differentiate a brand or to associate it with a broader world view.

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An enemy can be a potential threat (real or assumed) consumers might not be aware of (think freezer burn which is made up or all the invisible bad germs threatening your children), another segment or sub-segment in the category (for example Mini positioning itself against the big gas guzzling SUV when it was launched in the US) or a cultural or social belief, convention or behavior that may be relevant to your category and brand (for example the beauty standards used in media versus Dove’s campaign for real beauty).

The options are limitless and will be best defined by your brand unique situation, its competitive and cultural context as well as the values of the people you are trying to appeal to.

Identifying and taking a stand against an enemy can help create relevance for your brand, provide your customers with a sense of coherence and belonging, provide validation in the brand choice and create a sense of urgency to act. It can also help re-frame and increase relevance of an argument as demonstrated by the anti-smoking organization American Legacy Foundation (Truth) which successfully focused on vilifying the executives of the large Tobacco companies as a way to prevent young adults from smoking.

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Identifying and taking a stand against an enemy to create more energy and traction for your brand is just one of the 26 universal approaches to successful brand positioning development and storytelling.

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