Friday, September 14, 2012

Promises, promises; but what’s your “out” strategy?

Sprint’s “truly unlimited data.”
Southwest’s “bags fly free” / “fee free zone.”
American Apparel’s “made in America”

A highly salient, key differentiator can be a HUGE asset when trying to position one’s brand among peers. But be careful.
The old adage applies.
When you rely on a single message to carry your brand, you’re placing a lot of confidence in market dynamics that you can’t always control.

Is your brand promise sustainable? (We doubt it)

Part of the reason Sprint can offer “truly unlimited” data is their relatively small user base. But what happens if enough AT&T and Verizon customers, aggravated by slowed speeds and incremental fees, switch over? To maintain and grow coverage, Sprint would need to invest heavily in network infrastructure; a bill that revenue capped by unlimited contracts might not be able to cover.

So, what should you do if you’re about to lose the only marketing sound byte you have?

The auto-pilot function on your marketing plan is about to disengage. Let’s just hope you remember how to fly the plane; it’s time to change altitudes!

Shift directions early

Here’s a solid case for why marketing deserves a seat at the executive table.

The earlier you can see an approaching shift in business strategy, particularly one that will affect your ability to deliver on campaign promises, the better. Abandon the mantra immediately (and hope that all your hard work at ensuring its recall is quickly erased). Ready a replacement campaign that’s just as catchy and blanket your audience.

Own its abandonment

When there’s zero chance that dropping a brand promise will go unnoticed, own it from the start. Honesty doesn’t always work, but at least it’s respected. Tell customers why you’re shifting directions; pointing out why even without the original promise intact you’re still better that the competition.

Adopt the “next-best” thing

Here we make an example of American Apparel. With 9-straight quarters in the red things are going to have to change. If (/when) American Apparel can no longer sustain their 100% “Made in America” promise, they should try to maintain as much of its essence as possible.    

“Look for the “Made in USA” sticker – on 85% of the clothes sold at American Apparel!”
“Designed in America for America.”
“Still number one in the U.S. in domestic manufacturing”

FAIL (and curse yourself for relying so heavily on a single campaign in the first place)

When all else fails…so do you.

Investors know that a balanced portfolio is the safer bet. The same holds true in marketing and brand messaging. If you want to stay alive and thrive, you can’t survive on one premise alone.

Once you establish your main message, allow it to take a back seat to a few highly targeted campaigns that aim to diversify your value in the eyes of various consumers.

That way, if one brand promise fails to endure, you won’t.

Just a little food for thought to get you through your Friday… :)

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