Are Positioning and Branding Outdated in Today’s Digital Realm?

“Some Marketers argue that in today’s information-rich, and customer-centric markets, positioning is an archaic and unworkable strategy.”

From:  Principles of Marketing Engineering, 2nd Edition (Gary L. Lilien, Arvind Rangaswamy, Arnaud De Bruyn)

If one thing is for sure, it’s that the Marketing Communications field has been flipped on its head. With the advent of the digital world in which our prospective markets shop for products, communicate with each other, socialize, and receive and share information, and marketing messages.

Everything has changed and has evolved into a complex ecosystem in which we are tasked to introduce brands, products, and organizations to our respective audiences.  Even the way they interpret and respond to our communication attempts has changed.  Some might say it’s for the best. Others perhaps may tell you it’s a literal jungle out there inhabited by digital tribes of cannibals just waiting to toss you and your content into a huge stewing pot.

So what does this mean for classical concepts and practices, namely Branding, and Positioning?  To me, they go hand in hand in a symbiotic relationship that gives your brand character, relevance and appeal in the eyes of your target audience.  They’re one and the same.  But as the song says:  “Classy old dame, she ain’t what she used to be.”

There is an ongoing… Debate, or Argument, (call it what you will) – where one side will tell you that the concept of positioning is no longer relevant because essentially consumers can and will jump online and submit their feedback (be it good or BAD).  Therefore, any and all control from the marketer on what is said, and felt by the audience is removed.

Sure, you can develop a killer Positioning Statement like:

“CoolBreeze Iced Tea uses only the finest all-natural ingredients resulting in a classic:

Just Like Mom Used to Make taste that is the #1 choice for Iced-Tea Drinkers everywhere.“

Whoopdy-doo!  What does it all mean?  Surely it’s only a matter of time before someone reads the ingredients and slams this fictitious brand for using corn-syrup.  r someone doesn’t enjoy their cool, crisp Coolbreeze and writes all about it on Google Reviews, their Facebook, and so on.  Does this incite fear?  Maybe it should.

The point is that there is no longer a singular magical statement that is going to cover you as far as establishing a permanent and fortified product position within the minds of your audience.

When researching this topic, there were two articles that became the core source material to base myposition on Modern Positioning.  One of these articles is entitled: “Three Long-held Concepts Every Marketer Should Re-Think.” By: Itomar Simonson  and Emanual Rosen.  One statement in the article regarding positioning stood out for me.  It reads:

“When consumers base their decisions on user and expert reviews, nice positioning statements are less likely to be adopted by the market. It’s simply that reviewers on the web tend to evaluate multiple features of a product and are not likely to isolate a single attribute just because it was highlighted in a company’s ad campaign.”

You can say what you want about your product, but eventually the people who use and experience your products will add their opinions and reviews, which will have greater resonance with your audience than touchy-feely positioning statements.

The other article I read:  Marketing Myth: Positioning Is No Longer Relevant by Copernicus Marketing Consulting and Research presents the argument that the notion of positioning is not dead, and rather alive and well:

“MYTH: Positioning is no longer relevant—marketers no longer have any control over what people say and think about their brands.

TRUTH: Giving brands a reason for being is more important than ever.”

This got my gears grinding, and made me realize that the concept of positioning is not dead.  But rather, it too has changed and evolved with the digital ecosystem, and so too must our understanding and use of positioning, especially through Content Marketing Tactics.  Here are a couple “tips” or guidelines I’ve determined should set a struggling content creator on the right path: 

Introduce your positioning as the underlying message:

Rather than rhyme off pretty sounding positioning statements, instead use your content to illustratewhy your brand or product is relevant to the audience you’re trying to tap into.  What problems or pain-points will your product resolve?  Does your product make life easier, and more convenient?  Remember: good, engaging content is at its core Storytelling.  Develop stories that position your product as the hero using real-world scenarios or even customer feedback as source material, which leads me to my next tidbit of insight:

Know what your customers are saying about you!

Spend time gorging on user-created content such as blogs, product reviews, and forum posts that outline questions or concerns about your product.  Getting a firm grip on the general consensus surrounding your product will also result in a cornucopia of content that will help you tailor your material to meet these concerns, answer these questions, resolve any issues and thus form a tighter bond between you and your audience.  This also establishes trust.

For example, You have shipped a video game, and your forums suddenly light up with players complaining about an in-game exploit or glitch that their online opponents are using to tip the competition off-balance.  This is a great opportunity to dive right into those forums and engage in valuable conversations, and perhaps even create a blog, or newsletter article addressing the issue.   Be sure that you are outlining how the studio is going to work out a fix, so everyone can get back to enjoying their gaming experience.

Now you have not only found a great source for content, but you’ve positioned your brand as a caring organization who takes customer concerns and issues seriously.

Well, I hope this helps cast a new light on some aging marketing terms, and how they can be fused into a strong approach to content, and forming lasting relationships with your audience.  It may appear that the consumer is out to get you, but if you partner with your customers, and work with them to cultivate a rich experience overall, you’re sure to come out on top!

What’s your take on this topic?  Do you feel positioning is a dead concept?  How do you adapt it to your modernized marketing efforts?  Don’t hesitate to chime in with a comment, and of course thanks for reading!     

(Photo Credit: Featured Image original source:

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