Brand Strategy: Set Up A Positive And Attack

Jack TroutMay 8, 20122 min

What you need to build into a brand is a positive. The purpose of hanging a negative on your competitor is to set up that positive idea. Some years ago, Stolichnaya vodka hung “American made” on its U.S. competitors who were “making believe they were Russian.” It was setting up “the Russian vodka” as its positive idea.

Many years ago, BMW introduced its automobile into the U.S. market by repositioning Mercedes as “the ultimate sitting machine.” This was a set up for its long-term position of being “the ultimate driving machine.” Repositioning Mercedes as a living room on wheels did indeed resonate with people, as at the time Mercedes was indeed manufacturing big limo-type cars. The first BMW was the 3 Series, which was a long way from today’s 7 Series, which is also a “sitting machine.” It’s also the main reason that I’m not a fan of these big gadget-loaded BMWs. They are not driving machines; they are high-tech sitting machines. It’s why you don’t see many of them driving around.

A Missed Positive

Some years ago, I was down in Venezuela working with a big ketchup brand called Pampero. By the time we were called in, Del Monte and Heinz had nudged it from its number one position. Pampero was in a decline. What was needed was a differentiating idea beyond its current claims of “redder” or “better.”

Why was Pampero better?  What did the company do to its tomatoes? After some prodding, what emerged was the fact that Pampero removed the skin so as to enhance the flavor and color. It was something that its big competitors did not do in their manufacturing process.

Now that’s an interesting idea, as many people are aware that most recipes using whole tomatoes call for removing the skin. Pampero could exploit this “without the skins” perception of quality and taste.

When we told the company that this was the best and only way to rebuild the brand’s perception, Pampero became very upset. It seems that the company was in the midst of changing to a money-saving automated process that didn’t remove the skins (like that used by Del Monte and Heinz). Pampero didn’t want to hear about doing things the old-fashioned way.

Our recommendation was that Pampero stop the modernization plans, as “skins off” was the differentiating idea. Doing things the same way as your bigger competitors is how to get killed in the wars out there. What was called for was a major repositioning effort to hang “skins” on the competition. The positive was skinless tomatoes—a repositioning idea that never saw the light of day.

Excerpted from my book REPOSITIONING: Marketing In An Era of Competition, Change, And Crisis — Jack Trout with Steve Rivkin (c) 2010 by McGraw-Hill

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Jack Trout

One comment

  • Gary Bembridge

    May 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Great posting. As you say there is a key issue in here, and a disease that affects so many brands (especially when under pressure) and that is a human temptation to FOLLOW! But as I blog and tell people in my teams all the time: leaders never follow, as you cannot win a race if you aim to follow the leader. If the guys and gals at the forthcoming Olympics just followed and copied the leader they would not get the Gold. Same in brands and business…

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