Transforming Brand Negatives Into Positives

Ulli AppelbaumJune 21, 20222 min

Sometimes, a perceived weakness of the product (or service) or brand can be re-framed into a positive point of differentiation by telling a story that helps change the way people think about it, or by adding meaning to this perceived weakness. For example – one of the negatives associated with Heinz’s Ketchup has always been its slow pour (before the introduction of the plastic squeeze bottle). But instead of ignoring the issue Heinz has regularly embraced it to justify the richness and quality of its product. It even went as far as to tilt the labels on its bottles so that the label would be perfectly horizontal when held in the position that ensured the best pour angle. Heinz turned a perceived negative into a positive by justifying it with the product’s richness and quality.

Guinness has turned the 119.5 seconds it takes to pour a perfect pint of Guinness (a potential negative association) into a virtue, expressed by its long standing claim “Good things come to those who wait”. A British company formerly known as Get Wonky is making juices from imperfect fruits and vegetables, basically fruits that would normally be wasted because of the way they look, while also raising awareness for food waste (it’s purpose). It fully embraced the concept of flawed food and changed its name to “Flawsome”, in the process turning a negative into a positive and helping people change the way they look at flawed fruits and vegetables.

The objective here is to transform a perceived weakness into a positive that will support and reinforce the brand’s benefit. This approach is particularly powerful when the “weakness” can actually be experienced by the user.

Thought Starters:

  • List all the perceived weaknesses your brand has that may act as a potential purchase barrier.
  • Going through the previous list, how would you justify and rationalize each of these weaknesses as a brand strength?
  • Now translate those into positioning territories.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Ulli Appelbaum, excerpted from his book The Brand Positioning Workbook

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