Strategic Marketing Plan Element #8: Brand Attributes and Position Messaging

Every company has a personality. Nike is your companion in active pursuits and athletic accomplishments. Apple is your upscale, innovative, high tech, iconic friend. IKEA is your affordable interior decorator. Core and central to who you are as a business, brand attributes define what makes you stand out from the crowd.

The most preferable brand attribute is being the first or only brand to do, make, or define something. Barring that, you’ll need to identify why you, ranking at Number Two, Three, Four, or lower, should be your customer’s preference.

Trying to be all things to all people doesn’t work. Deciding who you want to be—and for what target audience—solidly and appropriately positions your product for those who want it. Define your organization, then go for it by acting in accordance with your brand.

Enhancing brand attributes with a positioning and messaging strategy establishes a sense of place for your company in the market. Whatever it is you’ve set out to do, whether it’s to create the next online shopping site, design the most innovative automobile, or make better chocolate chip cookies, this is where you convey to your customers why your product is their best choice.

It’s important to get this right. Each brand is known for some specifics. Rolls Royce delivers luxury automobiles, while Hyundai is known more for economical models. Interestingly enough, Rolls Royce would be much more successful in bringing a lower-priced version of its exclusive vehicles to market than Hyundai would in unveiling a high-end vehicle designed to compete with upscale brands.

Don’t believe it? Have you ever heard of the Hyundai Genesis or Equus? Most have not, even though these upscale Hyundai models were designed to compete with BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. They had better speed, better space, better safety, and even better stereo systems than other cars in the $60K market. These upscale models failed because the customer didn’t see the status of the brand translating from its established low-end market vehicle to an upscale vehicle. Why buy a $60K Hyundai when a name like BMW, Mercedes, or Audi is in the same ballpark? That’s a tough sell.

Conversely, let’s imagine for a moment that an upscale company decides to put out a lower-priced version of its luxury models. Mercedes did it in response to the 2008 recession. This iconic brand introduced lower-priced models appealing to a market feeling the economic pinch. Mercedes wanted to gain an early foothold in brand loyalty by offering young, ascending professionals something in their price range. Did it work? I’m seeing an awful lot of them on the road these days. Did it dilute the brand? Perhaps, in some ways, but the bottom line won here. Mercedes is still seen as a luxury car and is still highly valued.

This should be a consideration when positioning your products. Because it’s harder to climb uphill than to slide down, positioning your products high enough so that you are believable competition also keeps your options open to lower-priced markets. Perception by your target market, as well as your competitors, will be influenced by your price, so plan carefully.

Our study focus, Big Wood Ski, is a fabulous new company offering a one-of-a-kind product. Sure, there are similar competitors, but Big Wood Ski does things differently. By embracing those differences in defining their brand attributes and following a path that supports and strengthens those attributes, they will develop an important strategy with big payback. What are Big Wood Ski’s major brand attributes?

  1. Performance
  2. Tailor-made craftsmanship
  3. Functional work of art
  4. Lifetime refinishing

Here’s what Big Wood Ski’s positioning pillars might look like. The pillars, or descriptors, followed by positioning that supports the pillars and the message they want to deliver to customers, identifies the marketplace real estate they want to own:

Attributes and positioning pillars should be enduring in nature, with a global perspective that weathers industry and marketplace changes without much tweaking. Messaging pillars, on the other hand, are timely and more localized, detailed to appeal to your customers as they consider purchases.

Caleb and Bex worked hard at describing these elements with detailed initial descriptions. Their products have wonderful and immediate benefits in that their form and function are superior in their market. Positioning should reflect that. Their skis are beautifully handcrafted and tailor-made with beautiful woods, yet they conceal a high-tech interior. Expensive to make, requiring extensive knowledge of the sport, as well as ski technology and exceptional materials, they are a joy to display, as well as use.

Big Wood Ski’s target is a dichotomy of wealthy individuals with a comfortable disposable income, mixed with a large contingent of avid skiers whose pockets aren’t quite as deep. Respectful of both types of customers, Big Wood Ski must carefully construct these important guiding pillars to embrace both groups.

These pillars are also designed to be action plans. They will serve Big Wood Ski’s business well by targeting their audience with accurate messages that support their position in the luxury wood custom ski market. Done right, strategic, supportive, and solid positioning and messaging pillars will support your interaction with customers no matter where you set the bar for your branding. Start building!