According to Philip Kotler, there are two types of CEOs, - those who know they don't understand marketing, and those who do not know they don't understand marketing. They specialize in other things - operational expertise, engineering, technical skills, sales. For a time we saw a few rising stars from marketing and customer support - these days you find less of them, especially in mature industries, especially in companies that need a new injection of growth.
That is a shame, because for an organization to grow beyond the incremental - which in fact can be decreasing profitability, if you look close enough - once it gets to a certain stage of growth, you really need someone who understands they need marketing. There are some serious business decisions that need to be made in terms of profitability of the product/service line, service delivery, etc. - I go with the 90/10/90 rule: put 90% of your efforts into the 10% of the activities that will give you 90% of the profit. It's an outside-in approach.
When it comes to the state of the brand and business metaphors around that, we are probably all familiar with the term positioning. This is the process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of their target market for its product, service, brand,
or organization. It is the 'relative competitive comparison' their
product occupies in a given market as perceived by the target market.
You have probably also noticed how pervasive the "war" metaphor is in business language - the people in the trenches, you kill the competition, or maybe you just drive them out of business - and the adulation of the lessons taught by Sun Tzu in The Art of War. It was in this ancient book that positioning in strategy was explained as being affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment.
Tzu wrote that strategy is not linear planning like a to-do list - it requires fast and appropriate
responses to changing conditions. While planning works in a controlled
environment, in a competitive environment competing plans tend to collide,
creating unexpected situations.
War of position for brands can get quite expensive in the crowded marketplace in which we are today. Let's review what you do with war of position (thanks, Gerry). You:
- Conquer and own ground
- Own a position
- Reflect your strength in holding ground
- Bring customers to a place and evolve the place over time
The game here is about who owns what. Which is great if you have the ability to establish that position and remain unchallenged for it. It also requires a pretty large commitment in time and budgets if the business does not truly own that brand. How many new brands can say they own a position? How many mature brands can also say that? Fewer and fewer.
With a mature brand that is looking to reinvent its way to growth, in addition to the smart decisions the business needs to make, you may be able to change the game by waging a war of movement. Many younger brands are doing that successfully. What does war of movement mean? You:
- Own the movement, a direction
- Reflect flexibility and speed in holding the course
- Bring customers on a journey, a specific path moving forward
The game then becomes about who is going where. Companies who are immersed in these dynamics may also find that integrating new media and learning to become more social beyond customer care will serve them well.
Having worked in mature industries with mature brands, I also found that movement allows you to do several positive things that can help you grow the business. You:
- Focus more on creating and energizing
- Capitalize from collaboration with customers, partners, even competitors
- Promote your vision as a way to provide direction
- See more opportunities along the way
- Do your own thing and are not totally preoccupied with fighting someone else's battle
This can be fertile ground for innovation and open the door to conversation, if the company can let go of what made it big, profitable and known up until it got to flat status on the growth chart. Have you worked with mature brands? What have you found successful? Do you have an example of a mature brand that was re-energized?
[image from a site The History of Branding that is now defunct]