Brand Positioning and Brand Messaging? No, Brand Architecture.
Warning: nerd alert.
But if you like Marvel movies and marketing strategy, then, dear reader, this introduction is for you.
One of my favorite scenes in Avengers: Infinity War is when three of Earth’s mightiest heroes – Iron Man, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange – first encounter The Guardians of the Galaxy. Each team mistakenly thinks the other is in league with the mad titan Thanos, the villainous monster who’s hellbent on eliminating half of all life in the universe. With weapons aimed and ready to strike, three of the characters quickly interrogate each other as to the whereabouts of Gamora, a missing Guardian…
Star Lord: I’m gonna ask you this one time: where is Gamora?
Iron Man: Yeah, I’ll do you one better: WHO is Gamora?
Drax: I’ll do YOU one better: WHY is Gamora?
This quick exchange is delightfully silly and delivers one of the movie’s most memorable and meme-able laughs. Interestingly, though, it also is an amazing demonstration of how interconnected perspectives are in how we communicate and maximize the impact of our brands.
The imperative: connecting “why” and “how” with “what”
While Drax’s inability to understand nuance and syntax makes his question so damn funny, he’s actually onto something very true. To know where Gamora is means you know who Gamora is – why Gamora is so important to Star Lord.
The same goes for brands. When we talk about how a brand should be positioned in market relative to competitors and craft the messages that support that positioning, we need to understand the company in its totality. Its purpose. Its culture. Its ultimate aims beyond commercial success.
Why? Clearly defined positioning and messaging empower everyone in your organization to speak confidently, consistently, and effectively with stakeholders – from sales and marketing to customer success and human resources to investor relations.
But now, the additional step to closely align with vision, mission and values comes with new imperative from customers and job candidates alike to work with organizations that align with their values and aspirations for social impact. One data point: according to Ipsos’ Global Trends 2021 report, an average 70% of respondents say they buy from brands they believe reflect their own principles. And the percentage of people saying they buy from companies that reflect their personal values has increased steadily and significantly over the past ten years.
Brands who have and share broader ambitions are also more trusted. Edelman’s most recent Trust Barometer Report showed that brands emphasizing only functional aspects earn a trust score of just 27, while those changing culture achieve a score of 65. What’s more, 86% of survey respondents say they expect brands to act beyond their product or business.
Let’s be clear about definitions
In the wake of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, greater scrutiny of corporate and government practices, and increased need for social and environmental responsibility, it should be no surprise that brands are more important than ever. So, let’s not get hung up on words when we do the important work of building the foundations of a brand.
At Park & Battery, we frame our brand architectures for clients with the following definitions:
- Your vision is what you want the state of the world to be. It’s bold, aspirational, challenging and long-term. This isn’t about you or the ideal state of your company. This is the desired end state for everyone that comes to your business because of your contributions as an organization. This is your “why.”
- Your mission is what you do to realize that vision. Every day, in the decisions you make and the actions you take, your mission drives the world toward achieving the desired end state. This is your “how.”
- Your values are the most important characteristics and behaviors that enable you to achieve your mission. These traits guide you and your people in all you do, in service of your mission and vision. These are “what” you do.
- Your positioning is then the promise you make to customers, the differentiated value proposition that makes you unique from competitors. This promise is experienced through your values and demonstrates how you are fulfilling your mission. Through your positioning, you empower your customers – and in turn help realize your shared vision.
- Your messaging comprises the reasons to believe your promise. These are the most powerful features and benefits you deliver customers in support of the positioning.
Putting it all together
Thinking in terms of a complete brand architecture makes everything just make sense. Business priorities. Product development decisions. Hiring and professional development choices. Purchase and partnership selections. Brand architecture provides clarity and consistency for every stakeholder, from virtually any perspective.
It’s also important to note that brand architectures can be flexible. They can change over time. Companies and brands evolve. What matters most is that there is consistency that keeps the architecture clear and strong from top to bottom and bottom to top.
In fact, that’s why I wrote this blog; we’re doing this work every day with our clients at Park & Battery – and with even greater urgency and demand. Brands of all kinds are re-examining themselves right now, considering how they now manifest themselves for their customers and employees alike amid The Great Resignation and while emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you want to know or see more, contact us. We’d be happy to share some of our thinking and our recent brand strategies. And also, if you want to talk Marvel. We’d love that 3000.
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