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Thoughts On

Strategic Positioning for Market Dominance & Profitable Growth

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2020: Building a Stronger Future Position for Your Business

Guest Post by Michael Brandtner with Al Ries

With the gradual withdrawal of state corona measures, even if there is initial relief for the economy, the drastic economic consequences are becoming increasingly clear. In this environment, you should put your own company to the test six times over.

In many countries of the world, the corona measures are being slowly but surely reduced. But what will certainly remain for a longer period of time is a time of uncertainty and a time of economic crisis. From a positioning point of view you should use this time to rethink your business and your business strategy. Especially you should rethink the following six points.

(1) Rethink positioning

Especially when companies need fast turnovers to get back on the track, many try to reach everyone and everybody in the short term. At the same time, prices are often massively reduced. But in the long run this can be very dangerous for a brand or company, especially if it leads to a dangerous downward price spiral. Better: think carefully about what your brand or company wants to stand for in the future. Let’s take Strasser, an Austrian company, for example! Before the takeover by Johannes Artmayr, this company was another natural stone supplier among many others and massively in crisis. Artmayr then focused the brand on natural stone kitchen worktops. Today, Strasser is the stone specialist in the kitchen and on the road to success internationally.

(2) Rethink marketing

When companies have to save money, one of the first areas is often marketing and advertising. That may instinctively seem right in the short term, but long term it can hurt companies and brands. There is an interesting point: If you study long-term studies on the topic “marketing in crises”, you will find a different picture. They show that the best way to gain market share is in times of crisis. According to a study by GfK/Serviceplan, two factors are particularly important in this case: (1) Anti-cyclical behavior, one should invest in marketing when the majority is waiting or saving. In other words, it is now the right time to “hammer” the position of your brands with PR and advertising in order to gain mind share and market share. (2) Launch innovations that strengthen the position of the brand.

(3) Rethink innovations

From this point of view, companies should now actively think about which innovations they have in the pipeline that they could - strategically considered – launch in the near future. In other words, instead of focusing one-sidedly on price promotions, you should consider which innovation, whether it be a product or service, could win mind share and market share in the short and also the long term. At the same time, you should also consider what digital lessons you have learned during the crisis, whether in the area of online shops, zoom conferences or the use of social media. The crisis may have opened up completely new strategic and operational opportunities in customer acquisition and customer loyalty, which should be used more intensively in the future. Above all, however, digital deficits that were identified during the crisis should be eliminated as quickly as possible.

(4) Rethink branding

But there is one important point you should have in mind regarding innovations, because from a positioning point of view there are two kinds of innovations: (1) Innovations that fit perfectly to your overall brand or company position. (2) Innovations that maybe do not fit perfectly. In the second case you have two possibilities regarding the resources of your company: (1) You should not launch the innovation, because it can hurt the overall position of your brand in the long run. A lot of brands have been over-expanded in the past. The result: short term growth, long term trouble. (2) If you think it is really an important innovation, you should launch a new brand with a new position.

(5) Rethink globalization

But there is still another extremely important way out of this crisis, namely the path of internationalization. When your own domestic market stagnates or even shrinks, you should look at other markets. But what usually does not work is to simply transfer your own strategy in your home market to other markets. The reason: most brands are positioned “too broad” to be really successful internationally. In this case you learn a lot from the so-called „hidden champions“. They realized early on that the most important strategy in globalization is „narrowing the focus“. That means: You really have to rethink the position of your brands and your companies from an international or even global perspective.

(6) Rethink “Corona advertising”

Today we are not living only in an over-communicated society, we are living in a “Corona-communicated” society. The media is awash with stories about the virus. Everyone is talking about the Coronavirus today, politicians, experts, health organizations and many, many more. No matter if it's television, radio, newspapers, magazines, social media or whatever, the virus has a firm grip on us. And yet brands still jump on this “Corona train” to use it in their own advertising. Forget it! This is a waste of money and not a long-term investment in the brand. Think brand positioning, not Corona positioning.

The most important year for years

Even if many companies today feel that they are being forced into a kind of defensive strategy mode, it is now time to take the offensive mode, first mentally (thinking) and then actually (acting). However, one should always pay attention to a clear long term position, no matter whether one takes the offensive strategy regionally, nationally or internationally. This also shows that brands and companies with a clear position usually make more profit. From this perspective, 2020 could be one of the most important years for your company, especially if you look back in 2030 saying: "This year we have set a new strategic direction for our brands and our company for the long term". In this sense: Positioning; The future of your brand(s), your company depends on it!

Michael Brandtner is the leading brand positioning expert in Austria and Germany and European partner of Ries Global.

His blog (in German):

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