Posted by Tom Gable
In the past few months, we’ve participated in three repositioning and branding sessions – two for clients and one in a seminar by a respected branding guru. We found a common thread running through all of them and one we wish could unravel quickly: the creative types all relied on hackneyed, trite and empty phrases in trying to position or reposition a company, then promote its attributes.
PR is decidedly different from advertising and marketing. In trying to earn our media coverage, we rely on telling a good story with facts. Branding and positioning sessions are designed to create distinctive personalities and voices for an organization or institution that resonate with the multiple target audiences. The basic concept is to develop a tag line or tag lines, core values and the supporting evidence to support the brand position. All well and good, except when the attributes and supporting evidence slide into vagueness.
For journalists, PR professionals on the hunt for earned media coverage or any other students of the English language, branding exercises can be painful, particularly when the die has been cast. Good manners prevent one from chiming in when the host digresses into the new core message for the client saying that it is “a leader in the evolving XYZ industry.” Plus, the client delivers “innovative solutions” that are “at the forefront” of this “evolving” industry. With two evolvings in two sentences, it is obvious that this organization is truly leading Darwinian change in its industry.
The three brand masters promoted use of “leading” in many ways, without proof of principle. The claimed attributes include words such as unique, progressive, leading-edge, next generation, industry standard, prestigious and world class, among others. I won’t bore you with additional details. Previous screeds covered the use of leading and solutions, ad nauseum.
Big questions we can all ask in trying to position our clients or the organization we work for: can we truly differentiate against the competition, in what ways and can we provide ongoing proof of principle over the next two to three years with real stories, facts and details, not vague words? If so, you have made a major advance in branding success to the ultimate benefit of image, reputation and even achieving desired business and marketing goals.