The Brand Positioning Workbook

with
Ulli Appelbaum

You can also watch this interview on my YouTube channel

Table of Contents

  1. What is Positioning?
  2. Competition Territories
  3. Consumer Territories
  4. Company Territories

*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.

Intro

Arek Dvornechuck:
What's up branding expert Arek here at EbaqDesign and welcome to On Branding podcast. And today my guest is Ulli Appelbaum. And Ulli is an award  winning marketing and brand strategist. With more than 25 years of experience creating positioning strategies. He has contributed to developing strategies for brands like Wrigley, Harley Davidson, Hallmark, Procter and Gamble, Chrysler, and many more. So Ulli has held senior executive roles at some of the best advertising agencies. And he has also founded his own brand research and strategy boutique called First The Trousers, Then the Shoes and Ulli recently also published his new book, The Brand Positioning Workbook, which is right here where he shares with us 26 different territories to inspire our positioning development process. Hello, Ulli, thanks for joining us today.

Ulli Appelbaum:
Hello Arek first time glad to be on your show.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Thank you very much. So first of all, I just wanted to say your book is very easy to read. You don't use any fancy words. It's very easy to read and understand. And you give us a lot of examples we can relate, like famous brands that we all know about. We can understand this concept. So basically, just for our listeners, I wanted to mention that you basicallyanalyzed1200 case studies of successful brand positioning. Right. And that lead you to coming up with those 26 territories, as you call them, of the sources of positioning. Right. So basically, the goal of these territories or those questions and exercises that we can run is to inspire our creative thinking, right?

Ulli Appelbaum:
Correct.

Arek Dvornechuck:
As you mentioned in the book, it's not actually like the end solution. It's just to put you on the right track and inspire your creative thinking and problem solving. And you talk about that in the book as well.

Ulli Appelbaum:
Options to choose from, correct? Yes.

Arek Dvornechuck:
How to actually put this into practice and how to use it. So these exercises are basically for marketers strategies, consultants or anyone who is working on the brand. Right. Trying to come up with unique and differentiated positioning. So there are 26 categories in the book, but you divided that you put them into three different categories, right?

Ulli Appelbaum:
Correct. 

Arek Dvornechuck:
So maybe we won't have time to talk about each and every single territory. But I just want you to speak to at least two of each categories. That's possible. Okay.

Ulli Appelbaum:
Love to. Yeah, absolutely.

1. What is Positioning?

Arek Dvornechuck:
But before that, let's start with some basic let's get us on the same page. So what's your definition of positioning?

Ulli Appelbaum:
That's a great point to start, Arek. So there are many definitions about positioning out there, right. And for me, the simplest, most actionable definition of a brand positioning is really the sum of all the associations that your consumer segments or your stakeholders have about your offering. So that's really what it is. And what I like about this is it's not very academic or intellectual, but it's pragmatic. Right. Because what it tells you is your job as a marketer is to help build associations with your offering. Now, there are a lot of different associations. And to your point, the 26sources of association that I described in my book help you generate as many options as you possibly can. But that is really your job. I refer in the book as to the definition of Jeff Bezo from Amazon saying, like, your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room. It's beautiful, it's very inspiring, sounds really great. But as a marketer, as a practitioner, I don't know what to do with that. So does it mean that I need to get people that are connected to the buyer to talk about the brand? But how do I do that when you look at it as a bundle of association for a specific offering? You know, exactly. My job is to understand, what do they associate with my brand today, if the brand exists? Are those relevant associations? Do I need to change them? Do I need to build on them? And what are the ones I desire to associate with my offering? And that gives you like a clear roadmap on how to move forward. And that also gives you a roadmap for to evaluate every initiative you do from every product you launch, every promotion you make, every advertising campaign you make, because you have a clear mind and clear and clearly in front of your eyes, this benchmark, does it help build my desired association? Does it work against my association? Does it complement my association? And if it's none of these three, my argument is you're wasting your marketing dollars because you're not building a brand. You are blasting money into advertising out there. 

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. That's a great explanation. Some of my key take away to sum up for our listeners. So basically, brand positioning is a tool that help us brand managers or strategist to define and summarize the desired brand associations, as you mentioned. Right. So we need to look at where we are as of now, does it match to where we want to be, like, what's our aspiration of where we want to go and then work from there.

Ulli Appelbaum:
Correct.

2. Competition Territories

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. As it relates to what you just said with Bezel's definition of what a brand is. Right. So starting with the first group, you divided them into three categories, competition, consumer and company, three C's, right?  

Ulli Appelbaum:
Yes.

Arek Dvornechuck:
So can  we just start with the first one, competition, can you give us maybe a few examples of some of those territories with examples of famous brands? 

Ulli Appelbaum:
Of course. What I want to point out, Arek, is that what's unique about the methodology, everything that is included in the methodology, and you're an experienced marketer will sound familiar, right? None of the territories I talk about is, oh my God, I've never heard about this before. If you're an experienced marketer, you have come across all these different categories, and the way they are organized to your point is really the three C model, which is basically it's more than competition. It's what I call context, which is the frame of reference in which you put your brand or you want to be perceived as a brand. The second one is the consumer how I engage with them. And the third one is the company or the product itself. That is basically what truth can I bring out about my product or my company to either support the benefit of my brand or to create an association that supports the benefit or to differentiate myself in the category. So if you go into the context and as I said, that's for me, one actually of the most neglected territory in marketing. Because in marketing, when you have a brand, let's say you have a brand of, I don't know, toothpaste. You compare yourself immediately to other brands of toothpaste. So our frame of reference is usually the immediate competitors. But the reality is you can open your frame of reference. For example, your frame of reference could be a substitute category. Right. So if you ask yourself the question, okay, I don't have product X today to satisfy my need, what will I choose instead? And then you can look at what alternative behaviors or category pop up there. And then you can start to think, okay, how am I better? Or how can I differentiate myself versus these alternative categories? Right. Another example would be the usage context, where do I consume my brand? And you've said that in your podcast as well, right. Is by associating yourself with the brand, by making a choice in public, you make a statement about yourself. Right. And one of the great examples there is like the most interesting man in the world from those Aces, which was based on this understanding of consumers. The observation is that consumers, young men that want to appear more interesting than they actually are can choose now do come across as a bit more interesting and probably score more or have a higher chance to score with the girls, et cetera. So here's, understanding the usage context of your brand allows you to identify association that might be relevant for your consumer and your brand in that specific context. Another one is the category gold standard. Every category is sort of like this ideal, typical, typical example is food with the family. You can see yourself in Tuscany on a big wooden table, the sun going down, drinking wine, having good conversation. This might be an ideal, typical situation for an Italian food brand, for example. It might be something completely different for another category. But you can think about what is the ideal, typical situation for my brand and the category I'm in and what associations can I draw from that to associate myself to create this association that will help me stand out another one is culture we talk a lot about culture. Cultural branding is very popular and one simple way to associate yourself to create relevance is to associate yourself either with are levant truth about the prevailing culture and like Molten, a Canadian beer brand has done that in Canada with their tagline. I am Canadian. So what they basically do is they associate themselves with all these values and behaviors that represent the essence of being Canadian. And basically claim that territory per se to increase appeal with consumers. And another one and I'm going to stop and let you ask a question if you want is each culture has also subcultures. Right. And so an obvious one is mummy cultures, cultures, which when you look at what's going on in the Internet is a very distinctive, very specific culture a brand can try to associate itself with or motorcycle. We talked about, you mentioned Harley Davidson. There's the riding culture. So all the riders out there. But there is a subculture of female writers that don't want to associate themselves with the mainstream, sort of like male Harley Davidson writer. They want to create their own subculture, understanding this, what makes out this culture and associating yourself with that. And a lot of the motorcycle brands try to do that right now is a way to increase your relevance with the specific audience. And they are like, I think another five or six other contextual sources of association, type two. And as you can hear from this conversation, once you are aware of these sources of association, you can very quickly explore them. Right. And look at it. Okay. How do I position myself against culture or what is the ideal, typical situation? Or is there something out of the usage moment that I can tap into position my brand. So very quickly I'm able to look at your brand from a variety of perspectives that I haven't seen in any other methodology out there so far. You can get it, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to do that. So that's sort of like the contextual, the frame of reference which I call it, as I said earlier, I think this is one of the most undervalued one because that is where you find most sources of insight. In my experience, by reframing the way you look at a category, you change the whole perspective of what the benefit is and how it relates to consumers. But many organizations don't do that. Many organizations just look at the immediate competitor and not the broader space in which they operate. I've done that both through like workshops or through projects that included research to help my clients sort of like reframe the way they look at their category. Right. And develop new product ideas, a new way to talk about the brand and obviously a new way to position the brand. So what this tool does, it just gives you a mental flexibility that a professional marketer would look at and think, oh, yeah, I've heard of the ideal, typical situation. I've heard about cultural branding. I've heard about tapping into the usage location. But there is no tool out there that gives you all these options in one book, basically to look at.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Yeah. And that's the difference. Right, exactly. So you gave us a few examples of those contextual territories. I have a couple for you guys as well. Our listeners. So, for example, Rituals was one of them as well that you didn't mention yet. And here is an interesting example because you described it in the book. But basically just long story short here we tap into some rituals or hobbies. Right. So Kit Kat, which is a candy bar. And the name comes from Kito Kato in Japanese and translates to you're bound to win, right. So the idea behind this is that it brings you luck. And the story behind it is that in Japan, school entry exams are very competitive. And so people have this hobby. They go and they pay for their kids. And then buying a KitKat became kind of a ritual for them, something that they perceive is going to bring them luck. Right. So that's one example, a gold standard. You also described that. So where we position ourselves against some gold standard in our category. So an example here would be like pizza category, for example. The gold standard. You mentioned that in the book, by the way, is home delivery. It's a gold standard, but a frozen pizza brand called Digiorno positioned themselves against that with the slogan it's not delivery, It's Digiorno. Right. So they use that. So that's an example of contextual category. So let's talk about the next one, which is about consumer. Right. And we have a few. So as you said, that the first one is maybe the most undervalued. We have the most exercises there.

3. Consumer Territories

Arek Dvornechuck:
But let's talk about consumer territories now. So this is all about creating that human connection with our audience, right?

Ulli Appelbaum:
Absolutely.

Arek Dvornechuck:
And we basically understand them as marketers as the benefit, right. What's the benefit? Can you give us some examples of those territories and maybe some examples of famous brands? 

Ulli Appelbaum:
Of course. And I mentioned earlier, the context is the richest one in terms of covering insights. But there are as many territories in the consumer connection area and in the product area. So to your point, when you talk about consumer connection, we typically talk about the benefits, like the emotional and the rational benefit. Sometimes you add sort of like the psychological benefits. So that's typically how we look at it. But the reality is there are way more ways to connect with the consumers. One could be a sensory benefit. So basically a benefit that appeals to your senses. And typical example there for me would be February here in the US. You're probably familiar with where they started to feature their advertising, sort of like this couple sitting in a couch in an absolutely disgusting environment. But they had their eyes covered and they had the smell of free breeze. And they thought about it and they described it as sort of like, oh, it's a brand new home I'm sitting in. And it's basically a dumb dare surrounded by it. So it's away to romance the sort of like sensorial quality of your brand, of your offering and give it meaning to the benefits. And the beauty of that is that you can literally experience that one. Right. Because you smell it as opposed to having an abstract concept. Another sort of like way to connect with the consumers is to look at them through the lens of archetypes and archetypes, adjust these sort of like stereotypical personas that satisfy very specific needs consumer segments have. Right. I know you've talked in your past videos about Harley to speak about them. Harley has the outlaw archetype. When I write my Harley, I may be a 60 year old dentist that has a vacation home in the Bahamas and a big home here by the Villa. But when I get on my holiday, I want to feel like the bad guy, the outlaw, the badass that rides in his gear and makes a lot of noise. So looking at your brand through the archetype, how can you feed this desire? Consumers have to break out of the ordinary to challenge the norms, guides the way you can position your brand. That's another one. The third one is an obvious one, too, which I think is very overrated, is a brand purpose. Right. So if you identify the belief here being that if I share with you the reasons why I started this company and why I started this business, and obviously there needs to be a bigger benefit to society, to the environment and stuff like that. But if I explained to you that I created this soda with the objective to stop the deforestation in South America, that's a very strong purpose. For example, the belief here is that people will buy into the brand, so to say more strongly. Another example, which is one of my favorite ones, is shared values. So if you identify what values matter to your customers, what are important to them, and what's important here is to focus on aspirational values. So if I see it myself as an eco friendly person, I want to be consistent with the way I see myself. If you as a brand, you are able to create this association and show me by consuming my brand, you will be able to live up to your own values. You have a very strong connection. The beautiful example for me here is Patek Philippe, the Swiss watchmaker. And they identify those are like high net worth individuals. They go after those are like 20, $30,000watchers. But what they realize that what is important to this customer segment is family. So spending time with the family and family values and traditions like the legacy, all these kinds of things. And so they translated the positioning of Patek Philippe into this tagline, which I'm sure I'm not going to remember by heart, but it's this. You don't own a Patek Philippe, but you are merely the Guardian for the next generation. So it's basically this notion of you don't own the thing is you keep it for your children and your next generation. Which is a beautiful way to frame the positioning of a brand. And when you think about other brands around that right, you have like Rolex which is all about prestige and status. You have Brighton, which is all about sort of like the pilot adventures lifestyle they managed to cover. The space in there that is about family values and tradition and stand out completely from these other brands that are in this segment. So that would be connecting at the value level with your customers. So here are like four or five examples I just mentioned. And again, using this methodology, you can look at them very quickly and then you can dive deeper if you want to, but you have an opportunity to look at your brand from all these different angles until you find one that you say, you know what? I haven't heard something like that. That is true to my brand. That seems to be exciting. Let's go and test it and validate it and refinance logic behind it.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Yeah. So as you mentioned, the purpose of doing all of that, we should just run through those exercises and then see what kind of like because some patterns may occur. Right? Some of those. Like multiple exercise scan point us to somehow the same idea, and then we can dive in and explore that more. But then our goal is to just have a wider perspective and approach this from different angles so that we can come up with it's all about and the quantity as well. And then because the more ideas we can generate, then we can focus on the right ones, and then we can build on them. Right?  

Ulli Appelbaum:
Absolutely impressed. You notice that? Because I talk a bit about that in the book. The idea is to generate as many ideas as possible. Right. And then you start to group them and you create themes of here. We always talk about how the brand has been made and where it comes from. Here we always talk about our different competitive set, et cetera. And these teams naturally emerge as you go through the exercise and the team developing the ideas starts to have interesting discussions on what are the key strategic issues we are really trying to address. So it's an organic process that really develops itself as you go through the conversation and through the ideation process.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. And it was a great example of Patek Philippe. And you didn't really you said that almost the way it is. I have in my notes, the exact timeline reads, you never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation. So the idea is that you buy the watch and then you give it to your kids and so on. Right. So it's a tradition. It's legacy. It's a bout as it speaks to the values. Right. To the values territory. So that's one example, a compelling benefit where we can ground our brand in a differentiating benefit, like a Diamond is Forever for the De Beers' or the ultimate driving machine by BMW. These are some of the examples as well. And you talked quite a bit about archetypes in this section, which I think is a great way to we can just leverage archetypes to find a positioning idea, right?

Ulli Appelbaum:
Absolutely. 

4. Company Territories

Arek Dvornechuck:
Let's jump into the third part, the third group, and we have here categories related to company itself. Right. To the brand. So can you just give us a few examples here and talk a little bit about those? 

Ulli Appelbaum:
So the third category and the point is really to combine to find the overlap. If you have like a vendor diagram with three bubbles, is really context consumers and the company itself. And the point is really to find the perfect match where a unique aspect of your. Here we go. Perfect. Thank you. A unique aspect of your brand or your company ties to something that is highly relevant and beneficial to consumers within a context that allows you to stand out. So that's really the objective. So if you dive into the product itself, one area that I find fascinating is we mentioned earlier, consumer rituals. So I separate between consumer rituals and branded rituals and consumer rituals is basically rituals that you go through day in, day out independently of a brand. Right. So like when I get ready in the morning, brush my teeth, take my shower, get dressed. Well, not during pandemic, but it's a way to get ready for the day, mentally get ready for the day. So it's a ritual you go through when you take that at the brand level. This is really about what sort of behaviors and routines can I associate with my brand to make it feel more valuable or to create anticipation for the way I'm going to consume that brand. And those are very simple examples, like squeezing a line in a Corona bottle, unwrapping a Ferrero Rocher. It's like in the golden packaging on a little trade, just the way to unwrap it. Or Stella did that with like, I think the nine steps to pour a stellar those are all things that make you anticipate and experience and enhances it. And Howard business review did a study I think, which shows that it really increases your satisfaction with the product and your willingness to pay more for the product when you ritualized the behavior, which is kind of weird, another area could be and it's not always have to be the positives. We shy away from the negatives. But one territory, one way is to turn a negative association into something positive or to find a meaning to a potential negative association. Typical example is ketchup. For me in the glass bottles, ketchup is very slow to pour, right? So it takes ages. You got to shake it and all these kind of things in the glass bottle. Not in the squeezy, of course.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Exactly. 

Ulli Appelbaum:
And for a long time, Heinz could have liquefied the ketchup, make it more liquid and allow it to come out faster out of the bottle. But they've never done that. And I admire that. They've always justified it with the quality of the product inside. I think they forgot how much. But they used to speak about theirs like nine ripe tomatoes in each bottle of ketchup. So they give meaning to the slow, poor Guinness Guinness takes 119 seconds to pour. When you are really thirsty, 190 seconds feels like an eternity. But that is apparently the perfect pour of a Guinness beer. And so instead of trying to find ways to speed that up, they reframe. What does it mean? And strategic platform for a very long time with this notion of good things come to those who wait and all of a sudden it's like, oh yeah, now I know why I'm waiting two minutes for my beer. So it's like a second example. But then you have a country of origin, how the product is made. Are there specific ingredients in there? Who is making the product? Is it endorsed by experts? So they are all like different angles. Again, you can focus on or explore to try to identify what's unique about your brand that you can tie again to a relevant consumer benefit in a specific context that makes the brand stand out, basically. So yeah, that's very simple in its elements but very efficient in working with these tools and these territories.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Yeah.  And I wanted to add two more. So as you already mentioned it could be a creation story so here could be for example Burger Kings tagline flame grill since 1954 or Jack Daniels where they always focus on craftsmanship, dedication and character. Again, that's another example in the same category. Right. But of a different territory here. We also can celebrate ingredients for example and this is the brand I actually buy so this is the RX bar right? Where they celebrate ingredients and they say basically no bullshit simple ingredients. Right. They have their own packaging so that's another way. That's another territory so.

Ulli Appelbaum:
Have you said ingredients or lack of ingredients. Right. But yeah, it has to do with how the product is made or lack of ingredients.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Yeah, exactly. They kind of turned this around into a positive right. And of course there are many more exercises with the exact questions and also explains how to actually use this how to run the workshop which is very important for us strategies or strategic designers who want to help clients with positioning.

Outro

Arek Dvornechuck:
So I really recommend this book so as we're approaching the end of our interview, can you just tell us what's the best way to contact you? Of course I'm going to link to the book and your website is first-the-trousers.com how do you want people to reach out to you? Maybe on LinkedIn

Ulli Appelbaum:
That's probably the best way. It is probably the best way. I'm a very passive Twitter user so never check it but LinkedIn is probably the best way to reach out to me. Yes, absolutely.

Arek Dvornechuck:
So I'm also going to link to your LinkedIn which is your name Ulli Appelbaum so thank you very much Ulli. That was awesome. Thank you very much for your time.

Ulli Appelbaum:
I appreciate thanks for your time and thanks for your great questions.

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