De-Positioning As Brand Strategy

Todd Irwin

Watch on YouTube

You can also watch this interview on my YouTube Channel

Table of Contents

  1. What is De-Positioning?
  2. How it works?
  3. Step-by-Step Process (Tips)

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


Todd Irwin: Coming up with a brand strategy always starts with how are we gonna position a brand in the market? And so that's always the first step. Any branding agency that does it, the Depositioning approach, we believe that's the most effective way to.

Arek Dvornechuck: approach it. Hello what's up branding experts Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding podcast.

And today my guest is Todd Irwin. And Todd is a branding expert and the founder of Fazer, which is a branding agency based here in New York. Todd has decades of experience working with Fortune 500 and also startups, helping them with strategic positioning and visual storytelling. And so today we're gonna talk about using depositioning as your brand strategy.

Hello Todd. Thanks for joining us today.

Todd Irwin: Hey Arek, nice to meet you. Nice to see you. Glad to be here.

Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you so much. I've read your article of branding on branding mark, and it's, this is a very interesting concept that you are talking about, right? So brand purpose became the thing in branding these days, right? And companies just focus on showcasing, finding their brand purpose or a cause they fight for and showcasing that to their audience to better connect with them and so on.

Their brand building efforts are around that, around brand purpose. But you argue. While it is important, it should come secondary. And you argue that positioning is actually should be the top of mind when it comes to brand building. So maybe we can start with, you explained to our audience who've never heard about this concept, what is the positioning.

What is De-Positioning?

Todd Irwin: So exactly what it is it's an approach to brand positioning A lot of people, because it has the word positioning in the title Depositioning. Some people think it's something different than brand positioning. But actually what it is, it's an approach to brand positioning. What I think is, and and I just know this from experience, is that I do think it's the most effective way to approach brand positioning.

And I think, what you were mentioning earlier about brand purpose I have become a little bit of a contrarian to brand purpose. Now I wanna make it clear that I think brand purpose is very important. I just don't believe that when it comes to a brand strategy that it is the thing that should sit at the top.

It shouldn't be the first thing that gets focused on. At the end of the day, what we're all trying to do is grow our businesses. And what you're looking to do is and I hope you don't mind if I go off on a little tangent here to explain it. Yeah, go ahead. I think what you're looking to do here is create traction with your customers.

And the way to do that actually is to understand what they're looking for when they're out in buying mode. And what that is, is that they have a desire to buy something or they're looking to solve a problem, right? Yeah. And you want to tap into that, and that's tapping into relevance when they get there.

They want to know that you can deliver on those things, their desires or solving their problems, but also why should they choose you over the next company? And so what Depositioning does, It's when you create something that's a positive about your company that highlights a negative about your competitors, that's how you deposition your competitors.

And when you do it correctly, and, big companies know how to do this, and my article for Branding Mag, I talk about Apple and Starbucks specifically, but there's lots of case studies around this. It really is effective. It's when it's done well.

Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. So just to some of my key takeaways for our listeners.

So what is Depositioning? As you already explained is a form of positioning, is basically talking about highlighting what you do better than your competitors. Yeah. So positioning against your competitors. Talking to people why they should choose your brand over, over your competitors.

So that, that's right.

Todd Irwin: But you you do it in a way, Arek, you do it in a way that you highlight their negatives. Besides the Apple case study and the Starbucks case study in my article. Like a really famous case study around Depositioning is Arby's, where's the beef?

So the pain point the customer had with McDonald's and Burger King was their really skinny hamburgers in their Big Macs and Whoppers, right? So we're gonna own the fact that we're gonna deliver on, we're gonna deliver on lots of beef, lots of meat in our hamburgers, right? And they don't go out there and say, don't buy McDonald's.

Don't. Burger King, what they say is, we've got the meats right, or where's the beef? It's here. That's a perfect example of of depositioning.

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, that's a great, that's a also a great example. So maybe let's just talk a bit about those examples that you already mentioned Starbucks and Apple.

The examples that you talk about in your article I think is really interesting. And, these are big brands, so we all know them. So we can relate and, understand the concept. So can you just give us just talk to us a bit about, how Apple shifted their focus, and how Starbucks created this concept over third place.

How it works?

Todd Irwin: Yeah, the way that Apple did it was, it was through the concept of privacy. Apple over the, the years that they've been in business since their inception, they had positioned their brand around this concept called usability. And so what is usability? It's, they just have the the computers that are the easiest to use most beautiful design.

Usability was the foundation of what Steve Jobs's vision was for, know, the original Apple computers, MacBooks and, Yeah, that foundation typically doesn't shift very often with the company. But what happened was when they got into digital home, apple was actually first to the market with Siri, right?

But then Alexa came on with Amazon, Google Home with Google, Facebook got into the game and Apple lost. And I say this in the article, apple never lose. So what did they do? They figured out, okay, how are we gonna compete against Google and Amazon? What's the pain point that customers have with those two companies?

The pain point was transparency. Okay. So what's the one thing that the Apple can deliver on that Google and Amazon cannot. It's privacy. And privacy is the pain point. But instead of going out and. Again, this is, it's not a negative, it's not negative campaigning. They're not going out saying, don't buy, don't work with Google, don't work with Amazon.

They're saying, Hey, everything we're about is about privacy. And they really owned it. And so that's how they depositioned their competitors. And look what's happened in the last five years. They started doing it five years ago. You know, they become a company with a trillion dollar value valuation.

As far as a Starbucks, I, I think Howard Schultz is brilliant with his strategy around this concept, this brand positioning concept called the third place. And what is that? They saw the big company the big brand that was in the sector. It was Dunking Donuts, 50 cent coffee, you're in, you're out. But it's an eyesore on the neighborhood. Nobody really wanted to hang out there. You, there's the dirtiness to the brand, but, hey, you get a cheap cup of coffee, it doesn't really taste good. He was in Europe and he's, at the cafes and European cafes, people spend the whole day.

They eat there, they work out of the cafes, they can, and it's really a third place. And that's what he did. He came up with this concept of the third place in somebody's life. You've got home, you've got work, and you've got Starbucks. And they positioned the brand around this idea of community and this concept of the third place.

You know when Starbucks move into neighborhoods, they design the Starbucks around the neighborhood, they don't it doesn't become an eyesore in the neighborhood. People aren't afraid of it. They actually they welcome it. So that's another really good example of Depositioning and how it works.

Now we're talking about a bunch of big brands here. We're talking about Apple, we're talking about Starbucks, we're talking about Arby's, right? The con the the approach though works for all types of companies. Our agency, we do this for startups. We do it for small and medium sized businesses the approach works. It's it really is the most effective way to position a brand in the market.

Arek Dvornechuck: So it works for big brands as well as small startups, right? That's correct. But basically the, on the fundamental level is about the same idea about highlighting some of the positive features of, about your brand that, you can brag about, and your competitors cannot. Cannot, that's right. And sometimes it is about highlighting their negative, you negatives about them their brands. So That's right. But in general, as you mentioned, it is just like brand purpose and brand vision and value proposition, all those things, they do matter and they're important.

So you argue that actually positioning is the most important thing it should, when we look at the brand and our brand building efforts is the top of mind and everything else should be, follow that follow that positioning. So focusing on desires, pain points and positioning your, your brand.

Just, yeah,

Todd Irwin: Coming up with a brand strategy always starts with how are we gonna position a brand in the market? And so that, that's always the first step. Any branding agency that does it. The Depositioning approach we think, we believe that's the most effective way to approach it.

But a lot of agencies are out there doing brand positioning. They approach it with, from an angle of purpose, we're gonna create a purposeful brand or we're gonna create a differentiated brand, my argument is that customers aren't walking out into the market to buy something with differentiation or purpose in mind.

They're looking to fulfill something, a desire that they have for something, or they're looking to solve a pain point, right? And so that's the reason that we believe, we know that this type of strategy works. Now, it's not to say that as somebody is choosing, if they see companies that are similar to each other, that if one company has more of a purpose is more differentiated, that those things don't factor into the decision making process.

We think that it does factor into that process a hundred percent. We just don't believe it's the first thing that, you know that a brand should lead with telling, coming up with that brand strategy starts with positioning. Then you go into telling a story. And crafting a story does include all those other things.

Arek Dvornechuck: That's a good point. That's a very good point. So maybe we can talk about, so since we explained what is the positioning and we give our listeners some of the examples so we understand the concept more or less. Can you talk to us about your process, at your agency?

Maybe you can like highlight let's say there is a brand who, and especially these days, right? We are, the recession is coming, right? The new year around the corner. Maybe some of your, maybe you wanna talk about either your process or give us some tips for how to build brands, in next year.

What's relevant now in, in branding how we should approach brand building?

Todd Irwin: Yeah, it's interesting. And I've been running brand strategy agencies for the last 20 years. It's always been one of those things that you have to convince leadership to do. There's always been this tendency for leadership to think that it's more of a cost than it's an investment.

I think it's changed over the last five or five years or so. I, we're seeing a lot more senior level executives who aren't in the marketing department, the CEOs, even the CFOs who they look at it now, they're like, okay, we understand that it brings value and we see it as an investment.

Anytime there's a downturn in the market it's tough on a business but it's also an opportunity to gain market share. And what gains market share more than brand? So investing in brand right now is actually, we believe should be a priority a hundred percent. Because of that, because of that opportunity with the downturn.

Now, I'm not an economist, but I've heard a lot of skepticism around whether that downturn is coming or not. What's interesting is to watch the news right now and listen to, specifically business news and the different opinions about the downturn. What I love about listening to it is it really is all about perception and that it does support what we do as marketers, as branders is we are building perception.

There's a lot of economists right now who don't think that there's really any financial indicators that that, 0.2 of recession, you know, and there's a lot of disagreement about this, but the bottom line is that it's all based around perception effects, buying perception effects, markets.

It's fascinating.

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, that's a good point. And that's, that's interesting. So basically some of my key takeaways here would be, so think about your brand positioning as a top of mind. And then other things like purpose and other concepts. They become secondary, right?

So your overall branding should there, there are multiple levels to that, right? Your positioning should be, should be like the overarching oneingular, overarching idea, right? That's right. That's right. And you also made a good point about the shift not that is now happening, that more and more brands and startups and entrepreneurs they start to, understand, they understand more that brand strategies actually an investment.

And it's actually important now more than ever. And they don't see it as cost anymore. There is this shift too. And so can we just speak to the process? What is your process? How do you work with clients? How long usually I understand that. Work closely with your with your clients to help them with strategy and then also storytelling and design and so on.

But can you talk to us a bit about what is your typical process, working with a typical client?

Step-by-Step Process (Tips)

Todd Irwin: Yeah. I think our process is very similar to other agencies. We start with deep dive research into markets, looking closely at the trying to understand what their desires are, what are the problems that they're trying to solve?

We look in that, first phase research, deep dive. We're looking at competitors. If you're gonna get to a, an effective brand strategy, you have to understand what the competition's weaknesses are. So those things are critical. Once we have all that figured out and understand the objectives and the ambitions of the company, then we go into developing strategy.

And it always starts with how we're gonna position the brand in the market. And depositioning approach that we spoke about. Once we have figured out what that theme and concept is for positioning, then we go into telling the brand narrative. How do we how do we message to it? How do we tell that?

So it's, explaining who you are, what you do, why you matter, how you do it. And it's interesting to us, so many companies, even big companies, they don't have a consistent way of telling that story. So that's part of the brand strategy, messaging, storytelling. And we believe that, companies should tell deep, the deeper the story, the more a customer is gonna trust you. Once we have that brand strategy, that narrative figured out, then we can go into visual identity, how do we tell the story visual that we actually call it visual storytelling. And that gets into, logo design, if we're refreshing a brand visually colors typography, photography, so forth and so on.

And then the last thing we do is we build assets and we help our companies or our clients. We help them build their brand. So that gets into the more tactical stuff. Now we're a brand strategy and creative agency, so everything that we do is in that lane so to speak. But then we help our clients bring in, more tactical partners like PR agencies, media strategists, I see.

So forth and so on. I see. So that's a pretty basic overview of our process.

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, that's also totally makes sense. You take it from the strategy to messaging, storytelling to design and also to help your clients, go beyond that, how them actually launch that new brand. Work with That's right.

Agencies and marketing agencies and so on correctly. Awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time to, to come on the show and share your perspective on branding and positioning. And for those who just wanna connect with you, what's the best way, are you active on LinkedIn?

Todd Irwin: Very active on LinkedIn or you can go to our website, it's fazer, Agency F A Z E R agency is our site. You can catch me on LinkedIn there too. Great to be on the show with you talking about the stuff. Really enjoyed it.

Arek Dvornechuck: Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much.

Save money

Best Deals for Creatives

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission.
Branding Guide

Build a brand your customers will love.

Start a project

Need help with your brand?