Are You Marketing Your Product — or Your Category?
If you’ve been reading our blog, you know that Alpha Dog Advertising is a strategic brand development and marketing communications firm. We have written quite a few posts on how we develop strong brands and effective branding strategies. In this post we are going to discuss the importance of positioning your brand correctly — to promote the category you sell in, not the product or service you sell.
Sounds a bit counterintuitive, right?
It is important for you to be the leading brand in your category. Depending on how competitive or oversaturated your category may be, this could be a monumental challenge, especially if you’re trying to solve your brand positioning or brand development challenge internally. You may lack the perspective to objectively view your brand and your customer. But that is an entirely different blog post. Let’s get back to positioning your brand and promoting a category that you can lead.
The reason you want to be the leading brand is you actually want your brand to be known for its category, not its product. People typically think of a general category over a specific product when they need a solution. So let’s play out that scenario with two examples of brand positioning that our marketing agency helped to create.
Flagger Force: Standing Out through Effective Brand Positioning
At its inception, Flagger Force was a temporary staffing company that provided a specific service to its clients: traffic control for a finite length of time. The focus for the client was outsourcing the liability and eliminating the overhead of having an internal crew of their own. Because this was the problem the client had, this was the focus of Flagger Force’s marketing and communication strategy. Sound logic, but also what their competitors were focusing on.
While this brand positioning worked for a while, it quickly was not enough to overcome larger competitors and expand the brand’s market share. Enter Alpha Dog Advertising. By working with Flagger Force’s leadership team and using our method of breaking down complex or unique business models, we were able to help promote what they really were — a safety company, not a traffic control staffing company.
While this might seem like an obvious solution, it wasn’t at the time. No one in their industry was leading their marketing efforts with a safety message. By creating a brand message focused on safety, we were able to shift away from the traditional liability and overhead conversation to a conversation about safety that Flagger Force was now controlling and leading. This is how you get your brand recognized, by promoting the category (safety) over the service (traffic control).
Once this marketing strategy was implemented, Flagger Force’s sales growth increased rapidly over previous years. They were now the leaders in the safety category, and they just happened to offer traffic control as a service. By shifting the conversation from their service to their category, Flagger Force was able to own it and lead it.
Simon Lever: Creating a Brand Message that Speaks Volumes
Simon Lever is a mid-size CPA and business advisory firm competing against much larger firms in the area. During a brand audit, we discovered that they had nothing significantly different to say than their competitors in regard to their services. They were stuck in the typical tax and business advisory conversations when it came to developing new business, and hence they were struggling to stand out in the category of accounting.
They called on Alpha Dog Advertising to help them develop a new brand position that would lead to a category they could own. If you can’t develop something truly unique, a tried-and-true rule of marketing is you need to be the first to promote a category position. The brand that states it first is often the one that is thought of first.
We started with one question: Why do people care about hiring an accountant? After all, they could buy software like TurboTax, do it themselves, and probably save money, even as a business.
The bottom line is, people don’t care about accounting. They care about keeping as much of their earned revenue as they can. They are not seeking an accounting firm; they are seeking a way to keep more of their money. They want an advantage as it relates to their income and finances, period.
Hence, Simon Lever’s new brand position promoted them as a financial advantage firm, not an accounting firm. The firm’s partners help their clients gain a financial advantage, not just get their taxes done.
Their competitors were still pushing their messaging as top accounting firms, allowing Simon Lever to own the category of financial advantage firm. This changes the conversation during the sales process and allows Simon Lever to promote the category of financial advantage, not the service of accounting and business advising.
Both of these examples of brand positioning are based on solid branding and messaging tactics. These take time to develop correctly, and a new brand position and message takes an average of three years to significantly grab hold if promoted consistently and intentionally. When you create a category, the focus is on creating a whole new “pie” — not just trying to gain a larger slice of an existing pie.
It’s not an overnight solution, and it is often not an inexpensive one. But done correctly and executed strategically, the payoff for your brand is exponential related to your initial investment in brand development.
If you have questions or want to learn more about how Alpha Dog Advertising can help your brand be the leader in a category, please reach out! We’d love to start a fun and interesting conversation about your brand with you.