Brand positioning: A matter of perception

To see the magic of brand positioning in-action, dine at a bustling restaurant. Listen to your fellow diners turn down the sparkling wine selection in favour of champagne. Listen to them enquire about the brand of bottled water on offer. Listen to them order oysters.

The appetite for these items hasn’t stemmed from their great taste alone – it’s about perception.

Champagne is a type of sparkling wine. The only difference between the two is that champagne is made using grapes grown in France’s Champagne region. The thing that makes so many wine drinkers reach for the French fizz over its generic-sounding counterpart is the perception that it’s superior.

The perception of superiority is the same reason some consumers prefer one bottled water brand over another, despite the fact that all bottled water is basically the same.

As for oysters, they’re considered luxury cuisine now, but were once seen as a poor man’s food. Before industrialisation, oysters were so readily available that they became a popular choice for the working class. It wasn’t until their numbers dwindled that they became sought-after for their exclusivity.

What’s important to note here is that oysters didn’t go from being disgusting one day to delicious the next. Rather, it was consumers’ perceptions that shifted. They used to look at oysters and see a lowly meal for the working class. Now, they see a delicacy reserved for the elite. Same oysters, different perceptions.

So if your brand isn’t gaining the momentum it deserves – it might have nothing to do with the products and services you’re offering, and everything to do with how you’re positioning them to be perceived.

This is a good thing. It means that with robust research, strategic thinking, and a good dose of creativity – you can change your trajectory.

Positioning can turn your difference into a superpower

Successful brands are ones that stand out from their competitors in a good way. What brand strategists know is that ‘good’ is in the eye of the beholder. It’s a matter of perception. It’s a matter of positioning.

Take Heinz’s tale of product positioning.

Now a household staple, there was a moment when Heinz ketchup’s future wasn’t so certain. Decades back, new Heinz competitors were appearing thick and fast – dazzling consumers with thinner, free-flowing ketchup formulas, a stark contrast to Heinz’s thick, globby sauce.

Rather than changing its recipe, Heinz positioned its product in a way that made thickness synonymous with quality.

Heinz emphasised the fact that it used real, fresh tomatoes, and no other additives. Sure, that meant you had to tap the bottom of the bottle to get the ketchup onto the plate – but that’s a small price to pay for premium quality ketchup, isn’t it?

Heinz’s linking of thickness with quality has become a cornerstone brand element, as seen in its recent “thicker is tastier” campaign.

Positioning can change consumer behaviour

For some brands, repositioning is a tool to change how and when consumers use your product or service.

Canadian Club’s ‘Over Beer?’ campaign is a great example of this.

In a clever response to Australia’s beer-drinking culture, Canadian Club’s campaign is built around the human truth of ‘sometimes we drink beer because it’s the default choice, not because we actually feel like it’. This campaign positions its dark spirit, a drink rarely known for its thirst-quenching ability, as a refreshing alternative to beer.

Since the launch of this campaign, Canadian Club has experienced a 90% growth in sales – indicating that repositioning Canadian Club has led to more people turning down their usual pint in favour of an icy CC and dry.

Effective positioning strategy must evolve

Repositioning strategy is all about changing your brand’s position in your customers’ minds.

As brands expand their offering, observe market shifts, and engage new target audiences – their positioning should evolve accordingly.

What’s important to keep in mind is that the core driver of killer positioning, just like every other key brand and business decision, isn’t ‘what do we do?’ – it’s ‘what does our customer want?’

Need help with a brand positioning problem?

Human truths: The driving force of great creative

Human truths are insights that are undeniably true.

Used wisely, they capture the feelings we know so well, but perhaps haven’t articulated.

They scratch the itch we didn’t know was there.

In creative work, human truths are slithers of gold, because they connect with us on a deeper level.

They leap over the features, the benefits, the surface-level logic of why we should buy and they touch down in the place every brand wants to be – resonance.

While the term ‘human truth’ has an air of seriousness, these insights can fall anywhere on the emotive spectrum.

Take OAK’s HungryThirsty campaign from The MonkeysThe human truth here? Sometimes we feel a little bit hungry and a little bit thirsty.

Or Golden Gaytime’s ice cream bites campaign from Clemenger BBDO Sydney. The guiding human truth: We all know what it’s like to have a friend who constantly asks for a bite of our food.

If these truths feel a bit obvious, good. They should. Genuine human truths aren’t met with “eureka!”. They’re met with “of course”. They are hiding in plain sight, right under our noses. They are simple. That is their power.

Why human truths work

On the hierarchy of needs, a sense of belonging slots in right after our need for physiological essentials and safety.

We all want to belong. We all want to feel understood. And when a piece of creative connects with a feeling, experience, thought, or goal that lives deep inside us – that’s exactly how we feel.

Human truths aren’t just for campaigns

Brand connection is more psychological than logical, which is why no one ever built a brand by just talking about the benefits.

Human truths are essential in forging brand identities that are textured, engaging, and geared for connection.

Take Disney, who made an empire from this simple human insight:
We all want to experience awe. We all want to lose ourselves in magic.

Positioning itself as the happiest place on earth, Disney took a simple, enduring human truth and built a kingdom. In everything Disney does is an invitation to step into a world of wonder; a call to reconnect with the imagination that took you on so many adventures as a child.

Human truths can only be discovered

Human truths cannot be made, they can only be discovered. They are artefacts hiding in plain sight – waiting to be unearthed.

But being found, rather than created doesn’t mean they are effortless to assemble. Identifying human truths takes rigorous research into your brand, audience, and the market landscape you exist within.

But here’s the catch – research alone doesn’t make a human truth.

Data can only take you so far. What it needs is something that cannot be mined from research or pulled from the pages of journals.

What you need is meaning; an ability to read between the lines; an innate understanding for life’s textures. What you need is the ‘human’.

The data said: Hunger negatively affects our mood.
The human truth: You’re not you when you’re hungry.

Whether you’re building a brand or a campaign, the truth is your greatest shot at connection.

Looking for a hand to deliver creative that rings true?

“Our Motherland” – Winner of ‘The Pitch’ on Gruen

Driven were recently invited to enter “The Pitch” on Episode 5, Season 8 of the ABC’s very popular show on advertising – Gruen. What a week and a what a win for the team!

The brief was to convince the Australian public that we should have an all female parliament. Our idea was to align the trust we have with our mothers and women in our lives, with the running of our country – the motherland.

We didn’t really have any expectations for our ‘Pitch’ spot, we were just humbled and excited to be involved!

Big thanks to Sophie Farquhar, Adam Harriden, Hayley MacFarlane, The Post Office, Todd Levi and all the team. Such a memorable experience – well done everyone!

Check out the whole Gruen Pitch segment here.

Want to find out more about our experience on ‘The Pitch’?