brand positioning-woman holding TOMS Shoes

A brand promise represents a brand’s primary point of difference. In the traditional model for brand positioning, conventional wisdom suggests the promise must be a customer benefit. This is essentially the “what” that the brand provides to customers. Many positioning models refer to this component as “benefit,” not “promise.” However, this thinking is limiting and outdated for a few reasons, including:

Reconsidering the Brand Promise

In some categories, the customer benefit is virtually universal (e.g., most everyone who uses shampoo wants beautiful hair). So, the only way to differentiate is to emphasize some other aspect of the brand. Pantene Pro-V, for example, differentiates itself not so much on the benefit of beautiful hair, but rather its unique means for achieving it: vitamin-infused formulations. In this example, the point of difference is more in the “how” than the “what.”

In addition to the “what,” other options for brand positioning include focusing on the “how,” the “why,” and the “who.” As promised in a previous post, we will discuss the brand promise beyond merely “what.” 

A Brand Purpose (” Why”)

“Why” is a purpose, cause, or belief. It’s the very reason your organization exists—put simply, why it does what it does. When a brand is focused on a “why”, they intend to attract an audience that supports their purpose, not just their product or service. 

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in purchasing from purpose-driven brands, especially brands practicing sustainability. A brand’s purpose is meant to be seen as more prominent than the product. This “why” is often a charity, an initiative, or an end goal of solving a problem. Often, consumers have a hard time choosing between companies with similar products. Still, a brand having a higher purpose may be the push consumers need to pick one company over another. 

TOMS Shoes

One of the most common strategies of employing the “why” is the implementation of the “buy one, give one (BOGO)” model. The market first saw this with TOMS Shoes. TOMS created a promise to the customers that for every pair of shoes purchased, a pair would be donated. These types of campaigns resonate extremely well with consumers because it allows them to help with a cause that normally would seem way out of their reach. This new model changed the market and has since been adopted by many different types of companies. 

Another example of positioning the brand around a “why” promise is Love Your Melon—a non-profit company created to raise money for cancer research. They are committed to donating a beanie to every child battling cancer. They are an extreme version of a “why” promise company. 

When looking at “why” brands, we can more or less divide them into two segments— those created for the charity and those who added their cause after launching the company. Eyeglass brand Warby Parker with a “BOGO” model, did not found their company on the idea of donating glasses, but it was added later on as a marketing plan. Brands like Love Your Melon see an issue or cause they want to help and create a company around that cause. That said, customers respect and buy into both forms. In general, consumers like the idea of their purchase benefiting more than just them. 

Companies that position the brand around a “why” are often seeking the customer looking for more than just the actual product or service. Consumers want to feel that their purchase will benefit more than just them. The public cannot always help charities important to them, so finding a product that will help is crucial. 

When purpose truly drives the brand, customers who share that purpose become fiercely loyal, to the point where their passion for the cause and their love for the brand become indistinguishable from each other.

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