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International Column

Decoding the brand positioning conundrum

Understanding branding, positioning, and customer loyalty is more challenging than ever. New media technologies can have a profound impact

Editorial team 15 June 2012

ANFAWFOS (And Now For A Word From Our Sponsors) – Those in touch with today’s media and texting readily know what those eight letters mean. It’s a small indication of our changing communication styles and the shifts from the understandings of the boomer and fringe-boomer generations. They grew up in what they believed to be the most righteous and prosperous nation in the world. They had fought the war to end all wars, science was a sacred cow, they had migrated from family radio hours to TV-viewing, hard work would get everyone two cars in the driveway and a house with a picket fence – and yes, booze and recreational drugs were there as well, perhaps as a passing phase. But, of course, they never inhaled. And human behaviour, marketing, and advertising became their professional passions. WFM (Works For Me).

Think of this note as ANFAWFOOOT (a word from one of our teachers). My interests grew out of pharmacology, working with the space program, and research on human factors. Ideally, I bring a level of understanding to life that is fairly common within the boomer and fringe-boomer generations. Evolving from those experiences, I have spent the majority of my career interested in communication and its marketplace applications. We know that the changes we are now experiencing and the speed with which they occur are unprecedented. We seek to understand how these changes impact fundamental human behaviour – consideration, persuasion, influence, satisfaction – and, yes, advertising and marketing communications. 

In a tri-generational, multimedia, fragmented-society workplace, understanding branding, positioning, and customer loyalty is more challenging than ever before. The digital natives know the digital immigrants (q.v. Prensky) struggle; they try hard to be patient and not laugh. The pace of introduction and adoption of new consumer products, developments and persuasion techniques is increasing. With communication channels that work in nanoseconds, the effectiveness of conventional media is questioned. And so the problem is defined; what do we do next and how relevant are the processes and learnings we have brought with us? And if you’re a teacher – OMG (Oh My God) – what do you use for a lecture?

Perhaps it is the media, and our relationship with those resources, which best defines or determines our values and attitudes and serves as the core from which our new beginnings should stem. In a profession in which decisions that in the past were built upon cost per thousand (CPT or CPM), cost per point (CPP), and the challenges of return on investment (ROI) and share fight, what should be the operative criteria for new media? The transfer of attention from compelling, beautifully executed magazine ads and high-value, compelling, 30-second television commercials to a 24/7 cable news culture and an attention-getting buzz or vibe from a smartphone strapped to our waist or buried in our purse may be an excellent starting point. In that approach the metrics or well-described outcomes essentially serve to frame our strategies; we really can only manage what we can measure. While product sales comparisons are readily accepted as valid and reliable indices of performance, descriptions of engagement or unique visitors have become the metrics and definition of success or failure in a digital communication world. TSTB (The Sooner The Better).
New media and their relationship to technology will be – for the next decade at least – a source of discovery and enlightenment. The changes already in place as well as those that are, in a sense, moments away are not merely innovative; rather, they are revolutionary and their impact is, and will be, profound. New media and the problems to be solved make advertising and public relations a more exciting, relevant and challenging career than ever before. Their work will reflect the ways in which we relate to products and services and to each other in the 21st century. Some comments from a WOG (Wise Old Guy).

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