It’s Not All About Brand

We met with a new prospect last week, and in the process met a new friend. That’s the best part of this work—meeting people, forming relationships and solving problems together.

He was my age—maybe a few years older. And he hit on a notion that I talk about all the time, particularly with recent college grads: Our industry and our schools worship at the altar of The Brand. That’s all we seem to talk about. He said, “When I was learning the business, we didn’t talk brand. We talked positioning. “

A brand without a well-articulated position is a rudderless ship. The brand may be the sizzle, but the position is the steak.

Back in the late eighties, our founder, John Muller, won a piece of business to promote tourism for the state of Missouri. John told a great story about how, as soon as he won, he called Al Reis—the man credited with coining the term “positioning.”

As the story went, John was very confident in his firm’s ability to deliver fantastic creative work. But he recognized that for this campaign, Missouri needed to position itself as something more active and interesting than “The Show-Me State.” John did, in fact, do awesome creative—award winning, impact driving. But he recognized then, as we all need to recognize today, great brand work is a byproduct of great positioning.

I think it’s important for all of us to revisit the value of positioning our clients’ products and services. That’s where the brand process begins. In all honesty, it’s probably been 5 years since I read Reis and Trout’s seminal work, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. I think it may be time to dust that one off.

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