Branding & Strategic Positioning Professional Tips

On Thursday 25th April, PRLab hosted its Meetup on Branding and Strategic Positioning at the De Pijp offices of Impraise. We have summarized the three presentations into one article, which describes branding issues your business might have to deal with.

published: January 28, 2021
updated: June 26, 2024

Marketing experts discuss branding and strategic positioning​

On Thursday 25th April, PRLab hosted the latest branding edition of its Meetup at the De Pijp offices of Impraise. With a close focus on branding and strategic positioning.

Looking to build off of the momentum of the last event, PRLab sought out some of the leading startup and corporate personalities to discuss the latest trends and challenges facing the industry today. Given the meetup's goal of examining and providing solutions to the question of innovation, we set an agenda that ensures all attendants leave with their finger on the pulse of all things PR.

To achieve this we recruited TomTom’s Senior Brand Strategist Diogo Pinheiro, Branding expert Agustina Turchetto and Growth Marketer Tobias Liebsch to give keynotes about branding and strategic positioning to a crowd of 130+ industry specialists over beer and pizza.

For the reader to get a glimpse into what the meetup looked like, we have summarized the three presentations into one bitesize article which you can resort back to whenever you feel stumped with any branding issues your business is having.

Why is crisis management important for business?

Acknowledging and responding to any problem as soon as possible is essential. By doing so, you’re better at controlling the narrative and messaging you want to put out. This is where crisis management comes in. Having a plan in place ensures a better and faster response. Also, it won’t always be possible to fix it immediately, so a crisis management plan is vital here.

One thing is for sure, ignoring it and hoping it goes away won’t work. This may create more bad publicity than the actual problem and show your unpreparedness. As part of a crisis plan, employees should also be given guidelines for responding. You need a unified message and action plan. A well-planned and unplanned response can mean the difference between weathering the storm, severe long-term damage, or even business failure.

Diogo Pinheiro – The magic of brand positioning​

Diogo Pinheiro has long toiled the land of branding and strategic positioning, with over 10 years of experience in the field. During his tenure at Desperados as Global Communications Manager, he orchestrated some of the brand’s most notable global campaigns. These included some groundbreakers: the world’s first zero-gravity party above Las Vegas, the first hot air balloon electric light orchestra in Barcelona and the world’s deepest dance floor in Venice.

His talk saw him draw on his previous experience to extrapolate the potent points. To start, he listed some established brands that have become synonymous with the adjectives people use to describe them. Sleek design and innovative tech? Apple. Sunny beach and beer? Corona. Kids, fantasy and fun? Disney. They have been able to achieve this cerebral position in the minds of audiences through strong brand positioning. Customers have meaningful associations with these brands, forging a place where the product becomes a part of the buyers’ repertoire. That’s why branding and strategic positioning is so crucial.

Brands that position themselves uniquely do so by securing three things: relevance, credibility, and distinction. They achieve the first by making sure the brand represents an offer that actually matters in consumers’ lives, addressing motivations that need to be fulfilled. Credibility comes from, among other things, being truthful to the brand and what it can deliver. Finally, distinctiveness is achieved not only through brand personality but also with a clearly defined and actionable role in consumers’ lives.

A successful FMCG brand, i.e., one that is able to reach and be consumed by a large number of people, hence driving business results, must resonate with the volume target, and not only with the aspirational one. Some prominent examples of a successful linking of these two targets include Red Bull – the aspirational being going to the extremes, the volume being those who need an energy boost – and Apple – creative minds that go beyond the usual being the aspirational target and those who use tech in everyday life the volume one.

Diogo also spoke to the importance of brands solving problems for their customers by offering something they can trust, understand and identify with. Dove has long made a name for itself by challenging the traditional beauty norms that have been foisted upon women ad infinitum. Their Campaign for Real Beauty, launched in 2004, has become an industry benchmark as their brand promulgates beauty as self-defined and coming from within. Nike too has lodged its ethos into the Zeitgeist, positioning itself as a solution for achievement on any level despite a world where only winners are celebrated. Its “Just Do It” edict taps into the motivation of customers, that despite them not being accomplished athletes now, the most important thing they can do is take that first step.

With an attentive audience on hand at the meetup, many will be taking their first step towards an informed, effective and mindful positioning of their brand thank to Diogo’s insights.

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Agustina Turchetto – Building a brand that listens​

Agustina truly takes the cake when it comes to working in design. Not only does she have years (15, to be more exact) of experience, she also co-founded Aeronave visual, a visual studio now based in Amsterdam, and has worked as a design professor at the University of Architecture, Design & Urbanism located in Argentina.

Her approach to branding is simple – it’s about people. One can create an approachable and successful brand focusing on the 4 key elements: empathy, openness, vulnerability, and honesty. Once you can find those qualities in you and your business, implementing them will attract customers with the same values as you which is what you should be aiming for anyway, right? It’s sort of like a push-pull effect. You don’t want to push your ideas on people, that might work in advertising but if you want to sell your brand, transparency and honesty are key. If you implement them to your branding strategy, mix in the four focus points given by Agustina, and stop being pushy, you’ll mirror the actions of your audience which will pull them in and make them more prone to support you.

For this to really work, Agustina introduced us to the soft skills required to face the challenge of a branding strategy:

  • Be humble, you don’t know everything.
  • Embrace the unknown, you want to be surprised.
  • It’s not about you and your ego.
  • Open your mind and your heart.
  • Build from the inside out.
  • Improvise.
  • Trust in chaos, it sparks creativity like nothing else.
  • Inspiration hides on the most uncommon places,
  • Recognize the pattern, the structure within the specific case.

After explaining the human-centered way of branding and strategic positioning, Agustina decided to show it. The exercise had one purpose – for the people to experience first hand how empathy, vulnerability and being open help us connect and discover uniqueness in others. Participants had to write a word that they feel describes them the best on a post-it note, stick it on their forehead to make things extra fun, and then spark up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to them by asking them a quirky question about their word. After getting the answer, they had to ask ‘why?’. Then they asked it4 times again to get down to what that word really portrayed in their identity. A buzz of small talk quickly turned into a roaring conversation (and a fair bit of laughter) that took over the room – people saw and believed the appeal of the strategy.

Agustina also wrote down her experience on a more intimate level, sharing her insights on how it felt to be vulnerable (on stage) and tell people to act the same.

Tobias Liebsch – on “Growth Branding”​

Tobias has always struggled with being in between the worlds of Growth Marketing and Branding. Growth Hackers claim that brand-driven marketers can’t read data – Brand Marketers claim that Growth Hackers are solely focused on short-term results and have no vision or a long-term mindset.

He eventually recognized it was time to merge Growth Marketing and Branding, combining data-driven experiments and execution speed with proven Branding strategies.

As an example, he used the NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki and his journey to success. Imagine Dirk as the ‘brand marketing’ side of this equation. He was designed to go far due to his talent, he was positioned properly to do so by his parents, and he had a clear vision to kick ass at basketball and make a name out of himself. To achieve his mission, he absolutely needed the help of his all-star trainer Holger Geschwindner, who now takes the role of ‘growth marketing’. He pretty much did A/B testing on Dirk by trial and error in training, sped up his improvement process with previous knowledge from his own experience in playing, and utilizing the data he had collected from that time and extensive research as a coach.

Growth Branding, the partnership of Dirk and Holger, might get the wheel turning but how do you keep it in motion? Obtaining a strategy is worthless if one doesn’t know how to sustain it. Well, Tobias has a potion that will keep your audience coming back and helps you get the appropriate message through to them – ask questions!

Questions demand interaction, they create a discussion, and therefore, increase engagement. A dialogue can turn into a story that keeps the audience committed and intrigued, maintaining your community and building that relationship where it’s not just one-sided (lucky you!)

To help the audience bring a bit of Growth Branding and Strategic Positioning into life, Tobias decided to give them 10 quick tips on how to scale their brand with simple questions.

Now, the question is, where and how to ask those questions? (Spoiler alert: cheat-sheet below!)

  • Ask Questions in Your Social Media Posts
  • Use Questions in Your E-Mail Campaigns
  • Use questions in Automation Flows for Segmentation
  • Use Questions in Automation Flows for Interaction
  • Use Questions in your sales copy & Headlines to Create Responses
  • Use Questions in Direct Messages (LinkedIn, Chatbots…)
  • Use Questions in Presentations, Calls, Personal Interactions
  • Dare to use Open Questions instead of Feedback Forms
  • Use Questions for SEO
  • Use Questions to Create Questions & User-generated Dialogue

It all comes down to what Tobias calls the 3 building blocks of living and growing a brand: creating touchpoints, reaching a bigger audience and getting direct feedback. So, ask away and assemble your image with the iron walls of Growth Branding.

By now, you should be manically writing down a to-do list of every step you will now have to take to create a successful communications strategy. Use this article as your one-stop-shop for brand positioning and utilize all the cheat sheets given by our lovely speakers.

Hannah Ray – on “Brand & Business Consulting”​

Hannah Ray is the owner of TAKE Coaching Amsterdam. She offers business coaching, as well as brand consulting, career coaching and life coaching among her services. She spent 10 years as a brand + business strategist at agencies like 72andSunny Amsterdam, St Luke’s London and TBWA, working on international brands like eBay, adidas, Tinder + Old Mout.

She then trained as an ICF-accredited Life + Business Coach and now works with small business owners - from a dog groomer, couples starting boutique hotels and padel clubs, to a PR specialist and swimwear designer + entrepreneur.

If you’ve started your own small business as part of a lifestyle change, then, for motivation’s sake, your brand positioning needs to serve your ‘why’. It will keep you connected to your goals and vision as you navigate the rollercoaster of running your own business, as well as allowing your audience to connect with the unique things that make you, you.

Hannah Ray’s approach starts with a series of life and business coaching sessions to explore more extract what makes you and your business unique and distinctive:

  • What’s your story? How did you get here? What were/are your challenges? What’s your why?
  • What are your values as a person (or team) and a business?
  • What is success for you? What’s your vision? What are your goals? What will you avoid?
  • Who is your dream customer? What do you need to know about them in order to serve them well?
  • What is unique about your product and/or service? How can you maintain and evolve it?

She then filters more forms this information to craft a unique brand positioning for you; Because it is built from the inside out, it integrates and serves both your business and personal objectives, needs more desires.

This approach to brand positioning is not right for everyone.

It is incredibly useful for heart-led business owners who want a compass that they can keep on coming back to across the journey and various demands of owning and growing a small business.

It is an approach that will help them prioritise tasks, focus on direction, and communicate clearly more distinctively with their own voice, for those earlier years in business.

January 28, 2021
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Jacolene Jonker
Jacolene Jonker
Content writer at PRLab
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