Why brands suck at positioning themselves

This article was provided by FoxFuel Creative as part of our Member Content program.

FoxFuel did some therapy recently and we were confronted with a truth we weren’t terribly excited to face. While agencies pride themselves on their ability to strategically and creatively guide their clients to strong positioning, we do a pretty poor job of positioning ourselves uniquely. In our journey of self-discovery, we got to thinking about the mishaps that are most common when it comes to brand positioning. Now there are some things that are a bit unique to agencies that we’ll get into in a later post, but we thought we’d start with a case study that points out three key mishaps we often see among brands today.  


What Razors Can Tell Us About Positioning

From 2010 to 2016, Gillette’s market share fell from 70% to 54%, and in 2017 they had to slash their prices by 20%. Why? Well, there are a few contributing factors but we’d be remiss not to mention the little 5-year-old company who P&G (Gillette’s parent company) bought for a casual $1 billion last year. Dollar Shave Club (DSC) launched in 2011 selling razors for just $1 a pop and took over the market doing it. So how does a startup become a billion dollar company in just 5 years while the brand that led the razor industry for decades spirals downward? We have a few ideas.   



Prioritizing The Product

One common issue we see is the tendency to focus on the product over the brand. The messaging comes in hot and heavy, bombarding the consumer with facts and features they see no value in. Gillette is a great example. Just a quick glance at their packaging tells you that they lack focus on what the consumer actually values. Closer shave, less irritation, raindrops on blue strips, Turbo cutting blades (whatever the hell that means), and oh my goodness, you can shave 10 times and still have a “comfortable shave” can you believe it?! DSC takes a very different approach, keeping packaging and presentation incredibly simple and focused on what they know their audience will find valuable. Not to mention their use of humor which we’re always big fans of. 



Missing The Market

Gillette’s success historically laid with an audience that valued a close, clean shave. Pops took pride in the ritual of his morning shave and a baby-smooth jawline. And the leading razor company had great success with that audience for a time. But in case you haven’t been around anyone under the age of 60 lately, big and burly is in, which means Gillette’s message of close and clean is falling on deaf hairy ears. Another angle Gillette is still hammering away at is the idea that a razor sets a man apart. From Pee Wee Reese in the 1950s to Roger Federer in 2012, they’ve positioned Gillette as the razor for the elite man. Their most recent campaign goes as far as positioning them as the brand for superheroes.

That commercial has around just under 133k views on YouTube, the superhero commercial 110k. DSC’s commercial with practically no budget or media spend? Over 25 million views.  

What makes this commercial so incredibly successful despite little to no budget? They know their market and they develop content accordingly. It’s relatable to the average dude and it not only cuts through the bullshit, it calls it out, using transparency, simplicity, and humor to engage its primary audience. It’s a resounding reminder that media dollars can only carry you so far. Content holds the true power.  

Content Is Still King

Defining and influencing the public perception of your brand is not an easy feat. You have to know who you’re talking to, which likely means doing some research into your audience and their decision process, and then developing content that effectively engages them. Gillette’s positioning hasn’t truly evolved since the 1950s. They’ve repurposed the same chapter in their story over and over again and readers are bored with it. DSC succeeded, not only because the content was fresh and new, but because it stepped into the user’s story, giving purpose and character to something that’s already a regular part of their narrative. So for any brand, three solid steps toward stronger positioning are knowing and committing to your true value, using research to know and understand your audience, and being bold enough to claim a role in their story through great content. Lucky for you, FoxFuel’s got some great experience in all three for our clients. Still working on ourselves, but that’s a story for another post.  

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