Boats and brands are more similar than you might imagine. They are both faced with navigational challenges, forced to weather storms, and unable to guide themselves. As a boat needs a good crew to succeed, so too does a brand.
Dead reckoning is one of the earliest forms of Marine Navigation and remains widely used to this day as a form of backup navigation. It works by using a starting point to calculate advancements based upon heading, speed, and time. Multiply speed by time to get the distance traveled. Then take the distance traveled and add it to the starting point following the heading. The process repeats, each time using the previous calculation point to find the current point. Dead reckoning also involves charting the points on a map, allowing for its use along a predetermined path. By utilizing dead reckoning a navigator knows when the ship needs to turn and can predict how long it will take the ship to make it to the next landmark or calculation point.
For a brand, dead reckoning works to chart the actual course of a brand alongside its positioning. The desired positioning serves as the set path and destination for a brand; however, positioning is useless if it isn’t followed upon properly. A brand has to calculate from their current strategic point where the next point is, how quickly they can get there, and how close they are to that endpoint relative to their positioning. With this mindset, a brand can evaluate how closely they are sticking to their positioning at set strategic milestones and will have the ability to predict the distance to their next strategic point, or even their destination, accurately.
The main issue with dead reckoning is its small margin for error. Since the calculation is constantly repeated based upon the previous point, the errors compound over time and become an exponentially larger problem. For a ship, a miscalculation could mean being lost at sea without even knowing it. The correlation to a brand would be lost opportunity since you may never realize the full benefit of the most desirable positioning. Small changes in course based only on current market conditions or short-term opportunities can put the larger brand perspective in jeopardy. Much as you can imagine how a ship may become dramatically off course by making heading changes to chase a tale of lost gold en route to its true destination.
Both boats and brands need to place a high level of value upon careful navigation. Before setting out to sea, any good captain ensures he has an accurate location of the destination and has plotted a safe and efficient course to arrive there. A brand team must do the same by ensuring they have developed a strong and desirable positioning, uncovered the hazards that may potentially prevent them from achieving it, and plotted the strategic steps necessary to ensure arrival.
With an ever-changing marketplace, brand navigation is difficult and accurate predictions are even more so. Strong, strategic positioning development and a vigilant effort to measure your location along the way will help to minimize the course deviation that has left many a brand adrift. The right process and the right strategic partner will help you chart a better course for your brands and make it easier for you to navigate the marketing sea.