Perceptual Extension

You have been bombarded with articles, tips, emails, and diatribes explaining the importance positioning plays in the perceptions of brands.  It is also inarguable that the creation of a strong emotional perception of a brand can make the difference between mediocrity and blazing success.  From Amazon to Twitter, and Harley-Davidson to Avis (more on Avis in our next tip) most of us can site many examples of well-positioned brands that own distinct space in the market and in the mind.

As we began thinking about the content for this tip we were looking to address the differences between a strongly positioned brand such as Dove Soap and one such as Apple.  We can all identify the perceptions that these two brands hold with their customers, but we also recognize that each exists on a different plane in the positioning universe.  One obvious difference is that Apple is a more public brand meaning that its products are more recognizable in the public setting than body soap, so people can see you carrying around your iPhone, but probably have no idea what brand of soap you used in the shower this morning.

As we were discussing this, one of our team members mentioned a comment he received at a workshop we were conducting.  Apparently, one of our clients took particular note of the fact that each of our team members was carrying an iPhone and working on a MacBook Pro and inquired that if he came to work for us would he get an iPhone and MacBook Pro too.  In discussing this it became clear to our team that the fact that we used Apple products connoted a perception about our company that was tinted by Apple’s positioning.  The perception that our company is an interesting and creative place to work was pushed by the brand of laptop we were using.

Now this isn’t a new phenomenon, automobiles and motorcycles (think BMW, Mercedes, Rolls Royce, and Harley-Davidson) and you see how ‘lifestyle’ brands can cloak their customers in a perception viewed by the larger population.  But what is new is that a ‘technology’ company has transcended more traditional brand-based positioning and created a positioning that envelops its customers and tells the world something more about them then they may be saying themselves.

Reaching the perceptual level of a lifestyle brand is the pinnacle of positioning and few companies truly reach it.  What is clear is that if you have a vision for where your brand can be, understand your customer, and relentlessly pursue that perception, you can break through into extraordinary positioning.