July 30, 2014

Recently we’ve seen examples of several successful brands investing in strategies that reinforce their “small” positioning even as they grow. What should you do when your brand’s growth seems to counter its positioning? Whether you’re managing a small, medium or mega-brand, consider these examples:

“Don’t buy this jacket”
Since its inception, the Patagonia brand has stood for love of the outdoors. And with that love came a responsibility to protect the environment, which is equally part of the brand’s essence. Yet as the company grew, it was not lost on them that their success negatively impacted the environment. In November 2011, Patagonia famously put out a print ad telling consumers, “Don’t buy this jacket.” This was supported by numerous other sustainable measures.

Localizing store design
No one can dispute the growth and success of Starbucks with over 18,000 stores globally. But as the company grew, with essentially the same store experience neighborhood after neighborhood, it began to seem big and corporate. To address this, the company is now focusing on store design to create a more local ambiance. For instance, in Japan, the flagship store in Dazaifu features more than 2,000 wooden rods that are woven into a diagonal pattern. The goal was to make the store feel natural and graceful to reflect the nearby Tenmangu shrine.

Know what you stand against
Chipotle stands for more than quality food. It stands for “food with integrity,” which can be summarized as a respectful, sustainable approach to farmers, animals and the environment. And just as important as what they stand for is what they stand against – typical fast food and industrial farming. They’ve used non-traditional media to communicate their message through “Farmed and Dangerous,” a four-part comedy series running exclusively on Hulu. The show speaks to the brand’s small-scale sustainable farming, but with minimal reference to the brand itself.

It’s a balancing act
Coach is positioned as an accessible luxury and are currently evolving into a global lifestyle brand. They have a tough balancing act with accessibility and luxury. Their distribution system is very much a model of accessibility and has driven growth with a combination of retail and outlet stores, e-commerce and so on. However that pervasive presence has also tarnished the shine on its luxury halo. Coach is now refocusing on the luxury piece of its positioning by using influencers to increase its prestige factor. It will be interesting to see if Coach is able to recapture its luxury status and, with it, continued growth.

New insights around your core consumer can help shape your marketing strategy and choice of mediums. Think broadly about design (environment, videos, product, packaging, etc.) and how it can be leveraged to help communicate your positioning and message. Look to your positioning: it can provide guidance on what the brand is and what it is not, which may highlight a fresh approach for growth.