“Why do we need to position our brand?” the CEO asked me. “We already have brand positioning, why do we need to reposition it?”
“Well, your Marketing Director thinks your B2B marketing strategy and brand positioning are in need of some attention.”
“I don’t see how that’s relevant.”
“It’s relevant for two reasons – firstly, your customers have expressed dissatisfaction to the point of abandoning your business. Secondly, I’ve been invited to help you. Who knows, if you behave yourself, I may even fix the problem.”
“I’m still not even sure I know what B2B brand positioning is.”
“Yes, I can see that.”
“Give me an example. Why’s brand positioning so important?”
[Sigh…] “Ok, listen carefully. I was scheduled to drink a vast quantity of tequila with a couple of The Ladies Who Lunch the other day. Prior to harassing the tequila with a few small plates at the Wahaca Mexican cantina on the South Bank, I wanted to visit the Apple Store in Covent Garden (user incompetence issues, don’t ask…). I arrived a few minutes ahead of my appointment with one of the IT Crowd, so I popped into the Oakley store opposite…
“Morning, I’ve lost the soft case for my Oakleys – I was hoping to get another?”
“Tenner. We’ve got these patterned ones – ten pounds each.”
“Wow. Ten pounds for a cloth? Wow. Actually, I don’t want one of those patterned ones, they’re hideous. Can’t I just have a plain black one like the one I had when I spent an inordinate amount of cash on these shades?
“Nope. You only get those when you buy a new pair of shades.”
“Trust me, you would never get fired for caring about the brand in the way you do, and responding to the customer in the way you have.”
“That’s ridiculous. You must have them. They’ve got the Oakley brand logo stitched into them – why wouldn’t you want people to carry them around? I’m happy to pay for one, but why don’t you just give them away? It would make the customer feel good, they would tell a great brand story and it would be some of the most cost-effective brand positioning work you could do – ‘We care about our customers, we care about our customers’ Oakleys, we protect our customers, their shades and our brand.”
“I have another appointment – can you tell me the time?”
“Ok, well, thanks anyway. Bye.”
“I walked across the market square to Apple and was duly seated at The Great Table of Humiliation with all the other incompetents, awaiting an as yet undefined but inevitability expensive fate. I couldn’t help overhear the conversation between the Apple Wonder-Boy and another Oompah Loompah like me.”
“Bad news I’m afraid.”
“Yeah, we replaced the battery and ran some diagnostics on the phone.”
“Yeah, unfortunately your phone failed the tests, so the battery wasn’t the problem.”
“Yeah, we’re going to have to drill deeper into the electronics.”
“Oh. That sounds expensive?”
“Yeah, the phone’s effectively a write-off.”
“Yeah, so I’ve given you a new phone, downloaded your data onto that and we’ll only charge you for the battery replacement. If that’s ok with you.”
“Wait, what? You’re giving me a brand new phone? For the price of a battery? Seriously?”
“Yeah. If that’s ok with you?”
“The customer was happy. Everyone at The Table of Humiliation was smiling – they’ll all be telling their friends this story, raising brand awareness in the same way I’m telling you – and Apple reaffirmed its brand positioning as trustworthy and reasonable even though Wonder-Boy went on to fleece me for a new screen.
“After that, I met The Ladies Who Lunch and spent an enjoyable few hours in Wahaca sinking planks of tequila and admiring the current staff t-shirt – a pastiche of the original Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK single artwork. I asked if I could buy one. Our waiter apologised and said they weren’t for sale. I continued to press the matter throughout lunch. Tequila has a tendency to make me do that. I explained that The Ladies and I were big Wahaca fans, brand ambassadors even, and that Thomasina Miers, the founder of Wahaca, was an avid reader of my hugely influential B2B marketing blog. Probably.
“Towards the end of our meal, the waiter approached me and in hushed tones whispered, “Scot, my shift ends in 10 minutes, you can have my shirt after I’ve changed. You guys obviously love Wahaca – you deserve a shirt. But promise not to tell anyone or I’ll get fired.” I smiled and replied, “That’s ok my friend, I’m not going to take your t-shirt – but trust me, you would never get fired for caring about the brand in the way you do, or responding to the customer in the way you have.” At that point, I drained the final tequila, did a face-plant on the floor and remember very little about the subsequent three days.
“So that’s my story. In the space of a single day I had three commercially formative experiences with brands. One where the brand wouldn’t give me the time of day. One where further and future value was attached to existing leadership brand positioning, and one where the brand representative was ready to, literally, give me the shirt off his back.
“Two good experiences, one bad. A complete fucking idiot, even a CEO, should be able to work out the value of brand positioning from that. Ask yourself which story your customers are hearing, and telling, about your business brand. Anyway, if we’re done here I have important places to be because I’m a Legend.”
The CEO held up his hand in a ‘stop’ signal and said, “Just one moment.” He paused, closed his eyes and, with his hand still in the stop position said, “Can we discuss the exorbitant level of your proposed fees to help us with this B2B brand positioning?”
“Nope.” I replied.
He sighed, lowered his hand and said, “Ok, you’re hired.”
Sometimes, you just have to believe in the tequila gods.