Positioning of Presidential Candidates: Experience vs. Change

I fervently believe brand positioning is one of the most important strategic decisions a marketer makes. It is impossible for even your most loyal customers to know everything about your company or brand, but what one thing about you should they remember? What is distinct, unique, or superior about your brand relative to competition?

The candidates campaigning for the Democratic Party nomination for President provide highlight the important role of brand positioning. Hillary Clinton has positioned her campaign on the experience she garnered as First Lady and more recently as U.S. Senator. Barack Obama has positioned his campaign on one word: change. Never mind that there have not been extensive details disclosed about what changes Obama has in store for Americans. The idea of a departure from status quo is very appealing to many voters regardless of the level of detail disclosed about ideas for change.

The outcome of the Democratic race will come down to which candidate positioned more effectively. A position must resonate with the target market, which is why the “change” position of Obama has been so powerful to this point. Perhaps it will be more evident tomorrow after primaries in Ohio and Texas whether Clinton’s experience position has connected with voters. Clinton may have more experience and be better prepared for the Presidency, but that is not the point. What matters is whether voters can be persuaded to accept the positioning strategy of a candidate and take action where it matters most: the ballot box.

Wal Mart’s Identity Crisis

“Always low prices” has been Wal-Mart’s slogan for nearly 20 years, but it appears that it will not always be its slogan! The company has rolled out the tagline “Save money. Live better.” This move is the latest attempt by Wal-Mart to be relevant in a space other than low prices. A major initiative to change perceptions of its apparel business as trendy and fashionable has been unsuccessful. Now, Wal-Mart is trying to convince us that its brand provides higher order benefits than saving a few bucks. I never stopped to realize that I can pursue my dreams because I spent less at Wal-Mart and can spend the money on other things!

It’s almost as if Wal-Mart feels inferior to be known only for low prices, that the brand is not sophisticated or important in its current position. It is difficult for a value brand like Wal-Mart to move upscale. Other companies have succeeded by creating separate identities for brands targeted beyond the value-driven market (e.g., Toyota>Lexus and Black & Decker>DeWalt). Wal-Mart made the right choice in not abandoning the low price position completely, but it faces a tough task in moving itself toward being a lifestyle brand. Link

Hyundai = Quality: "Think About It" or "Forget About It?"

What do you do when consumers like the products you make… until they find out you made them? That is a problem facing South Korean automaker Hyundai. Research about attitudes toward Hyundai has found more than 2/3 of consumers like the styling of Hyundai models, that is when they see the models without the Hyundai nameplate on the cars. When the same cars are shown to consumers with the Hyundai nameplate visible, that percentage shrinks to barely 1/2. Hyundai is attempting to reshape attitudes with a new campaign titled “Think About It.”

Hyundai fares well in quality ratings for its models. Unfortunately, while Japanese brands have enjoyed quality reputations, Korean brands such as Hyundai and Kia have been unable to create the same brand beliefs. “Think About It” is a campaign designed to persuade people that Hyundai’s quality should be perceived as on par with brands such as Toyota and Honda. It will be a challenge to shift consumers’ perceptions about Hyundai. On one hand, buying a car is a purchase decision that usually involves a more extensive information search. This extensive search could include learning that Hyundai offers high quality models. On the other hand, consumers may not let go of long-held beliefs that Hyundai is not on the same plane as Toyota and Honda. Or, consumers may be reluctant to take the risk and spend thousands of dollars on a car that they have not previously perceived as high quality. Lower priced items like consumer electronics- maybe, but a purchase decision that they have to live with for several years? Link