Recently I was sharing a case study of brand repositioning work with a prospective new client (insert fingers crossed emoji) and they asked a question that got me thinking: “how did you know this functional product had permission to shift to such an emotional and aspirational new positioning?”
In this instance, we had validated positioning concepts with consumers, so my gut reaction was to answer with details about the learnings. But the more I thought about this question, it became abundantly clear that the real answer is much simpler: you don’t wait for permission.
If you have a product or service with a name, and someone is buying what you’re offering, then spoiler alert — you are a brand. Whether we like it or not, consumers assign emotions to all brands. If we don’t make a proactive choice to craft a positioning rooted in an emotional benefit, then we’re letting people decide what that emotion is on our behalf. Emotions aren’t just soft and fuzzy, there is a wide range that can be associated with your brand — from confident, strong and energized to bored, apathetic, or worse, let down.
Even the most seemingly functional and transactional categories have witnessed an influx of brands shaking things up, re-writing the rules, creating connections and proving that emotion matters, it always matters. (Sorry B2B’s, you don’t get a free pass). Both legacy and emerging brands have managed to disrupt formerly functional spaces like eye care, insurance, financial services and even safety equipment. Proving that no category is immune to the power of emotive brand positioning, in fact, the bar of consumer expectation has been raised. And I’m not just talking about one emotive story a brand tells on their website ‘About’ page, I’m talking about deep connections that tap into people’s identity and values — connecting your brand to the higher order emotional benefits that fulfill a need in their life.
Take Bausch & Lomb’s Lumify, for example. In their first two years since launch, they’ve been able to bring more than a million first-time users into the (once flat) eye redness reliever category*. While traditional category leaders like Visine continue to amplify functional benefits and add to the laundry list of features on their packs, Bausch & Lomb took a drastically different approach when building Lumify. The success of the product itself is thanks to a powerful active ingredient: brimonidine tartrate (yep, quite the tongue twister). They could have easily marched down a technical path, launching this new formula as ‘Max Strength Redness Reliever’ within their existing Soothe-XP or Opcon-A portfolios with a clinically proven positioning.