Brand Positioning. Positioning Brands.
Have you seen someone wearing a down jacket made by The North Face lately? Perhaps you noticed – and wondered –why their logo was not embroidered in the usual spot over the left front breast pocket. Instead The North Face logo is emblazoned on the back of the jacket, directly over the wearer’s right rear scapula.
Why do they do that?
One of the things we’ve talked about here is the importance of brands expressing their authentic truth. Usually that’s done through design and positioning, with those disciplines being used to communicate what the brand is about and why it matters to its audiences. Great examples of authentic brand truths we’ve discussed include Bill O’Reilly, Volvo, Prince, and more. All of these brands position themselves to initiate and develop an interactive relationship with their consumers.
But just like Freud apocryphally said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” sometimes brand positioning is just positioning the brand.
Apple is probably one of the best practitioners of effective brand positioning and they do a lot of things to make you know their products are designed specifically with you in mind. For example, the sleep indicator light on Apple’s MacBook laptops blink between 12-20 times per minute, the same rate as the average adult’s respiratory rate. Having your laptop breathe right along with you is so important to Apple that they patented the idea in 2002.
Because Apple’s brand positioning is so intimately personal, the company even positioned their logos upside down on their early laptops. That is, when the laptop was closed the logo on the cover was positioned to appear upright to the user but when the laptop was opened, the logo would appear upside down to anyone facing the user.
According to former Apple employee Joe Moreno, “Steve (Jobs) wanted to make sure that when a user sat down in front of their Mac the Apple logo was facing towards them, he didn’t care how an onlooker saw it.”
This caused a lot of problems for Hollywood and movie producers who would regularly affix logo stickers to Apple laptops so the logo would read correctly. But eventually the marketers at Apple were able to convince the powers that be that it was more important to the user that people walking into a Starbucks knew they were using an Apple than it was for the logo to be oriented to the user and the logo was flipped over.
After all, brands tell the world who their users are. Just like the gold crosses or silver Stars of David dangling from chains around our necks, the company logos on our shirts, shoes, and shiny objects become the badges of identification that signal the world how we want to be perceived.
As recently as 5/17/16 Forbes Magazine estimated Ralph Lauren’s wealth at $5.5 Billion. My guess is he’s worth more than most everyone who reads this blog. Yet somewhere in your closet there’s probably a shirt or belt or tie with Lauren’s logo on it. And you paid for it. That means you paid your own hard-earned money to advertise billionaire Ralph Lauren’s company for him. If billboard companies followed your lead and paid the companies they promoted they’d be out of business pretty quickly. And please spare me the argument that you don’t wear anything with Ralph Lauren’s logo on it. Because even if that’s actually true, Forbes says Phil Knight is worth $24.7 billion and I’ll bet you’ve got some Nike sneakers or athletic wear in your closet somewhere.
When brand positioning aligns with you (or what you aspire to be) then identification with that brand’s positioning becomes a big part of what you buy.
So why does The North Face embroider their logos on the backs of their jackets? Because even though the majority of The North Face’s products are probably worn in cities, the company positions itself as the brand of real skiers and hikers, both of whom spend a lot of time in lines (waiting for ski lifts or walking single file on trails) looking at the backs of the person in front of them. Not only are the backs of their jackets a good place for The North Face to have their logos seen but also an excellent way for The North Face to position themselves as authentic. Because while brand positioning is important, the positioning of the brand can be important, too.