It’s interesting to explore the psychology behind positioning a brand as the best in its category.
Brands have a wide variety of options to choose from in their marketing messages. Perhaps they could focus on their better prices, the products benefits or overall why they are the better brand.
Some advertising managers even choose to be as bold as slamming competitors – like when the Samsung Galaxy S5 called out the iPhone for the ice bucket challenge, highlighting that the iPhone is not water resistant. Or the “I’m a Mac”, “And I’m a PC” ads from Apple. Normally however, directly attacking a competitor in marketing is a risky strategy as the brand doing the attacking can come out looking like the bad guy, or just ends up with a negative feeling associated with their brand instead of a positive one.
So how do brands use TV commercials to position themselves as the best in their category?
Brands who have effectively positioned themselves as the best in their category typically use storytelling commercials. In these commercials, characters are shown valuing the brand. Two companies who have done this effectively are Stihl, a chainsaw manufacturer, and Stella Artois, a beer brewer.
Stihl released a series of three clever ads which reinforce Stihl’s value as a quality chainsaw brand, using characters that fit perfectly with their target market.
In the first advert, as a father dies he tells one son quietly to take care of his mother. When asked about his father’s dying request, the son claims the father left him with the chainsaw. At this the other brother gets emotional, seemingly more so over the loss of a chainsaw than of his father. This shows the position the brand has in the characters’ minds- a willingness to manipulate a dying man’s wish just for a chainsaw!
In the second advert, the brother tricked out of receiving the Stihl chainsaw rushes to his brother’s house as a storm approaches. Humourously the brother does not inform his other brother of the life-threatening storm and rather uses it as an opportunity to borrow the chainsaw, knowing his brother will perish and he won’t have to return it. This shows the lengths the characters would go to in order to get the chainsaw. Although none of the chainsaw’s benefits are mentioned, viewers can not help but believe that this is a very valuable chainsaw. This is brand positioning at it’s finest.
In a final advert, the brother must decide whether to save his lamb or the chainsaw from a burning shed and he is torn in his decision. Humans have a natural inclination to save living animals over inanimate objects – the decision between saving a helpless, living animal or a tool wouldn’t usually require much thought. But because he loved the chainsaw so much, he evidently felt torn.
A prisoner on a ship finds a bottle of Stella beer. Throughout the advert he is shown holding the beer closely unwilling to let it out of sight. And for good reason too – when other prisoners see the beer they act relentlessly to try claim it. Eventually the prisoner deliberately goes into solitary confinement just to drink his Stella beer in peace. He voluntarily took the punishment that the prisoners feared the most – getting locked in a corrugated iron box in the hot sun – just so he could have the Stella beer all to himself.
In all of these ads, the brand’s positioning would not have been so effective if only the main character saw the product as valuable. Rather through having supporting characters value the brand, the brand was positioned as desirable enough to drive people to act insane.
While this type of marketing is out of reach for small and medium sized businesses, it can be effective for the big brands that spend millions on advertising each year and want to position themselves as the premier brand.
Of course, the pricing needs to be consistent with a brand that is the “best”. A brand that aims to be at the lower end of the pricing spectrum should not use this advertising method, as pricing needs to be congruent with the branding messages. But for brands that are at the higher end of the pricing spectrum, instead of conveying a list of features and benefits in their ads, it can be very effective to use storytelling in which all characters see the brand as valuable. By positioning the brand as the best in the characters’ minds, they position it as the best in consumers’ minds.