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WHO's done away with the RTB?

Everything on positioning these days talks about the associations you want your target to have with your brand.

That’s it.

No support. No reason to believe. Nada.

I’m starting to blame Les Binet and Peter Field.

Ever since The Long and the Short of It came out a decade ago, the argument has grown that the Long bit, brand-building advertising, should be about emotion.

It comes back to affective memory, the way in which emotional experiences are stored in the brain. If you want your brand to be remembered one year, five years, ten years from now, you need to create a positive emotional experience.

And despite all the hullabaloo around performance marketing, brand-building advertising remains one of the best ways of doing that. Not as good as the product experience, but you have to get to that point first.

So it’s Daniel Kahneman and System 1, of course.

It’s also Sarah Carter reminding us that people “really don’t give a shit” about brands and advertising. Indifference should be the starting point, entertain for commercial gain. Mind you, she did used to have John Webster on her side.

But then this thinking spread into strategy. By all accounts, Mark Ritson in his mini MBA still teaches the familiar positioning template of To-Who-What-That-Unlike (not sure if he has a Because in there or not).

In his writing, though, he shorthands positioning to ‘position’, what your brand stand for in the eyes of your target customers.

It’s partly an attempt to consign over-complex brand models to the bin. But it’s also to get it into marketing people’s heads that strategy is about choices.

So his point is you have to choose the 2-3 things you want your target to think when they think of your brand. Things that they want and you can deliver, better or more readily than others can.

I’m as guilty as anyone of this shorthand-ing. My view is that a brand only really has to be clear on how you stand out and what you stand for. I see it as a circle within a circle. I love circles.

You can look at your target in the same way, the outside circle being what they do, the inside one why they do it. Behaviour and motivation.

Then what you want to happen when people are near your brand is that attention is drawn to the outside and a connection is made with the inside. And there’s a fit, a moment of closeness, enough for people to make their choice.

But there is a danger with relying too much on feelings. Emotional truth can have nothing to do with the facts. Remember when Tony Blair said about Iraq’s WMDs: “I only know what I believe’.

So the associations you choose have to be built on something tangible. Emotion on its own isn’t enough, it’s generally too vague or too generic or too both.

You can call this foundation a proof point or a brand truth. It could be a feature or a claim, an endorsement or a practice, an origin story or a future pledge.

But your customers have to find some reason to believe in what they’re buying. Just like you have to find that in what you’re selling.

How else are you going to keep it going?


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