It comes wrapped in lots of different names: Brand essence... brand positioning... key brand focus... strategic center.
The nomenclature is not all that important. But the underlying concept is absolutely critical: Define the fundamental notion the brand aims to own in consumers' heads. Critical, because without an understanding of its strategic center, a brand's long-term success is a virtual impossibility.
This strategic center...
- has to be simple, because most consumers won't devote much mental space to what a given beer brand stands for.
- has to have some distinct appeal so the brand is seen as special.
- has to be "unoccupied space" free of competitive brands.
- has to be virtually timeless and not beholden to fads or fashion.
Having identified such a clear strategic center, marketers then know exactly what they're aiming to achieve. So, while each of their brand's tactics will have its own creative angle, every ad, every digital effort, every sponsorship, every packaging initiative, indeed, every marketing tactic will connect to and support the same center.
Successful marketers know the power of getting this strategic center down, ideally in four words or less.
McDonald's = Food, folks, and fun.
Charmin = Softness.
Jeep = Rugged go-anywhere.
Costco = Always a good deal.
But lesser brands, lacking such a clear articulation, quickly succumb to the if-you-don't-stand-for-something-you'll-fall-for-anything trap. They wander. They lack focus. They opt to simply entertain. Or like a drunk in Vegas, they find inspiration in the moment, and stumble from one foolish bet to the next.
Anheuser-Busch should know all of this quite well. The brewery has only a single established brand that's growing: Michelob Ultra.
Michelob Ultra = Fitness beer.
Just look at how its online presence hews to this clear strategic center. Heck, it almost looks like the website belongs to a workout place!
While it would appear Michelob Ultra's strategic-center stocking is nicely filled, there's this matter of a...