On September 26, 2019 Scott Seidewitz, Founder and Principal of The Seidewitz Group led the AMA Los Angeles Business Bootcamp workshop on Brand Positioning. Prior to founding the company, Scott served as a political strategist and P&G brand manager, developing a unique marketing perspective along the way. We sat down with him for a few minutes before the event to find out more about his background:
AMA: Tell us a little about The Seidewitz Group and the services you offer to clients
SS: We like to think of ourselves as an elite, nimble insights-based strategy firm. One of our large tech clients calls us “McKinsey Light”! We work with marketing and/or business unit leadership to use insights to develop growth strategies. Quite often we’re involved in business turnaround situations. Our processes are highly collaborative, so our work can be as much about changing culture as it is about delivering results. Key focus areas are brand repositioning, new product positioning, innovation strategy, pricing strategy, and claims strategy. Most of our clients are in Big Pharma or Big Tech, but we really enjoy working with mid-market companies, where we can have a lot of impact.
AMA: You’re talking to AMA LA members about brand positioning – what are some of the key challenges in this area that marketers face today?
SS: First and foremost is mindshare. With people increasingly busy and increasingly bombarded by many messages, it’s a challenge to communicate messages that get noticed and register. Many have argued this makes brand positioning less important, but the exact opposite is true: brand messages need to be crisper and higher impact to win in today’s environment and build a competitive advantage in your customer’s mind. The other challenge I see a lot is the art and craft of effective brand positioning has been left behind in some of today’s multi-channel communication environments. But whether you communicate through one or many channels, or through traditional or digital media, the basic principles of effective brand positioning still apply.
AMA: What mistakes do you see companies make in positioning their brands?
SS: The most common mistake is not basing brand positioning on a true, important customer insight. Many times, especially with our pharma clients, the product comes first and the customer is almost an afterthought. We constantly push clients to make customer needs, beliefs and pain points the foundation of brand positioning. We also see companies using overly complex brand positioning architectures, sometimes with as many as nine different brand attributes defined. The problem is, how do you execute this? Are you supposed to communicate the brand essence, the brand promise, the brand benefit or the brand personality? We see this frequently with brand positioning architecture developed by ad agencies, and it leads to dysfunctional and unfocused brand development.
AMA: Do you have any favorite examples of companies that are doing a good job in translating their brand positioning and strategy into effective marketing campaigns?
SS: I actually think there is a lot of great work being done in the health care and B2B space these days. I find that the product often comes first with pharma companies, and the customer is an afterthought. That’s true in their marketing to health care professionals, and we do a lot of work to try to change that. But these same companies sometimes do an amazing job with their DTC (direct to consumer) advertising. What I like about it is that they usually go after an emotional benefit to position their brands. On the B2B side, I think UPS is an example of a company that has really elevated what it means to market to other companies. They did a TV ad (yes, a B2B TV ad) a few years back that made the mailroom clerk the hero, in what I thought was a very believable and non-patronizing way. I’ve been disappointed to see them back away from this kind of emotional positioning, but they are still doing some strong B2B brand building.
AMA: Any trends in branding that marketers should be aware of?
SS: I have seen so many trends come and go over the years I can’t keep track of them! There have been aspirational brands, purpose-driven branding, and storytelling. My advice is to always be skeptical and cautious about branding trends; seek data to understand if it works or not (most trends don’t, which is why they fade away); understand if it’s truly strategic (like purpose-driven branding) or more a way to execute your brand positioning strategy (like storytelling). The one trend that I think has added value to developing stronger brand positioning, and has the potential to continue doing so, is better understanding the non-conscious drivers of decision making. “Neuro-marketing” is still in its infancy, but if applied cautiously it can help you work implicit and emotional insights into the positioning of your brand.
AMA: What do you hope our members take away from your Business Bootcamp workshop?
SS: First of all, the workshop will be interactive. I’ll share best practices and lots of examples and case studies, along with advice on instituting best practices in your organization, dealing with limited budgets and other challenges, etc. But I’m inviting AMA members who come to the workshop to bring their current brand positioning projects along so we can work on them together during the workshop. As we go step-by-step through the development process, you can literally start to develop ideas for positioning your brand. The other thing I’d like members to take away is that brand positioning is one of the most exciting, challenging, mind-bending things we can do in marketing. This is where we get ourselves deep into the customer’s head and convert that understanding into a strategy that’s going to influence behavior and drive business results. It’s really profound if you think about it. In all my work in marketing, there’s nothing I enjoy more than going through the process of developing a powerful brand positioning strategy. It’s exhilarating—at least for me!