Driving home the message
Back in the early 1960s, a young car-rental company was struggling to survive in a market dominated by a single large player,
Hertz. The upstart had tried everything it could to emulate Hertz, but couldn't break through. As of 1962, it had achieved
market-share of just 11 percent. Worse than that, it was losing money and consumer perceptions of the company were deteriorating.
Possibly because it was dominated by a single large player, the car business at that time had a reputation for being consumer-unfriendly—renting
a car was expensive and inconvenient. The perception was that rental companies didn't care that much about their customers.
It's interesting to note that "We try harder" tested poorly in market research. And, Avis did not have a reputation for "trying
harder" in customer service. But the marketers stuck with it because they believed strongly that the campaign so elegantly
captured both a critical consumer need and a unique business opportunity for Avis.
The rest, of course, is advertising history. Avis's "We try harder" campaign helped it jump to 35 percent market share, and
profitability, in just a year. By embracing its position as the number-two player (the campaign trumpeted this fact as a core
part of its communications strategy), Avis carved out a position that was distinct from its much larger rival and, more importantly,
was persuasive and easily comprehensible to consumers. Not only that, but the campaign resonated with Avis employees, creating
a unity of purpose that the team could "champion."
Painting the picture
For 200 years, Valspar paints and coatings had been used on everything from tall-ship varnishes to John Deere tractors to
Coca-Cola cans. But as of 2006, even with $3 billion in annual sales, Valspar remained almost completely unknown to the American
consumer. Its American Tradition paint brands, sold in Lowe's stores, were struggling against Behr paints, sold through Home
The goal was to create a brand that could hold its own against industry leaders Behr, Sherwin-Williams, and Benjamin Moore.
Valspar believed that its strongest attribute was its history. But research quickly showed that tradition wasn't a clear differentiator.
In fact, most customers were not aware of either the Valspar or American Tradition brands; creating a campaign around history
would've led many to think: "If you've been around so long, why have I never heard of you?"
So what were Valspar's most compelling traits? The product had outstanding durability, a broad color palette, and delivered
high-quality results (beautifully painted rooms). Holding those consumer needs up to Valspar's primary attributes, it became
clear that the brand could occupy a very unique place in the market: high-performance beauty.
Research revealed that the consumer buying decisions involved both men and women who have very different motivations for purchase.
Men want to do a masterful paint job and women want a beautiful room. Mapping competitors and the needs they met revealed
that no company addressed these emotive needs of the consumer leaving a white space in the market.
From there a new Valspar tagline was created—"Beauty and durability only nature can rival"—that delivered on the brand proposition
and meshed with the advertising campaign, playing off the beautiful, durable colors of nature: autumn red, tropical green,
The results: Valspar sales rose 7.6 percent in the first half of 2007 despite a slump in the housing market. Lowe's paint
department saw its market share grow by more than 33% that year, even as Home Depot launched a major promotion for Behr.
Seize the difference
Not that pharma marketers haven't provided a few noteworthy examples of smart, intuitive brand positioning.
Lilly's Cialis (tadalafil) arrived on the erectile-dysfunction market in 2003, facing Pfizer's Viagra (sildenafil citrate),
a brand that not only dominated that market, but had essentially created it. Viagra was, and to a large degree remains, the
patient's short-hand for ED treatments.
Still, Lilly's marketers were able to instantly carve out a piece of that market by brilliantly seizing on their drug's core
benefit: duration. Using catchy, intuitive terms like "weekender," and provocative slogans like: "When the time is right,
will you be ready?" Lilly made it easy for patients to understand Cialis's advantage over Viagra. Compare that clever positioning
to GlaxoSmithKline's Levitra (vardenafil), which failed to develop an effective positioning campaign. Not surprisingly Cialis
seized the number-two spot in the massive ED market ahead of Levitra.