I attended a great Brand Positioning seminar today held at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County. Today’s speaker was Grant Gooding of Proof Positioning. Let’s drop a cliche here: It was an engaging and informative talk delivered by an excellent speaker.
I knew I was out of my neck of the woods when I overheard a discussion behind me where one person lamented, “It’s not that the money is going away … I guess it’s just converting into equity.”
Most people I know don’t talk that way. Or perhaps I just spend my money on the wrong things.
Probably the most interesting point made was distinguishing between business decisions and brand decisions. Much of the rest of the talk was distilled here into the idea that we make a lot of decisions every day about our companies. Some of these are clearly Business Decisions – those intended to maximize margins in the short term. Some are clearly Brand Decisions – those that are intended to build the brand regardless of short term margins. (note: I’m paraphrasing these definitions here. I don’t want to give short shrift to Grant.)
As examples, he focused on two companies: Starbucks and Tylenol.
With respect to Tylenol, the cyanide poisonings of 1982. I remember this well. These poisonings came about a month before Halloween and pretty much put an end to the holiday that year. By the way, guess how many people have even been poisoned by Halloween Candy?
Why bring up Tylenol’s troubled past? Because of the way that, then Johnson and Johnson CEO, James Burke, handled the crisis. From Time Magazine‘s article on the occasion of his death, “Under Burke’s leadership, the company spent $100 million to recall 31 million bottles of Tylenol and re-launched the product two months later in tamper-proof packaging.” Burke’s actions, which looked to be devastating to the company at the time, won him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.
How about that? A brand decision so good that President Clinton awards you the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Slam dunk.
A second example, which is totally appropriate to bring up now, because I’m sitting in one, is Starbucks. To paraphrase again, What did the decision to put a drive thru on a Starbucks have on their brand? What defines the Starbucks brand? The coffee – or the experience? Perhaps putting Starbucks cups in the hands of half the population is great for advertising, but what does it do to the experience?
It doesn’t look like there is much room for the ‘Starbucks Experience’ in this building: