Reframing brands and categories

Continuing our series on linking psychology to data analytics, we explore how brands can reframe the meaning of categories by creating new stories.


In our previous post on brand meaning, we focused on category leadership.

By analysing the motivations of 24,000 consumers across 13 different categories - from soft drinks to sports shoes- we showed how the relationships between the customer psychology, the category and the brand psychology can help explain market leadership.

This analysis revealed 3 major positioning strategies for brands: reflection, complementarity and opposition.

Leading, iconic brands tend to either reflect or complement dominant category motivations: for example, in the fragrance category, where sensuality and intimacy are dominant consumer motivations, the brands themselves communicate sensuality in their bottle shapes, their advertising and their point of sale material.

When brands use an oppositional strategy, explicitly rejecting dominant category motivations it can often carve out a distinctive niche position. In the fragrance category, brands aimed at young teenagers often tell a story of innocence and freshness, directly opposing the sexuality and sensuality that dominates the category.

The oppositional approach can be used to create new brand meaning

Meaning is constructed from oppositions - we understand something not just by what it is but what it is not. For example man (not woman) means something different from man (not animal).

Semioticians, who specialise in understanding how meaning is constructed, have used the model of the semiotic square academically to analyse meaning and this idea of oppositions has been used in understanding how brands are positioned: see, for example, the culturemaking blog for how Dove and Persil created meaning within a category.

The oppositional approach can also be used to reframe a category

Using the results of our analysis of 24,000 consumers across 13 categories, we have built on the basic myth quadrant model to create the opento model of to brand and category development.This model can be used to understand how to reframe, disrupt or challenge a category meaning by understanding the key category drivers, how these are owned by existing brands and then exploring options for a new brand to change that meaning. (The same result can often be achieved by a relaunch of an existing brand.)

Schematically, this is the model:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can see more clearly how this works by thinking about how an iconic brand reframed a category historically - as The Body Shop did in the personal care market. The brand story quadrant shows that the category meaning originally structured on two well-understood cultural 'myths': that effectiveness rested on science and that non-science products were 'fun', not serious and ineffective.

The Body Shop created a new story that brought together the idea of effectiveness with naturalness and reframed the way we viewed the category. This is why the brand became iconic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iconic brand strategies

Iconic brands understand the dominant motivations of consumers who are highly involved  in the category and reflect those motivations back to consumers with a unique brand story.

Iconic leader brand strategies are designed to own existing dominant motivations. Iconic challenger brands can aim to reshape the dominant motivations - or to create a new category targeted at oppositional motivations.

key steps in reframing a category:

1.  Using a model of psychological motivations analyse the consumer drivers in the category. (We recommend the archetypal model for this.)

2. Map out which brands own the key drivers in the category. (Again, we use the archetypal psychology model for this.)

3. Identify existing or potential unique drivers owned by your own brand that are distinctive from the current market drivers.

4. Carefully and painstakingly, work through a wide range of possible new myth quadrants for the category. (We usually develop 10-20 different quadrants then narrow them down to a short-list of the best 3-5.)

5. Test the credibility of each option with key stakeholders then develop consumer language versions to test with consumers in concept-style research. (In a later post, we'll return to how best to research the options.)

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