I always laugh when people ask me about rebounding techniques.
I've got a technique.
It's called 'just go get the d--n ball.'
Charles Barkley played NBA basketball from 1984 – 2000. He was one of the most dominant rebounders to ever play the game despite being listed at 6' 6" and weighing 250 lbs. – although, as one website puts it, he was likely "a couple inches shorter and a few hoagies heavier." His unique shape earned him the nickname "The Round Mound of Rebound." Barkley was the shortest player ever to win a rebounding title.
About rebounding, he reportedly said that it's not about how tall you are, how long your wingspan or your leaping ability. Rebounding is about position, timing and persistence. The same could be said of marketing and communications.
Timing and persistence are the more obvious of the three, but I think it's positioning that sets the stage for success. As in basketball, positioning in marketing is about carving out space – not on a shelf, but in your customer's mind. Positioning not only takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of the brand, but of it's competitors as well. It's reframing what may already be in the mind of your target audience to create a favorable position, and a competitive advantage, for yourself.
When I was Creative Director for Tavel Optical Group, they had a great positioning statement: One Hour Glasses, Without the One Hour Price. That's powerful because it not only positions them as having what you want (your glasses in an hour), but their competition as having what you DON'T (the high price). I think of this as Underdog Positioning. It positions you favorably against a bigger, more seemingly dominant competitor. Some other examples of this approach:
- 7-Up: The Un-Cola
- Avis: We're #2. We Try Harder
- Miller Lite: Everything You Want in a Beer – and Less
- Apple: Think Different
I was reminded of all this recently when meeting with a client to discuss some new projects. Richard Behney is the owner of AttaBoy Plumbing Company. I've enjoyed working with Richard and his wife Laura since 2004 and created (originally in partnership with Fishhook) the branding and identity for their company, seen below.
The new projects we discussed centered around Richard's decision to run for U.S. Senate in 2010. Specifically, we discussed their desire for all of the visual communication we would create to not look like it came from a typical politician. This positioning was crucial to their message.
Richard is one of the co-founders of the Indiana Tea Party movement and the positioning statement of "Enough!" grew out of his experience there. It's an effective statement in that it taps into the frustrations that many are currently feeling with their elected officials. It works not because it creates something new in the mind of his audience, but because it takes what is already there, reframes it, and carves out space to create a favorable position from which to "go get the ball."
With that in place, I'm still left to figure out how to create a political brand that doesn't look like a typical political brand, which is the kind of challenge I love! Richard considers himself a "strict constitutionalist" which helped determine a foundation upon which to begin building, and led to this design:
We wanted obviously tap into the emotion behind "Enough!", but also wanted to communicate a feeling of Americana – a kind of moving forward with an eye to the past sort of vibe. The gradations in tone help reinforce this, but also communicate that this is a transition for Richard from business owner to the world of politics, reinforcing his position as the sort of the Un-Cola of politicians.
We also created business cards for key people in the campaign to hand out at rallies, speeches, etc. which feature Richard's core campaign principles on the back side.
All of this came together very, very quickly, including a Phase I website. Knowing that a robustly detailed website would take more time to develop, we worked to create small site that introduced people to Richard, told them a little bit about him and provided a means for folks to make donations, volunteer and connect with the campaign. We wanted a simple and clean look that had visual impact, and again, did not look like a site for a typical political campaign. Here's how the site design came together:
You can click the image to visit the site and experience what I think is an innovative approach to presenting the information. This sort of approach wouldn't work for the final site which will need more space to present a fuller and more richly detailed picture of Richard, but it succeeds in initially positioning him as your atypical politician.
As a general rule, I don't think politicians give much thought to this sort of thing. They may believe in what they have to say, but don't see the value in communicating it with a visual strategy. As a result they may appear disconnected from their message.
Regardless of your political leanings, the takeaway from this is that in order to gain effective positioning you must really understand both your audience and your competition – assuming of course that you already understand yourself.
It's how Barkley "cleaned the glass" against players much taller than himself – and it's how you can do the same.