Selling Heart Attacks

Recently, I heard Dana Carvey and David Spade interviewing Bob Odenkirk on their Fly On The Wall podcast, and there was an exchange that I found both funny and insightful. Carvey and Odenkirk were discussing their respective heart issues (in particular, Odenkirk’s heart attack on Better Call Saul), and they hit upon the fact that both Odenkirk and Carvey’s brother-in-law had suffered severe heart attacks in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Carvey made a joke that the big takeaway from that coincidence was that you shouldn’t go to Albuquerque unless you wanted to have a heart attack. Odenkirk was quick to point out that both he and Carvey’s brother-in-law had survived, and that could mean that, in truth, Albuquerque was exactly where you wanted to go to have a heart attack.

Not only did this make me laugh, it made me think of how often we work with clients who are struggling with a brand that seems to be the same as everyone else’s. If you’re a car wash, and you use the same equipment as the other car washes, and cars get clean going to both your car wash and the competition’s car wash, then how do you help your brand to stand out? The answer is an age-old marketing practice known as positioning. 

It’s Time To Pick A Side

Where do you want your brand to be positioned in your customers’ minds? The good news is that you can position yourself almost anywhere. The bad news is that you can’t position yourself everywhere. That’s why saying “we’re a one-stop shop” is such a bad idea. Not only does everybody say the same thing, it sort of positions you in a generic way: “we’re pretty good at everything but not great at any one thing.” That’s not a strong, memorable, defendable position.

Think about some of the strongest brands in the world. Mercedes-Benz is positioned as a premium auto maker. Can’t afford a Mercedes-Benz? That’s OK with Mercedes-Benz. Inversely, Walmart has stuck with their positioning as a low-cost leader. Don’t want to shop with people who are looking to save money? Walmart doesn’t care. They understand that they can’t be Whole Foods and Walmart at the same time.

While it may seem counterintuitive, having a brand position that says “we’re not for everyone” is more unique, memorable and effective than a brand position that says “we’re for everyone.” But it requires a shift in your thinking (after all, we naturally want everyone to buy our products every time) and eventually a shift in your customer’s thinking – but the results can be astounding. As a tongue-in-cheek example, instead of Albuquerque trying to hide its track record for people having heart attacks, it could promote its track record for people surviving heart attacks.

It takes courage to harness the true power of positioning. When America thought of Diet Coke as a “girly drink,” they decided to embrace the label and brand themselves primarily as a drink for women. They recognized their strength and didn’t worry about alienating men. The result was one of the strongest brands in American history and massive loyalty with customers.

Finding a strong position isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. If you’re interested, Anchor can help.