Narrative Analytics For PR And Strategic Communications Part II: Brand Positioning

Sunday, October 15 2017 Jeff Marshall EVP, Customer Solutions Categories:

Three Steps to Distinguish Your Brand in a Competitive Landscape

Whether your field is crowded or sparse, or if your company has been an industry leader for a long time, or you’re a new player, making a brand stand out is challenging. Attempting to build a marketing strategy on limited data or intuition alone is tougher still. These three steps outline how marketers can make informed decisions about how to make an impact.


Step One: Understand Where You Stand

The first step to distinguishing a brand is identifying how your brand is received relative to your competitors’. Brands are dynamic, and are constantly in flux. One of the greatest challenges of being a marketer is that once your company’s reputation is built, it has to be maintained and sometimes even reinvented. The challenge lies in understanding which aspects of your brand are working and which need to be refreshed. One Protagonist client, a leading financial institution, was facing exactly that conundrum.


The client had been an early leader in its space, but seemed to be getting less attention and fewer kudos than its competitors. A deep dive with Narrative Analytics revealed that the company was overshadowed in the public conversation by two competitors. One competitor was associated with narratives of ambition and aggressive growth, the other with exemplary service. By comparison, the Protagonist client was perceived to be stagnant, even dated.


The analysis gave marketers several important pieces of information: it showed them how they ranked against their competitors, which might not have been overly surprising, but it also showed them exactly which narratives created a point of tension, as well as the narratives that were still relatively unclaimed.


Step Two: Embrace the White Space

Once marketers understand their landscape, they have the opportunity to make strategic decisions based on data. Should you go up against their competitors in a specific narrative and attempt to overtake them? Should you start a new conversation entirely? For one of Protagonist’s financial clients, the strong foundation of the firm’s early innovations presented a powerful opportunity to reclaim some of that identity.


Narrative Analytics uncovered great public interest in narratives around making change, but neither of the company’s competitors had a particularly firm stake in those conversations. Marketers for the financial firm had a chance to create a strong voice in the area and reinvigorate interest in their brand. For them, this meant creating messaging about what their industry needed to rethink, particularly in terms of business policies and culture.


Narratives like this–with high consumer interest and low participation from competitors, represent a huge opportunity for marketers. Tapping into those undiscovered narratives wins your business respect, attention, and the power to define your own reputation, not to mention more customers.


Step Three: Cast Yourself in a New Role

Once you know what your customers care about, the final step is to create powerful messages that resonate with those narratives. This cannot be done overnight and needs to be done strategically. You should identify high-level viewpoints and create multiple campaigns to tie back to them. You need to understand how your audience feels about specific issues that may even seem tangential to the brand. Then, identify which topics might present challenges down the line or invite criticism. Finally, you need to identify the channels that will carry your message most effectively.


Protagonist’s financial client successfully orchestrated campaigns that drew significant engagement with their customers, gained positive media attention and even won the marketing team some awards. They monitored the performance of each tactic so that they could fine-tune the messages that worked the most effectively based on the evolving narratives. By integrating so fully in these narratives, the company was able to shed its sense of stagnancy and resume the identity of an innovator. Customers responded positively and the narratives still indicate success.


Public beliefs are constantly evolving, and understanding and shaping those narratives has become an ongoing battle for marketers and communications teams. The more fluid corporate messaging becomes, the more important it is to ground strategic decisions in hard data. Narrative analytics makes adaptive, successful marketing possible.