Branding vs. Positioning. Is there a difference and why does it matter?

What is the difference between branding and positioning? Some think they are one and the same.

Others get them confused, thinking positioning is branding and vice versa. I will never forget the presentation I made many years ago to the new ad agency tasked with branding the company I was working for in Europe. I explained the framework the team used to position one of our products, including the position for it. After our agency team huddled for a few minutes, they came back and said we had already done branding. read more

Do BI vendors ignore competitors’ positions or follow the herd?

Why do so many Business Intelligence (BI) software companies use “insights” as their position? Of the 19 BI companies evaluated in this 4th annual assessment, more than half (11) position around the notion of “insights.”

There are two polar opposite explanations for what I call “me-too” positioning which means no differentiation. Either the BI companies are ignoring their competitors or they are copying them which a McKinsey analysis described as “a tendency to follow the herd rather than create strongly differentiated brand messages.”

This analysis includes two perceptual maps. The first one lumps together all companies claiming “insights.” A second one later in this blog shows you the 11 different ways BI companies are attempting to claim “insights.” Based on an analysis of websites, here is how the BI vendors are positioned in May 2018:

In last year’s assessment I explored the possibility that BI vendors are doing what Ries & Trout said is the reason for lack of differentiation in their book published in 2001 “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind:”

“…too many companies embark on marketing and advertising as if the competitor’s position did not exist. They advertise their products in a vacuum and are disappointed when their messages fail to get through.”

Lack of differentiation has been a significant problem since I started my annual BI evaluation four years ago. In 2014, seven vendors claimed “better decisions” as their position; in 2015 six claimed “insights” as their position and it has increased steadily until today a majority use “insights” as their position.

The Ries & Trout explanation doesn’t make sense

The Ries & Trout explanation didn’t make sense to me so I began to ask B2B marketing and product management executives why so much “insight” in BI positioning and marketing?

Andy Kamlet debunks the Ries & Trout explanation. Andy was CMO at FRx Software, and has more than 20 years of experience doing marketing, product marketing and product management for several B2B software companies in the Denver area. He has seen the latest trend marketing throughout his career with analysts leading the way without the analysts knowing it.

“They are saying what the analysts are saying,” said Andy, now principal, J3K Strategies Group. Since most analyst reports are written for management and especially CIOs, I was surprised by Andy’s explanation. But the evidence suggests that Andy may be right.

Forrester analyst Brian Hopkins began talking about “systems of insight” in 2014 and first wrote about “insights-driven businesses” in 2015. That’s about the time BI vendors began to move away from “better decisions” as the popular position and embrace the “insight” position.

Since then, Hopkins and other Forrester analysts have written thought-leadership reports that explained how to become “insights driven,” and the benefits of “systems of insight” and “insight platforms.”

Is “Insights” a benefit or is what it delivers the benefit? 

However, many concepts covered in the Forrester reports seem to have been ignored by the BI vendors claiming “insights.”

For example, Forrester’s October report “Insights-driven businesses set the pace for global growth” includes these characteristics of a “insights-driven business:”

  • growing an average of more than 30% annually
  • customer obsessed
  • act smarter and faster than their competitors
  • scale their business through software and insight, not people
  • read more