Forget Positioning. What is your trajectory?

Last week, Interbrand announced their annual Top 100 Global Brands report, and as soon as I got the email, I jumped straight in. However, it wasn’t the list of tech super-businesses that got me excited, but the accompanying article explaining how we’re entering a new era of branding. It’s a fascinating read, so I decided to highlight some key points and consider how we’re working to incorporate these moves into our own brand management thinking here at JBP.

The issue: People are moving faster than businesses

With choice, loyalty and the speed of adoption in such abundance these days, the ability to try new products or switch services is easier and cheaper than ever. This means customers are demanding solutions that are suitable for them, rather than conforming to what brands are telling them to do, or the industry’s ‘best solution’. Customer loyalty has become a little more fragile and the benchmark for expectations is becoming higher than ever.

Therefore, developing a community is proving to be increasingly more important in building a loyal following.

Traditionally, the approach and very foundation of branding work has been about positioning – finding what your brand stands for, your values and your mission. While this is always good practice, the pace of brand positioning today has changed, with demands likely to constantly alter.

The evidence: Brands are focusing on trajectories

More and more brands are starting to move into categories out of their original spaces. For example, Apple moving into financial services or Uber delivering food as well as people to places. These brands are finding new ways to serve customer needs, through products and services they aren’t known for, creating a new normal for their brand perception, driving new expectations amongst customers, while also achieving new revenue streams.

Trajectories are now becoming the new positioning. While similar in status – it’s about where a brand is going – trajectories are far more focussed on the activity taken to get there, and Interbrand have coined a new term for this… ‘Iconic moves’.

There are three distinct themes businesses are looking at to achieve trajectory activities:

  • Customer Needs & Desires
  • Experiences to create interaction
  • Business Model & Returns

This new trend in focusing on constantly moving forward is also reflected in theories like Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game, where he explains how business and leadership don’t have a finite goal or ending in the same way a game of football does. Things keep moving, there will always be players, and business will still happen even if those players leave or businesses close.

The attitude of moving forwards is nothing new either. When working in motoring, I remember Audi proudly stated their ethos of ‘always moving forward’ being a reason they would never replace or revisit the A2 – after it was deemed a failure by the industry and they stopped production. Instead, they now champion the innovation it brought, introducing the iconic Audi Space Frame technology, and we see the gap in their perfect numerical product system being filled by the Q2, a new and modern entry into the urban-SUV market.

Product innovation is traditionally how businesses are rated against competition and has often been the deciding factor for customer loyalties and brand value. However, as new generations mature into decision makers, innovation is just another expectation to fulfil.

The Difference: Making iconic moves

With expectations at an all-time high and loyalty becoming increasingly difficult to achieve, what are brands doing to achieve great reputations and business growth? Introducing iconic moves.

‘Bold moves that challenge expectations’, is how Interbrand describes an iconic move. These are to be ‘well timed’, will ‘increase desirability’, ‘reshape categories’ and create ‘explosive business growth’.

What does that look like? Well, to take examples from Interbrand, think how Netflix created the binge-watching phenomenon and transformed the way people consumed television – expectations changed for the industry.

Amazon’s commitment to launch Prime drove them to create the world’s most impressive supply chain to deliver on a promise for their customers. A promise made by the brand which gave no choice for the business but to commit and follow through.

Apple continued to open stores during a time that other retailers were pulling investment in physical spaces. This created a temporary monopoly in the market and helped them to become the inevitable choice for customers.

Each of these examples are effects of an iconic move, and each business achieved the same effects as the other. More importantly however, all of these activities changed the landscape for competitors.


Ultimately, as we’ve seen over the last five years, the most successful brands and businesses are focusing on transparency and authenticity. That being said, people are becoming increasingly aware of brands throwing a campaign together to ‘cash-in’ on a movement. All of this results in expectations around brand activity being higher than ever – and building a loyal community of people who are on the journey with the business is more important for business growth.

Without that community, there’s no support for brands to thrive and this is where engagement is so crucial for brands and businesses to achieve growth.

For more information on how to engage with your audience and build communities around your business or brand, get in touch and see how our brilliant people can help.

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