In my last post, I discussed the power of positioning to help determine a clear path forward for a brand. Investing the time to define your position will pay off in spades, but it’s not something that you can simply set and forget.

Every element of your brand’s positioning can change at any time, and unfortunately, these changes often occur at different times and likely for different reasons. As the brand leader, it is your job to be aware of the changes and respond as quickly and effectively as possible.

Navigating Transitions
Despite extensive research and the best of intentions, there are several ways your target consumer can change over time. The most common drivers of change are product and category lifecycles. Just like humans, every category (and the brands that occupy it) moves through a series of lifecycles, from new and innovative to more mature and well-established. As the category you compete in progresses through these lifecycles, the audience you choose to target, and the benefits and value proposition you communicate in your messaging can (and should) change.

For a new product in a new category, it’s imperative to target early adopters to drive trial and create credible word-of-mouth endorsement. However, as the category and your brand both mature and grow, the customers you need to recruit will have a completely different set of attributes, beliefs, desires, and needs. To see this process in action, peruse your local Best Buy or a traditional department store. You’ll see a plethora of brands and categories in the midst of navigating these lifecycle challenges — some clearly doing a better job than others.

It’s paramount to understand where you and your category are on the adoption curve and ensure your positioning allows you to make a smooth transition from one group to the next. It’s a bit like gambling — you can’t wait too long to walk away from a target consumer group, but you also can’t afford to go “all-in” too early and chase a group that isn’t quite ready to embrace your value proposition.

The right approach for this quandary is to be proactive. Plotting out a multi-year roadmap to guide the transition of your messaging and target audience over time will help make the transitions more intentional and well thought out. This sort of planning is important because you need to retain the core user group you’ve built, even as you prepare to bring on a new one. The world is riddled with brands (and musicians) that have gone the path of “one-hit wonders” by failing to navigate this transition successfully. Remember, you want to be more like Madonna than Chumbawamba.

Moving Forward
Hopefully, this post provided some insight into some of the potential changes in positioning you might face on the consumer front and how to address them. In my next blog post, we’ll focus on the changing competitive landscape and how the choices you (and your competitors) make can impact consumer perceptions and purchase behaviors.