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Ballerina Brand Positioning

There are some words that should simply be banned from the marketing mix and purged from the lexicon of B2B marketing.

'Agile’, for example. Agile is a word that only the confused, stupid or incompetent apply in a brand context. The true definition of agile would surely include a degree of dexterity. A certain graceful flexibility. A Golden Eagle in flight might be considered agile. An Olympic gymnast is agile. A ballerina is agile. A brand is not.

A brand is not agile, a business is not agile, most people are not agile. IBM claimed the agile business territory years ago and has done a reasonable job of using digital media and social media marketing to convince the world that a company of over 400,000 people could respond with the agility of a ballerina. In reality of course, companies with around half a million people respond with all the agility of, well, half a million people. It’s a bit like asking the entire, combined population of three towns the size of Basingstoke to all move in the same direction at once. How agile would that be? I’m guessing not very.

And yet in recent years, agile terminology has successfully become a business practice, a method of project management and a process for software development. You can download a book all about it – it’s called, ‘Agile’. (Sigh.) In it’s most recent recycling, agile has seemingly also been applied to a new marketing strategy.

I’m all for agility in business by the way. Short phases of work, frequent reassessment, ongoing measurement and adaption – it all makes perfect sense. But however worthy I find the principal of an agile business or an agile marketing strategy, ‘business agility’ basically boils down to big businesses trying to act like small businesses, but with more money to throw around. In the creative services arena, the vast majority of businesses are already small so I find it reassuring that, as a creative marketing agency, we were right all along.

The concept of agile as a large company’s defining brand attribute, however, is where I start to become a little tetchy. When I run brand positioning workshops and ask clients to describe their company brand, the last word I want to hear is ‘agile’. I know they’re not, they know they’re not and even if we both thought they were, it means that the sum total of their creative vision for the brand is to be like IBM and sit in the neutered, ‘You never get fired for buying IBM’, corner.

The reason we’re running the workshop in the first place is because as part of the marketing plan the client has forcefully expressed the opinion that, “We don’t want to be like IBM…”

Oh the irony.

So here’s the thing. Be more creative with your brand. In pursuit of differentiated brand positioning and a more creative marketing strategy, I would encourage you to use more creative attributes to start with. The next time you’re tempted to use the word ‘agile’ to describe your business, try replacing it with the word, ‘ballerina’ and see if that’s how you’d like it to be described. In a graceful twist of double irony, the Ballerina Brand would almost certainly be the one thing that the agile brand is not – creative.

Scot McKee
Managing Director

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