Who is the Enemy?

October 8, 2004

You build brands by establishing a new category in the mind and then making sure your brand is the first brand to occupy that new category. But that’s not enough to insure marketing success.

Establishing an enemy is almost as important as creating a new category. No category will be successful unless it has an enemy. No new brand will be successful unless it also has an enemy.

It is sometimes helpful to identify the enemy category by name and then try to force the new category to branch out as much as possible from the existing category.

The first automobile was positioned as a “horseless carriage.” It was an open vehicle that looked like a carriage and drove like a carriage. Evolution rapidly changed the appearance of the automobile while the horse-drawn carriages you see in New York’s Central Park stayed pretty much the same.

It is interesting to note the absence of hybrids. There were no horse-drawn carriages with an auxiliary engine in case the horse gets tired. Today’s automotive hybrids (which I predict will ultimately prove to be transition products) use electric batteries in case the gasoline engine gets tired.

When finding an enemy sometimes you just need to look at yourself.

Why compete with others when you can compete against yourself? A good strategy is to launch a new brand in a new category to be the enemy of your existing brand. We sometimes call this the 1-2-3 punch. Think about these families of brands: Busch, Budweiser, Michelob. Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic. Scion, Toyota, Lexus.

The reason all of these example are so successful is that having separate names allows the brands and categories to openly compete against one another. When each brand has the company name on it you run into problems. Just look at the problems over at Coke.

The enemy of diet cola is regular cola, yet that puts the Diet Coca-Cola in a difficult position. Diet Coke should be attacking regular cola by running advertisements that say in essence, “150 calories, for what?”

In other words, Diet Coke should put regular cola in the same category as smoking cigarettes or driving without a seatbelt. They’re all bad for you.

That’s difficult to do psychologically if “Coca-Cola” is part of your brand name, which is the main reason why the Coca-Cola Company should have used Tab or some other brand name for its diet cola product. A new name could have allowed more separation and competition between the brands.

The Diet Coke brand has two strikes against it. The “Diet” half of the name stigmatizes the brand as “not very good tasting.” The “Coke” half of the name keeps the company from using its most-potent marketing tool, attacking the cola category.

To fight that problem, recently Coca-Cola has introduced a hybrid cola C2 which has only confused the matter even further. C2’s enemy is both regular Coke and Diet Coke. It isn’t a diet product nor is it a full-flavor/calorie soda. Nor does it have a new brand name.

And like the horse-drawn carriage with the auxiliary motor I don’t think C2 will get very far.