by Lisa Zone

May 28, 2014

If you follow me on Twitter, you know my love of pizza is well documented. But in this case, the headline for this post is not just an homage to my favorite dinner choice.

I just read a really interesting piece from Business Insider about a marketing insight John Schnatter had early on that helped propel the success of Papa John’s. That insight? Finding a unique market position.

See, while large chain competitors of Papa John’s held brand positions based on speed, price and variety, Papa John’s biggest chunk of competition (65%) was the local independent pizza shop. How could Papa John’s compete with that group? By focusing on quality, which is what consumers had come to love about their local pizza joint. And that positioning – Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. – is the brand promise that’s still used today.

So what can your B2B brand learn from a pizza chain?

Know your competition 

In the case of Papa John’s, it wasn’t necessarily the other national chains that made up the biggest chunk of competition. In fact, independent pizza shops held the biggest slice of the pie. (Sorry. Bad pun.) How does that notion apply to your B2B organization? In today’s increasingly fragmented world, we’re seeing many niche players – not large multinationals – presenting the biggest competition to our B2B clients. It’s important to know who your biggest challengers really are in order to effectively take them on.

Find your unfair competitive advantage

In the case of Papa John’s, other national chains offered economies of scale, but local pizza shops offered quality. Papa’s John’s opportunity – its unfair competitive advantage – was to blend those two concepts. How does this apply to your B2B organization? Think about what your competitors offer that you can’t. Then – and perhaps more importantly – think about what YOU can offer that they can’t. The place where there’s a hole in the marketplace between the established old-line companies and the new niche players is where you have the biggest opportunity to carve out your unique brand position. What is your brand’s unfair competitive advantage against peers of all shapes and sizes?

Nail your brand promise 

Once you identify who you’re going up against and what makes you special, how will you capitalize on it? Enter the brand promise. Papa John’s brand promise is quality. What’s yours? Do you have engineers with more experience than any other company in the industry? Are you always first-to-market with product innovations? Do you offer products that are better value (high quality, lower cost) than your competitors? Nailing your brand promise is critical in today’s increasingly competitive landscape. A strong brand promise must be relevant and believable to your customers. In other words, if customers don’t care about price, building your brand promise around low cost won’t get you very far. Likewise, you can’t claim to be innovative if your products are generally known in the marketplace as “me too”s.

When was the last time your B2B organization went through a brand positioning exercise like this? Given today’s ever-evolving competitive landscape, it might be time to revisit your brand to determine whether it will position you for future growth. If you don’t, you face the risk of being eaten up by the competition.

Want to learn more?

For more information about B2B branding, check out our marketing communications capabilities or email me.