You Hamburger is Only Half your Challenge

You Hamburger is Only Half your Challenge


The battle for the mind of your market is where the fireworks are.  If you are not embedded in the mind of your market, you’re lost.  That is what branding is all about.

That is what I described in Part I of Positioning your Business:  “Do you have a hamburger?” Do you have a word and a picture in the mind of your market that is so distinctive and clear that the market can make a choice – even if it is against you!  More important than whether they choose for or against you, is that they must be able to choose at all.

Unfortunately the battle for the mind of your market is not your only battle as a business owner.

Think of it this way.  Ever participated in a school play?  Or have kids taking part?  On stage is your little darling, quite ordinary looking in the light of day, but on stage? Wow! A fairy princess waltzing through a magical forest in blue shimmering moonshine.

Capturing your market

Branding is the on stage part of your business. That’s where you capture the mind of the audience / market.

However, on stage only works if back stage is practical, organised and efficient. The purpose of back stage is to make on stage work, but back stage looks a lot different than on stage. Different kinds of activities happen. There might even be a different focus.

In an enterprise there is sometimes a different business going on back stage than what’s happening on stage.  At the big yellow arches the audience sees hamburgers. Back stage at the big yellow arches they see standardised production, detailed logistics and rigorous training.

Or take the car hire industry. You book your car when you book your airline ticket. For renting cars to drivers they have an entire back stage operation on the go contracting with airlines.  But that’s not all; their “real” business is in the second hand car market. They let cars to you to get second hand cars to sell.

Back stage in business

In the world of media you see the titles, back stage they see subscription models and advertising for sale.

Take Coke™ and Pepsi™.  On stage it’s the packaging.  Back stage they sell sweet tasting syrup to distributors. Coke and Pepsi fight the branding battle. Back stage are the distributors fighting for terrain.  You want to take Coke™ and Pepsi™ on? Even if you could win the branding war – which you won’t of course! – you won’t win the distribution battle.

We have seen the same thing with newspapers inSouth Africa. New dailies appear only to disappear.  If you want to launch a new newspaper, the paper itself, its content and even its production are the least of your worries. These are all commodities. You stand or fall by your ability to distribute.

What’s your strategy?

A couple of years ago I had the privilege to interview Al and Laura Ries. Al Ries co-authored with Jack Trout one of the most important marketing strategy books ever written, Positioning, the battle for your mind.  Since then he and Laura have been writing numerous bestselling titles, such as The fall of advertising and the rise of PR. “You see the books,” he says: “We write the books to get speaking engagements; the speaking engagements get the consulting assignments.”

Until they changed their strategy on real estate, McDonalds™ was a real estate company that owned the properties their franchisees rented from them. All that has now changed, they realised they had to be in the malls too. While all this back stage changed on stage the hamburger remained firmly fixed in the mind of the market.

Remember, back stage the positioning issue is not the “hamburger in the mind of the market,” but: “At what price can I serve the need people have for fast food in such a way that it is very difficult, if not impossible for others to copy my recipe and become the new owners of the hamburger in the mind of the market?

So, branding is not the only way in which you should strive to be unique. It is just as important to ask: “What makes me different from the opposition back stage?” What is your unique fit of needs, people and price?

This is how Jef Bizos of Amazon answered these questions at the launch of Kindle Fire: “Some companies do everything to be as efficient as possible to charge their clients more. Others to everything to be as efficient as possible to charge their clients less. Both can work. We, however are firmly in the second camp.”

Where do you stand?

Bertie du Plessis
Bertie du Plessis founded his successful consultancy firm, MindPilot, 17 years ago. He names several of South Africa’s blue chip corporations among his client list and has taught as a lecturer and guest lecturer in six different disciplines at tertiary institutions. His blog is the most read business blog on the domain. Visit Bertie Du Plessis's website for more information.