Positioning a Premium Brand in a Commodity Category
The polypropylene business unit within the ExxonMobil Chemical Company had recently identified four new product grades that were considered to be truly breakthrough innovations within the category. This was a remarkable feat given polypropylene is traditionally considered to be a commodity business. Given the transformative nature of the products—and their ability to command premium pricing—ExxonMobil was seeking to develop and launch a new product brand to house these grades. The challenge it faced was to identify a single brand positioning that could be applied to multiple products that spanned disparate market segments (e.g., automotive, appliance, hygiene), application areas, and geographies. Specifically, the positioning needed to be broad enough to be relevant to all of the new grades, yet not so broad that is watered-down, diluted, and essentially meaningless to customers.
The FullSurge team conducted primary qualitative research among customers who were testing the new products in actual applications and assessing their performance. The research included chemical compounders and converters in Europe, Asia and North America who were serving global brand owners in different industries and end applications. The goal of the research was to transcend technical and product-related features and attributes—which is what compounders and converters typically talk about—and identify the business end benefits that would result from these superior-performing products.
Once we were able to elevate the discussion from technical product features to the broader business benefits they provide, a very compelling “connective tissue” emerged that seemed to apply to all the grades under consideration. Namely, they all provided ExxonMobil customers the ability to transform their business in dramatic ways. In some cases, the products enabled them to enter new market segments previously inaccessible to them. In other cases, they allowed them to compete in applications that were previously beyond their technical capabilities. However, regardless of product grade, ExxonMobil customers credited the new products with the ability to transform the essence of their respective businesses in meaningful ways.
Namely, they all provided ExxonMobil customers the ability to transform their business in dramatic ways.
With the positioning of the new brand in place, the FullSurge team worked with ExxonMobil’s brand team and advertising agency to develop a communications and messaging platform for promoting the brand. As was the case with the positioning, the key here was to “translate” the brand positioning into messaging that was highly specific and relevant to the segments and application areas in question, while still remaining true to the overarching brand positioning. With our assistance, the messaging platform enabled the company’s agency partner to develop an advertising campaign that showcased the new products in their well-deserved positive light.