One common difficulty in creating a strong, competitive brand positioning is that many of the attributes or benefits that make up the points-of-parity (POP) and points-of-difference (POD) are negatively correlated. If consumers rate the brand highly on one particular attribute or benefit, they also rate it poorly on another important attribute. For example, it might be difficult to position a brand as “inexpensive� and at the same time assert that it is “of the highest quality�. Moreover, individual attributes and benefits often have positive and negative aspects. For example, consider a long lived brand that is seen as having a great deal of heritage. Heritage could suggest experience, wisdom, and expertise. On the other hand, it could also easily be seen as a negative: It might imply being old-fashioned and not up-to-date.

Brooks Brothers:
In the late 1990s, Brooks Brothers found its heritage to be deficit rather than a plus. The American retailer’s starched shirts and pinstriped suits seemed an anachronism in a world of jeans, khakis, polo tops, and casual Fridays. The company tried to downplay its heritage by stocking trendier sweaters and slacks. The move both alienated loyal customers and failed to attract new ones, and the company lost share. In 2001, Italian-born Claudio Del Vecchio bought the company for $225 million, and began using the Brooks Brothers heritage as a positive point-of-difference. The look is more sophisticated, quality is back, and prices are higher. For now Brooks Brothers is focused on wooing its traditional customers. The store has published a book chronicling its history. It is inviting select customers to a series of 185th anniversary events and reintroducing pieces from its past, including the Shetland sweater introduced in 1904 and the sack suit JFK loved. As a sign that the beleaguered company must be doing something right, other stores are copying it by mining their own heritage.

Coach is bringing back its bucket-shaped “feed bag� purse, Eddie Bauer is reintroducing the 1936 quilted Sky liner jacket, and J.Crew is making its classic tweed jacket and roll-neck sweater again.

Unfortunately, consumers typically want to maximize both attributes and benefits. Much of the art and science of marketing is dealing with trade-offs, and positioning is no different. The best approach clearly is to develop a product or service that performs well on both dimensions. BMW was able to establish its “luxury and performance� straddle positioning due in large part to product design and the fact that the car was seen as both luxurious and high performance. Gore-Tex was able to overcome the seemingly conflicting product image of “breathable� and “waterproof� through technological advances. There are additional ways to address the problem of negatively correlated POP and POD.