Zillow, Peloton, Asana, Old Navy, Yelp & Instagram Aspire to Transformation
An aspirational brand positioning framework connects with target consumers values and articulates a higher purpose.
Marketing executives from nine leading brands including Peloton, Old Navy, Asana, Gatorade, Oracle, Instagram, Uber, Zillow and Yelp recent shared aspirational brand positioning statements.
Expert sources concur that a compelling brand strategy and brand positioning framework include the following twelve aspects:
- Brand personality, logo, tone, voice, visual and audio identity
- Target audience
- Brand positioning and differentiation following the positioning framework
- To target [specific audience],
- For [defined] frame of reference,
- Brand X is the [functional/emotional] point of differentiation
- Because [attributes] reasons to believe
- Brand purpose, mission and values
- Brand values
- Brand value proposition or pillars
- Competitive position/market position
- Brand image
- Brand architecture
- Brand guidelines
- Messaging pillars and strategy
In many of the nine brand positioning examples shared on 9/29/21 in the Wall Street Journal, the brand positioning statements shared by the marketing executives appear closest to element #4, namely the brand purpose, mission and values.
|Brand||Brand Positioning Statement from 9/29/21 Wall Street Journal||Marketing Executive Quoted in 9/29/21 Wall Street Journal|
|Pushing culture forward across the globe||Melissa Waters, VP Marketing|
|Peloton||Motivating millions to stay active, centered and connected||Dara Treseder, SVP Global Mktg. & Comms.|
|Yelp||Connecting people with great local business||Dan Kimball, SVP Marketing|
|Zillow||Helping people move and growth throughout life’s journey||Aimee Johnson, CMO|
|Asana||Helping teams work with greater focus and flow||Dave King, CMO|
|Old Navy||Delivering the democracy of style and service to all||Jamie Gersch, SVP & CMO|
|Oracle||Building resilience for our customers and their most important business applications||Ariel Kelman, CMO|
|Uber||Helping move what matters, so everyone can go anywhere and get anything||Thomas Ranese, CMO|
|Gatorade||Evolving from a sports fuel company to a brand that fuels sports culture||Kalen Thornton, CMO|
There are a number of themes that are common across these aspirational brand statements, including transformation, ubiquity and access.
Let’s take a closer look at six of these brands and how their current performance delivers against the aspirational brand statement.
Instagram Aspirational Brand Positioning Framework
Instagram, for example, elevates from a “simple, fun & creative way to capture, edit & share photos, videos & messages with friends & family” to promise to advance culture worldwide. Instagram’s brand positioning statement is “ Pushing culture forward across the globe.”
The definition of culture is interesting. According to one source, top Instagram influencers as of October 2021 include:
- Cristiano Ronaldo with 351.1 million followers, category focus is “sports with a ball”
- Leo Messi with 271 million followers, category focus is “sports with a ball”
- Kylie Jenner with 273 million followers, category focus is fashion, modeling, beauty
- Kim Kardashian West with 257 million followers, category focus is fashion and beauty
- Selena Gomez with 266 million followers, category focus is music and lifestyle
- Ariana Grande with 269 million followers, category focus is music
- Kendall Jenner with 193 million followers, category focus is modeling and fashion
- Zendaya with 110 million followers, category focus is cinema and actors/actresses and fashion
While food has traditionally been considered important to culture, it’s interesting to note that top-ranked food influencers have relatively smaller followings (e.g., 13 million for Gordon Ramsay or 3 million for Ina Garten), and that Instagram’s global culture leaders are focused on sports, fashion, beauty and music.
Peloton Aspirational Brand Positioning Framework
Peloton offers exercise services (i.e., All-Access Membership) and equipment, centered around exercise bikes, weights and treadmills. Brand packages also include shoes, headphones and other equipment like heart rate monitors. Pricing ranges from $1,895 for a Bike Basics package, plus $39 all-access membership to $2,945 for a Bike+ Family package. Digital subscriptions are also available and do not require an equipment purchase.
Peloton drove growth by expanding from the traditional affluent, suburban consumer target for home exercise equipment to a younger, urban and less-affluent consumer. This younger, urban consumer was motivated and willing to pay for a compelling at-home fitness program during the pandemic lockdowns.
Peloton delivered its aspirational brand promise of “Motivating millions to stay active, centered and connected” for these consumers and drove substantial growth.
The Peloton brand benefitted from pandemic stay-at-home lifestyles, but has faced challenges in recent months. In May 2021, the Peloton Tread+ was recalled for safety reasons. In August 2021, poor internal financial reporting controls were reported, along with higher customer churn. In October 2021, some Peloton users reporting a slowdown in usage now that there are more choices to be active outside the home.
With remote work expected to continue for many consumers, Peloton’s in-home convenience offers an attractive alternative to traveling to a gym.
For me, however, I’ve found it motivating to return to in-person BodyPump and yoga classes in our local Bay Club gyms in Santa Monica and El Segundo starting in July 2021. While aerobic exercising outdoors works well for me, i.e., running, walking and bicycling, I simply wasn’t getting the strength training done at home. I also found it harder to concentrate taking online yoga classes at home, despite a highly-engaging instructor offering personalized instruction.
Yelp Aspirational Brand Positioning Framework
Yelp was founded in 2004, offering crowd-sourced reviews for local businesses. Yelp is known as “the king” of restaurant reviews, despite rising challenges from Google, as Google prioritizes its own local restaurant services. In our household, Yelp remains the preferred source for online restaurant reviews.
Yelp’s business model is over 80% advertising revenue from businesses, with some business owners liking the service, while others report that Yelp pressured them to purchase advertising. Top categories for Yelp’s advertising revenue include:
- Restaurants – 37% of revenues in 1st Quarter 2021
- Services – 64% of revenue in 1st Quarter 2021
- Home & Local, Other, Beauty & Fitness, Health, Retail Stores and Shopping.
The local advertiser customer base for Yelp is under pressure. Despite PPP and other measures, small business industries were hard hit in the pandemic. Some of the biggest declines included:
- Taxi and limousine services: -73%
- Niche schools and instruction, and educational support services: -48%
- Child day care services: -37%
- Restaurants and other food services: -31%
- All industries: -20%
Looking it over, Yelp’s brand positioning is accurate, but feels less aspirational than other brands in this set;
“Yelp connects people with great local businesses. Our users have contributed approximately 155 million cumulative reviews of almost every type of local business, from restaurants, boutiques and salons to dentists, mechanics, plumbers and more. These reviews are written by people using Yelp to share their everyday local business experiences, giving voice to consumers and bringing ‘word of mouth’ online.”
Zillow Aspirational Brand Positioning Framework
Started in 2006, Zillow provides easy access to real estate listings and is the “most- visited” real estate site in the United States. According to Statista, Zillow had 36 million visits in January 2020, compared with 23 million visits for Trulia (also owned by Zillow), 20 million for Yahoo! Homes, 18 million for Realtor, 6 million for RedFin, 5 million for Homes, and 2.5 million for ApartmentGuide.
Zillow has over 100 million homes in its platform, and its Zillow Zestimate reportedly has a 1.9% error rate for homes currently for sale and a 6.9% error rate for off-market homes. For our house, the Zestimate looks quite suspect.
Zillow’s business model includes charging realtors to advertise on its website as Premier Agents. It also buys homes and resells them with Zillow Offers, which started in 2018. Through Zillow Offers, buyers get an all-cash offer for their homes. Additionally, Zillow offers loans through its Zillow Home Loans affiliate lender with “an easy option to get pre-approved and secure financing for their next home purchase.” They also offer Zillow Closing Services for title and escrow.
Total Zillow revenue for 2nd Quarter 2021 is estimated at $1.3 billion. Mortgages made up only 4% of this total, while IMT (Internet, Media, & Technology) was 36% and Zillow Offers was 59% of the total. Zillow Offers have varied greatly in their contribution to revenue, ranging from around 33% to as high as 80%, while IMT revenue has been more stable. Internet, Media, & Technology includes Premier Agent and other markets, including business software solutions for realtors, brokers and other real estate professionals.
The Zillow brand’s aspirational promise is “helping people move and growth throughout life’s journey” and Zillow offers the perspective that “To Move is To Grow”, and “Whether you’re looking to buy, sell or rent a home, Zillow is ready to help. We’ve got the resources you need so you can make your next move with confidence.”
While I’d personally push back on whether moving is required for growth, Zillow is strongly delivering on its aspirational positioning by making it easier to move.
Asana Aspirational Brand Positioning Framework
Asana is a web and mobile project management app that helps teams manage and track work. It includes projects, tasks and workspaces and different views such as calendar, list and status with a goal of helping teams spend less time in meetings or writing status emails.
Since the word asana is also used in yoga as a seat or posture, the name suggests a specific approach or posture to addressing work.
At Insight to Action, we adopted Asana in May 2021 in order to enable remote work. Asana was recommended by several local executives, and we also tried two other platforms before selecting Asana. Overall, it’s been helpful, and the use cases we’ve experienced include some of the most common ones identified by Asana:
|Top Use Case||Our Experience|
|Sharing goals and priorities||Useful for priorities, though the timing feature still is hard to grasp for some|
|Team meeting and 1:1 agendas||Outstanding: We are finding meetings are much more effective and efficient- literally less time|
|New employee onboarding||Very helpful for the myriad of tasks for new employee onboarding|
|Global <> local campaign execution||We have not used this|
|Editorial calendar and publishing||We prefer Google Sheets as there are analytic elements in our calendar|
|Product launches||We are using this for Women’s Business Enterprise work|
Asana’s brand positioning statement is “Helping teams work with greater focus and flow.”
While the tool can be glitchy at time, e.g., uploading failures force us to focus on email, overall the brand delivers against its promise for our fully remote organization.
Old Navy Aspirational Brand Positioning Framework
In August, the #2 US apparel brand Old Navy reported a 21% net sales increase vs. 2019 with comparable sales flat vs. 2020. Performance was attributed to the loyalty launch (Navyist Rewards), which led to growth in Old Navy’s customer file.
A recent TV commercial featuring Aidy Byrant celebrates this inclusive commitment with dancing.
Despite all the Peloton use, at least 42% of US adult consumers reported gaining an average 29 pounds during the pandemic, so offering larger sizes and flattering styles makes a lot of sense. Other sources have reported as many as 60% of consumers gaining weight.
The focus on sizing and availability supports the Old Navy brand’s aspirational positioning of “Delivering the democracy of style and service to all.”
It’s inspiring to look at how the marketing leaders at these brands are bringing new approaches and commitments to their brands. For other examples of positioning, visit our positioning resources page. We welcome your comments, and hope to see you at an upcoming open office hours.