In our blogs on Japanese brand Kongō Gumi and Korean boy band BTS, we tackled the importance of ‘brand positioning‘ which forms part of a brand strategy. We’ve learned that the hallmark of a strong brand positioning is its narrow singular focus.
Kongō Gumi narrowly focuses on Buddhist temples and shrines which allowed them to lead in this market segment and to operate continuously over the last 1,400 years, up to this day in Japan. On the other hand, BTS has a narrow focus on ‘life experiences during youth‘ in the lyrical themes of their hit songs which has earned for them, literally an ‘ARMY‘ of millions of die-hard fans around the world, across generations.
However, it is not enough for a brand to simply decide on a positioning and occupy an open hole in the market.
When a brand decides to cast itself on a specific positioning in its chosen market segment, especially in a crowded one, it needs to have compelling, consistent and credible evidence to support its positioning. This is the only way by which the target customers, whom the brand are trying to attract, will have a strong reason to believe the brand regarding its claim on that ‘open hole’.
In this blog, we will focus on ‘supporting evidence‘ or ‘reason to believe‘ (or RTB) which also forms a critical part of a brand’s strategy, the bedrock of any brand architecture.
“A wise man proportions himself to the evidence.”David Hume, 18th century Scottish Philospher
What is ‘supporting evidence‘ or ‘reason to believe’ (or RTB)?
By the terms themselves, these refer to the tangible evidence that provide the support for a brand in order to substantiate its claim on its brand positioning.
For example, when Volvo decided on a brand positioning focused on safety, it further cemented this claim in the market by inventing the 3-point seatbelt back in 1959, then patented it, then immediately shared the patent to its competitors. It sent out a very strong message that the brand was concerned about safety not only for its own customers, but even for the customers of its competitors!
Douglas Bell wrote in Forbes: “Good patents offer you a defensible advantage over rivals—twenty years of monopoly rights in the U.S., for example. Having claimed this prize, Volvo were in a position to charge significant license fees to rivals, or indeed, to promote their cars as the safest on the road, by retaining exclusivity. Remarkably, however, Volvo did neither, but made (Nils) Bohlin’s patent immediately available to all. Having sponsored the R&D, they gifted their designs to competitors, to encourage mass adoption and to save lives.”
In Volvo’s website, they hammer on this safety positioning even more in the way they introduce the brand: “We have created world-changing innovations since the first Volvo rolled off the production line in 1927. The modern seatbelt. The side impact protection system. The pedestrian detection system.”
Without credible and compelling supporting evidence, the positioning of a brand is undermined and can easily be taken over by a competitor which has a stronger supporting evidence or RTB.
Safety in Skin Care
“Be safe. Be beautiful. Start with what you put on your skin.”Unknown
Another market which places a very high value on safety, albeit in a different context, is the skin care industry. According to the American Cancer Society, the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) requires that cosmetic products be safe.
In this blog, we will explore this concept of ‘supporting evidence‘ in more depth within the context of the skin care or cosmetics market.
This 2021, the global skin care market is estimated to grow and become a staggering US$155 billion industry according to Statista. Five years from now, that number is estimated to further grow to around US$200billion. While there are no official published estimates, there is good reason to believe that there are probably tens of thousand of skin care products competing around the world. Therefore, the level of competition in this industry is innately fierce and cutthroat.
Therefore, any attempt to penetrate this market segment is sure to face very stiff competition from the leading players like global giants L’Oréal, P&G, Unilever, Estée Lauder and Shiseido, which have been competing in this market for decades, even over a century in the case of the latter brand from Japan.
And yet, back in 1979, a Philippine-based skin care brand bravely launched its skin care products in Manila and was positioned as a highly therapeutic brand focused on safety backed up by science.
Today, more than four decades later, this brand is thriving in over 100 locations across 14 countries and territories, including more than 30 locations in North and Central America (including the US, Mexico and Costa Rica), over 70 locations in Asia (including Philippines, Japan, Singapore, HK, Taiwan, and Malaysia), and several more in Europe (including Spain, Sweden, Austria and Germany).
The brand is VMV Hypoallergenics® which bears the initials of its founding physician, Dra. Vermén M. Verallo-Rowell, M. D., a highly accomplished, highly respected and internationally recognized dermatologist, dermatopathologist, and dermatology & laser surgeon.
So how did VMV Hypoallergenics® succeed in this highly competitive and highly fragmented market?
The quick answer is, yes, you guessed it: supporting evidence.
The scientific-sounding brand name itself already points to a strong therapeutic brand positioning. The definition of ‘hypoallergenic’ states: ‘relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction’. So the brand name alone is already a clear and bold statement, upfront.
“VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® offers the safest, most proven effective care on the planet.”VMV Hypoallergenics Tagline
The various brand touch points like their packaging, website, etc. also have that consistent therapeutic look and feel, ie. text-heavy and less focused on images and artistic designs. Their retail front liners wear clinical white jackets projecting a professional, even medical image. Even their videos posted in their website are unabashedly very scientific and not designed for entertainment. The various ways by which the brand communicates its brand personality to consumers express a very authoritative and convincing tone.
Its positioning provides a strong narrow focus on safety. As stated in their website: “VMV HYPOALLERGENICS® is, uniquely, hypoallergenicity as a lifestyle: we’re committed to providing the safest, most (proven!) effective care on the planet for men, women and children; the most stringent standards of clinical efficacy.“
There are some very bold claims in that statement:
- Providing the safest
- Most proven effective care
- In the planet
- The most stringent standards in clinical efficiency
And to back up these very bold claims, the brand touts these facts in their website:
- The brand has over 75 published, and even awarded, studies in medical journals and conventions — including the first and only hypoallergenic “grading” system.
- The brand was the first – and is still the only – brand to rate its hypoallergenicity. Their VH-Rating System is published in Dermatitis, one of the leading peer-reviewed dermatological journals and shows less than 0.1% reported reactions to VMV products over 30 years. It is recognized as an effective way to objectively validate hypoallergenic claims in cosmetics.
- The “VH-Number” rating system “grades” a product’s safety based on how many allergens it does not contain, as referenced by the list of allergens compiled by objective, independent institutions like the American Contact Dermatitis Society and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies. There are now 109 top allergens that are ingredients frequently found in cosmetics, or common cross-reactants/contaminants of cosmetics. VMV’s products are free of most or all 109 allergens, as reflected by the VH rating on the label. Uniquely, VMV continuously reviews studies and reformulates products if even just one ingredient becomes identified as an allergen.
- The brand’s claims are backed by randomized, double-blind, evidence-based clinical studies, over 75 of which have been presented and published (even awarded) in medical journals + conventions around the world. VMV is in CAMP, the Contact Allergen Management Program of the American Contact Dermatitis Society. Created in 1979 (and still formulated and tested) by a widely-published, renowned dermatologist-dermatopathologist, the brand understands both the skin’s surface and its micropscopic structure.
The founder herself holds very compelling credentials which are proudly stated in the VMV website including:
- She is a board-certified clinical dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon, dermatopathologist, and clinical researcher who has been in clinical practice for over 30 years.
- She was one of the first dermatopathology graduates in the USA and remains active in several medical boards in the USA and Asia.
- She is an active member of leading dermatological, contact dermatitis, photodermatological and dermatopathological societies (where she has also held committee, board, presidency and editorial positions) in the USA and Asia.
- She is a teacher and a widely-published author in peer-reviewed journals such as the Archives of Dermatology, Dermatitis, Cutis (where, as a young fellow, she won a prestigious research manuscript award), and the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, and is a sought-after speaker at medical conventions around the globe. In addition to research for VMV HYPOALLERGENICS®, she regularly writes original protocols and performs studies for leading pharmaceutical, cosmetic and laser companies.
- Along with her expertise in contact allergies, she is considered an expert in procedural, cosmetic, surgical dermatology, phototherapy, hyper-pigmentations, acne, psoriasis and other diseases of the skin.
And consumers have been validating the brand’s claims and efficacy.
VMV consumers have consistently been giving the brand four to five-star ratings and glowing consumer reviews in international third-party forums like Dermstore.
“This brand really means what it says on the packaging. This took my makeup off really well and my skin didn’t feel irritated at all. A wonderful product!”Consumer from El Segundo California, USA
“I started having skin allergies about a year and a half ago. After several doctors and different testing, I find I am allergic to a lot of chemicals in most all products. I have tried several different fragrance free shampoos. They either leave your hair looking greasy or smelling like mildew. VMV IS THE BEST FRAGRANCE FREE product I have found.Consumer from New Egypt, New Jersey, USA
Brilliant brands like VMV Hypoallergenics® teach us that even amidst a highly competitive market like skin care and cosmetics, if a brand competes with a narrow yet bold positioning (like ‘being the safest on the planet’), as long as this is backed up by compelling supporting evidence, there is a strong chance of grabbing market share away from even the biggest and established global brands.
VMV Hypoallergenics® has truly and consistently given consumers reasons to believe in the brand which consumers themselves have validated.
You can leave your reason for answering ‘No’ here.