What I Love About the DeWalt Power Tools Brand Positioning Case Study

, DeWalt Power Tools Brand Positioning Case Study

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to study the DeWalt case study in brand positioning on at least two occasions. First, it was a part of the marketing strategy class in my MBA program. My second opportunity to study the case was at Kellogg School of Management’s “Kellogg on Branding” certificate program.

Briefly, the case generally goes like this – Stanley Black & Decker (formerly just “Black & Decker), owner of DeWalt, wanted to compete in the professional power tool category but had trouble competing with its Black and Decker brand, which, at least at the time, was more well known for its Dust Buster’s and coffee makers than it was for professional-grade power tools that would stand up to the rigors of the construction site. Stanley Black & Decker found that it had an old, unused brand name in DeWalt and, after some consumer research, produced the “safety yellow” color scheme that appears across the entire line and launched a new brand to compete with the Makita’s and Milwaukee’s of the world.

If that is the “what” of Stanley Black & Decker’s process, the “how” is equally intriguing. The company developed a brand positioning statement, comprised of four key components to clearly articulate the brand’s value in the marketplace.

“To the tradesman who uses his power tools to make a living and cannot afford downtime on the job, DeWalt professional power tools are more dependable than other brands of professional power tools because they are engineered to the brand’s historic high-quality standards and are backed by Black & Decker’s extensive service network and guarantee to repair or replace any tool within 48 hours.”

This statement, which is not a tagline or generally intended for external consumption (except with the obvious exception of being included in a Harvard Business Review Case Study), has a four-part formula.

  • Target – To the tradesman who uses his power tools to make a living and cannot afford downtime on the job
  • Frame of Reference – DeWalt professional power tools
  • Point of Differentiation – are more dependable than other brands of professional power tools
  • Reasons to Believe – because they are engineered to the brand’s historic high-quality standards and are backed by Black & Decker’s extensive service network and guarantee to repair or replace any tool within 48 hours.

This four-part formula is a straightforward way to frame your organization’s brand positioning. It is virtually impossible for two companies to have the same brand positioning because it forces each brand to clearly articulate their target audience and unique selling propositions in ways that would be challenging to duplicate, particularly when cross-referenced against a single industry/frame of reference or specific reasons to believe, which may vary from brand to brand.

To produce a positioning statement for your brand, follow these four steps:

  1. Identify your target audience – Who are the people or groups that you are trying to influence (or trying to get to become your buyers)?
  2. Articulate your frame of reference – Black and Decker and DeWalt have different frames of reference. My Black and Decker electric screwdriver is great for around the house, but I doubt it would withstand the demands of a tradesperson on the job site every single day.
  3. Understand your points of differentiation – What attributes does your brand have that are unique to your organization? Were you the first? Are you the largest? Do you offer the lowest price? The best service? Better performance than your peers?
  4. Reasons to believe – What are you willing to guarantee? Think about the old delivery commercials, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” that Federal Express (now FedEx) guaranteed. Or how many free pizzas did Dominos have to offer when it guaranteed 30-minute delivery? According to Gino Wickman, author of Traction, “a guarantee is your opportunity to pinpoint an industry-wide problem and solve it. This is typically a service or quality problem. You must determine what your customers can count on from you. If you guarantee it, that will put their minds at ease and enable you to close more business.

I’ve been fortunate to lead a number of brands through this exercise and it helps. It helps center the organization around a brand position that is consistent and sustainable over several years.

Michael A. Monahan is president of Moxē, an integrated marketing agency based in Orlando, Fla.