The Laws of Brand Focus and Contraction and Why Bloggers Should Care

I’m a marketer by profession, and one of the basic laws of building a brand tells us that a highly focused brand is stronger in the long-term than an unfocused brand.  In other words, the most powerful brands own a word in people’s minds.

On the other hand, there is another marketing law that tells us it’s better to be the leader in a category than it is to be better.  That’s because the category leader, meaning the brand that is first to enter that market, owns the broad word that defines the category simply by being first.  Later entrants into the category are challenged with the need to differentiate their own brands from the category leader in order to steal market share from that pioneer brand.  For example, Microsoft might own “operating system” in the world of personal computers, but Apple owns “design”.  Apple effectively positioned its brand against the category leader by differentiating its brand as a market challenger that was focused on a very specific part of the category which the leader couldn’t offer as well as Apple could.  The strategy worked for Apple just as it does for many other brands in many other categories.

And guess what?  It works for blogs, too.

If you take a step back from your blog and the social web, you’ll see that your blog is just one within the broader category of blogs and websites that publish content about your blog topic.  There is probably a leader in that category, and there are many, many smaller competitor blogs in that category.  The first step to finding focus for your blog is determining what that area of focus will be, so you can effectively position your blog against your competitors.  What is the category leader doing and how can you bring your own niche expertise to the category to challenge the leader?

Think of it this way — if you write a blog about parenting, then you have a lot of big competition from established blogs and companies with deep pockets and pre-existing brand awareness to work against.  However, if you find your focus and contract your content and brand to that niche, then your chances of finding long-term blogging success are far greater than if you keep a broad brand and try to compete head on with the bigger players in your category.

Looking at the concept of brand focus from another perspective, consider General Motors.  This is a company that focused on the wrong thing for many years.  Upon seeing the dollar signs that selling large, gas-guzzling vehicles like Hummers could bring to the company’s bottom-line, focus shifted to these money-making brands.  Short-term earnings trumped long-term sustainability for General Motors.  When the economy tanked, so did General Motors.  Today, the Hummer brand is nearly gone and General Motors has been vocally touting its new focus on fuel-efficient vehicles for the future.

Suffice it to say, you don’t want your blog to go the way of General Motors, because a bailout for your blog is unlikely.  Instead, make sure you choose an area of focus, your niche, that has long-term potential, so you can stay competitive and hold your position against the market leader and other blogs in your category.

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