Brand positioning needs to be authentic, and constitute an authentic reflection of the business. However it also needs to be dynamic enough to handle changes in respect to product and targeted markets. Now when a business seeks to move into new markets, it has to deal with positioning its brand in a new competitive reference. Making that transition smoothly, and having it perceived as a natural extension for your brand is all about earning a sense of permission to be in that market.
Who grants such permission, and how can you tell if your brand has it?
Think of brand permission as the extent to which customers accept a brand as a legitimate competitive for their business and loyalty. These are frequently encountered challenges. Think of Apple and iTunes: how did a company ostensibly know for producing computers, suddenly become the world's leading retailer of music!? Another challenge for a business that's struggled with brand permission issues for several years: Kentucky Fried Chicken: how do they move their brand into into selling healthier (ie non fried) foods? Have they earnt trust amongst their public to move their brand in such a direction?
In order to make a change credibly, a brand cannot simply jump into a new market. This risks the credibility of the entire brand. Permission needs to be earned through gradual steps over time. Apple was able to make it look entirely natural for them to retail music through a number of gradual steps. First they made the iTunes program, which revolutionised the way music was played on computers. This allowed the desktop or laptop to serve as a music player, as well as establishing "mp3s" as the default file for music played on computers. Building on that, they created the iPod - a stand alone device that took those mp3s and replaced the walkman. To consumers at this point integrating computers, iTunes and the iPod into an online retail experience had become completely natural.
McDonalds has the market cornered on quick cheap meals. There is no doubt they have earned market permission for this. How then were they able to move into selling high end coffee products (ie the lattes and cappuccinos available through McCafe)? They earned permission through establishing a sub-brand (McCafe), and by selling coffees at a reduced rate from their competition (cafes in Australia, and Stabucks in the US), thereby making a 'luxury' product appear as another Mc food item.
A brand cannot be pushed into a market before customers are ready. If a move is to be made, appropriate steps need to be taken to strategise the brand's transition. You will need to be patient, and make plans for the change over a time period. Alternativley launching a new brand to enter the market can prove effective. Lastly, always consider whether you should be entering the market at all: there may be legitimate reasons customers don't associate your brand with that area.