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going on the offensive with brand positioning

Rivian, one of the most disruptive all-electric adventure automakers in America, just recently announced being the first to market on a fully electric pickup truck. Rolling out the very first consumer-facing vehicle in the heart of America, Normal, IL, Tesla and others are quaking in their boots to the hum of the adventure vehicle brand that’s quickly becoming known as a challenger on the “quiet road to glory.” At Manifesto, since the days we had the chance to pitch Tesla on their International Auto Show business, we’ve been fans of the electric vehicle market and the potential disruption within.

What makes Rivian so jolting is its leadership in the adventure category with design that feels made for a decade beyond today’s vehicles. Offering a 300-400 mile range, zero to 60 in three seconds, tow capacity of 11,000 pounds and ability to navigate in up to 3 feet of water, this vehicle is not for the faint of heart. Instead, it’s made for the avid outdoor enthusiast who’s ready to ditch gas for unfettered sustainable power.

But their real super power is positioning. We often leave the concept of positioning in a brand deck somewhere. But positioning is simply this: what space does the brand occupy in the mind of consumers? Where does it sit amongst the sea of competitors? To achieve this, we adopted the methodology of finding a brand’s Onlyness: the one unique thing in the universe a brand can lay claim to. Not every brand has an overt onlyness, but once leveraged, it gives brands an advantage out of the gate and a beacon to return to when competition gets tough.

During the impressive release announcement, Rivian founder RJ Scaringe doubled down on that positioning by alienating a few folks. “We’re not marketing to you people who go to Home Depot and throw in a lot of cinder blocks. We are targeting people who will go into the upper Michigan Peninsula and rough it for a week.”

This focus on brand positioning is a reminder that you can’t be everything to everyone. In fact, to target, you have to both irresistibly draw the right audience and ardently repel the wrong ones. After all, who wants a Karen giving you one star feedback for expectations unmet when she missed the product positioning memo and bought it for cinder block drops at Home Depot in the first place?

Point being: Rivian is a perfect example of a brand on the move that’s not afraid to narrowly define its audience and hit a home run in the EV race. And to have a successful brand, narrowing your audience to the few, the proud—brand evangelists—will propel your brand further than trying to compete in a flooded market for the attention of the masses.

Tim Dyer is Chief Storyteller of Manifesto. Manifesto is a Brand Courage Agency with offices in Milwaukee, Portland and Nashville


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