brand positioning surveys

 Brand Positioning Surveys

Blockbuster’s Oops! Moment

An American Indian looks at the transcontinental railroad as it nears completion in 1868.

My friend Bruce Wiseman founded a market research company that for more than 27 years has delivered brand positioning surveys to companies of all sizes. His articles* inspire and lend us bits of Americana that give us pause for thought. (*edited by me, when posted here.)


“I am intrigued almost to the point of obsession to know what this Native American was thinking.

“Did he have any sense of what was coming?

“Did he know that passengers on the trains that would travel this line would shoot the buffalo herds that raced with the train, for sport?

Not likely.

“The buffalo population — about 50 million in 1830 — would be wiped out in less than two decades.

“Did he know that Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse would lead the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho in a great victory over General George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn, eight years hence?

“Yet, Custer’s Last Stand would mark a key turning point in U.S. history: American Indians would find themselves relegated to reservations, their culture destroyed.

“Not unless he could foretell the future could he know.

“But even if he could have known, and he and his fellow Native Americans taken steps to mitigate the damage, they lacked the resources to halt the relentless advance that was America’s pioneer movement.

Blockbuster Knew Better

Blockbuster's Oops! Moment

“On November 6, 2013, Blockbuster announced that it was closing its remaining stores. Founded in 1985, the company had boomed during the short-lived reign of VHS video rental. At it’s peak, the company fielded nearly 9,000 stores with a market value of $5 billion dollars.

“Our Native American may have only sensed the coming changes of the relentless, westward march of the American frontier, but Blockbuster had every reason to be aware of the light-speed-like changes that filmed entertainment ushered into people’s homes with the Digital Revolution. Blockbuster’s executives stayed with their store-rental paradigm until its competitor, Netflix, drove its brand and service into movie-watchers’ homes. By then it was too late.

“They were even so arrogant as to blow off the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million in 2000. Today, Netflix has a market cap of $20 billion.


“Blockbuster’s light bulbs finally went on and it tried to re-capture market share by rolling out a rent-by-mail program, and then a streaming-video service. Netflix, however, already owned this position in the public’s mind. If Blockbuster would have any success at this attempt, they should have rolled out a new brand. Blockbuster meant video… and late fees… in the public’s mind; not mail rental or streaming video.

“In announcing the closing of the stores, DISH Network CEO Joseph Clayton — DISH had bought Blockbuster out of bankruptcy in 2011 — said, “… We continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand and we expect to leverage that [value and] brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings.”

Understanding Positioning

“We must ask Joseph Clayton:

“‘Joe, since your marketing people don’t seem to understand positioning, may we, considering that Blockbuster does own a position in the minds of the public that watches movies at home, which is VHS… and late fees (Do a survey, Joe, you’ll find out.), offer you an observation or two?

“‘If you are going to roll out a digital offering or a rent-by-mail service successfully, Joe, do it with a new brand. Use your cash and resources to survey your existing clients; and then survey Netflix clients to get their ‘hot buttons.’

“‘Use that information, Joe, to work up some potential names, and a sexy new service offering based on what your prospects told you they wanted. Then, survey your list of names to find out which would most motivate people to switch from Netflix to buy or add on your product.'”

Brand Positioning Surveys

Bankruptcy Broke Blockbuster… or Did It?

“Clayton and his cronies saw equity in the name Blockbuster because they paid $320 million — a bankruptcy price for the brand. Blockbuster for 25 years drove its brand into the public mind, positioned with in-store movie rentals, but the public’s perception of a brand cannot be changed with a decision spawned in the corporate boardroom. The marketplace doesn’t work that way. Like it or not, one owns one place, a position, in the public’s mind for better or worse.

“The 25-year-old Blockbuster brand earned its gold watch. Let it retire to the old-brand home to play dominoes with E.F. Hutton, Compaq Computer and Pan Am, among other forlorn brands.

“We, therefore, implore of Clayton and his circle to ‘roll out a fresh new brand that resonates with today’s home-movie-watching public.'”

# # #

Give It a New Brand

This approach is cleaner, faster, and less expensive than trying to re-position a brand from the 90’s. Somebody should call Joe and tell him that we’ll be happy to discuss his options, perhaps do some brand positioning surveys for him, even at this stage of the game… or perhaps, his next venture?

Of course, whether Joe calls or not, we’d be delighted to hear from you to discuss your brand, your position, your surveys… and whatever way we can be of service. After all, we’ve been producing brand positioning surveys for lots of companies for years.

Best Wishes,

Bruce & Ron


Ron Kule, President,

Research Target Group, for On-Target Research and Bruce Wiseman



You folks are the scope on the rifle. My only regret was that the brand positioning surveys weren’t done sooner. We could have saved large sums of money.” — R.W., President

© 2014 by Ronald Joseph Kule & Bruce Wiseman. Reserved.

Cinco de Mayo Redux ~ Ode to our ‘Leader of the Band’

cinco-de-mayoWhen Cinco De Mayo hits us this year, our family will solemnly raise Margarita toasts in honor and memory of our Dad, whose broken heart and badly infected toe felled him one year ago to the day.

The infection was of diabetic origin. Heart/blood pressure circumstances complicated Dad’s situation and ruled out any surgery. The way he went out was an unworthy plot twist in the script of his illustrious lifetime: alone, in bed, early in the morning.

Dad’s heartbreak began years earlier, when our Mom — the love of his life — left us… a survivor and, ultimately, victim of a cantankerous cancer. Dad never expected to outlive his wife. (He had already outlived every one of his brothers and sisters and his parents.)

1944: Dad on the left, my future Mom, her Mom and her brother

Dad always felt he had “won the lottery” because he was able to marry a Chilean/Colombian debutante he’d met while assigned to Naval Intelligence, hydrographic department, duty with the Navy during WW II. At least, they made it past their Golden Wedding anniversary together.

The Lily Lake-loving youngster who later became our father — there are eight of us siblings — was born in a sleepy, coal-mining town, Glen Lyon, nestled among the Pocono mountains in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. He was the last in a long line of children born to Rose and John Sekulski — themselves offspring of parents who had emigrated from Poland and entered the USA through Ellis Island in New York.


Lily Lake, Bernie Kule’s boyhood haven for largemouth bass, yellow perch, chain pickerel, bullhead brown and rainbow trout, bluegill, pumpkinseed and northern pike fishing.

coal miners glen lyonThough some of his elder brothers worked deep underground in the coal mines, Dad never did. His respect, though, for the hazardous occupation with its fearful challenges within the mines and union-goaded struggles against management officials above ground, never waned in his 92 years of living.

Dad, we knew, wanted to own and run a farm operation. He had attended Rutgers College and earned his B. Scn. degree in animal husbandry. Later, for some years, he rented out a farmhouse and property in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There, at least the first three of us lived on the farm, watching neighbors seed, grow and harvest crops as the seasons changed.

IMG_0073When more children arrived, the farm and farming no longer remained viable options. Necessity forced the family to re-locate to Levittown, Pennsylvania, where the majority of us kids grew up. Dad took on what would become a short string of sales jobs, albeit representing farm,food and plant-related product lines.

We never heard him complain. He did what he felt he had to do to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We were not rich in materiel, but we never went without, or so we thought as we grew up. All of us attended college — a feat that was among his most-cherished goals.

We like to think we turned out alright in the long run. Though we’re all a bit spread out geographically these days, there is little distance among us within our hearts and memories, which will forever include our Mom and Dad. And we like to think we all have quite a few years to go, because, as Dad always reminded us, “We come from ‘Good Stock’ people.”

So, this Cinco De Mayo we’ll celebrate our first-year anniversary of Dad’s passing with raised, salted glasses filled with a wondrous mixture of South-of-the-border ingredients, and only the best label stuff will do. Maybe a few tears will melt the salt rings, but we won’t mind our emotions: it means we’re still alive and kicking — all eight of us and our offspring!

After all, we have a mission to fulfill: we’re passing on Mom and Dad’s legacy to our children, their children and, one day, their children’s children.


The Kule Eight Siblings

The Kule Eight Siblings

margaritasMargarita Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila
  • 1/2 ounce triple sec (Cointreau)
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Lime wedge for garnish
  • Salt or sugar to rim the glass (optional)


  1. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
  2. Shake well.
  3. If desired, salt the rim of a chilled margarita glass.
  4. Pour contents, with ice, into the glass.
  5. Garnish with the lime wedge.

Alternative Margarita Recipe:

(Recipe source:

Okay, Dan Fogelberg, you can come in and sing now: “The Leader of the Band.”

 © 2014 by Ronald Joseph Kule. All Rights Reserved.