Building Brands · 6th of May, 2022 · 1 minute ·

Avoid the engineering trap when repositioning your business

Engineers like to be right. We like to share our results, not our intent.

This typically proves to be prudent, and helps to slowly build a strong reputation, particularly with our peers, but also with our customers.

When working in an incrementally changing business this is also a great approach. Add to your offering piece by piece as you add new strings to the bow, expand the coverage of your reputation bit by bit. Never risk over-promising or under-delivering.

However, this approach can collapse entirely when you need to make a bigger leap with your business.

Bigger leaps like a shift from oil and gas to geothermal, or from Europe to North America, are not incremental. Applying the tried and tested incremental approach is unlikely to work when the big leap requires you to reposition your business.

This is a significant inhibitor to engineer-led businesses successfully repositioning

When repositioning your business you must reposition both the reality AND the market perception of your business.

We often term this change in market perception ‘permission to play’.

In order to change the reality of your business you need to win new business. In order to win that new business the market has to perceive you to be a credible option. They have to grant you permission to play.

Achieving this permission to play is primarily a communication challenge, not an engineering challenge.

Ignore that fact and you may find you never achieve the change in reality, because you never achieved permission to play. Often this will be due to reluctance to state the new position of the business until it has been cemented – driven by years of experience of only sharing locked in results.

Stepping out of the comfort zone, to speak openly of certainty of plan, rather than certainty of results, can transform your likelihood of a successful transformation.


Take the transformation of Statoil, the 46-year-old Norwegian oil and gas company, into the energy company Equinor.

There was nothing incremental about the evolution from Statoil’s well-established and successful brand to the new company.

A video was created to explain the big change in broad terms. Watch now

Equinor’s vision was to move into renewable energy – a new market – while maintaining growth in the oil and gas sector. To enter that new market, it had to change both the reality of the business and market perceptions. There was early scepticism, particularly among the media, about the commitment of a fossil fuel-based company to renewable energy. Equinor had to get permission to play from the market before a single renewable energy contract had been, or could be, won.

A year after making the bigger leap, Equinor had not only retained its status as the most valuable brand in Norway, but it had also cemented its place in the global top 200.

Cautiously waiting for tangible results or detailed refinements before announcing the repositioning of your business leaves the way open for more vocal competitors to step in and seize your market share.

Establishing market perception that you are a credible player is more important than the reality of your business.

If your big leap is to a new geography (for example if you were a European business looking to open up in North America), establishing a market position supersedes whatever logistical, legal or financial challenges you may have. If you don’t have a market ready to accept you there’s no point in you being there.

Done with a degree of delicacy and good professional help, marketing your change credibly can precede the wait for proof points and widen the potential for business growth.

We’ve more than 30 years’ experience in helping companies successfully overcome the communications challenge when it comes to repositioning. Our local teams in North America, Asia and Europe know what it takes for you to get noticed by the right people in these markets before you actually make that big leap. That paves the way for you to play.

Let’s start your change today. Contact us here

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Building Brands · 6th of May, 2022 · 1 minute ·