In this hypercompetitive world, where thousands of brands are trying to outdo each other to capture people’s attention and interest, brand positioning is crucial for making a lasting impression in your customers’ minds. Here, I’ll discuss what brand positioning means, why it’s important, and how to come up with an effective positioning strategy.
Brand Positioning Defined
What is brand positioning?
The idea behind brand positioning is to identify a market niche that a brand can then attempt to own, explains The Cult Branding Company. That is accomplished through a process (which can include determining, among other things, pricing, promotions, distribution, packaging, etc.) that creates a position in the minds of prospective customers—an impression that associates specific desirable attributes with your brand, distinguishing it in the marketplace.
Essentially, brand positioning is an internal tool that defines what you want customers to think of when they think of your brand, and why they should choose you. In turn, it guides all marketing efforts across all points of contact with the customer.
Why is it important?
Brand positioning is integral to shaping consumer preferences, and it is also “directly linked to developing customer loyalty, consumer-based brand equity, and the willingness to purchase the brand,” according to The Branding Journal. It has been used as a powerful tool for giving brands an edge over the competition.
A brand positioning statement is not a tagline
AltBrand positioning statements and tagline are not the same thing. Slogans and taglines are what consumers remember from your promotional materials, but brand positioning statements are for the company’s internal use. They guide key marketing decisions that affect how customers perceive your brand. Taglines, on the other hand, are external statements used in a brand’s marketing efforts—which, as stated earlier, are guided by the brand’s positioning.
Here are a couple of examples of taglines and brand positioning statements:
Home Depot: You can do it. We can help.
Volvo: For life
- Brand positioning statements:
Home Depot: The hardware department store for do-it-yourselfers.
Volvo: For upscale American families, Volvo is the family automobile that offers maximum safety.
How to Create a Brand Positioning Strategy
Having a sound brand positioning strategy helps to align and integrate marketing decisions, reminding the company who its customers are and why they should choose your brand. Here are some tips on how to craft a brand positioning strategy.
1. Identify a specific target audience
Slovak Startup makes an excellent point: Trying to be the best choice for everybody is a futile exercise, likely ending up in making a brand an average provider of average goods. That is why you need to identify a specific segment of the market to whom you could potentially be the best service provider.
Once you’ve identified a target market, you need to understand what their behaviors are and how best to appeal to them. You can use various data sources to do so.
Nike, for example, chose to focus on consumers who were looking for inspiration to start embracing an active lifestyle, rather than merely those who already exercise. It turned out to be a genius idea because the slogan that evolved from its brand positioning strategy, “Just do it,” remains as resonant today as it did three decades ago.
2. Understand your competition
Before you can establish differentiation, you must have a clear understanding of your competitors: how they are positioned in the market, what their proposed customer benefits are, and how they’re delivering on those promises.
Having a base comparison of both your positioning and your competitors’ allows you to identify your uniqueness in the market, giving you a point of differentiation.
3. Create a brand positioning statement
A sound brand positioning statement consists of four basic elements:
- Target customer: A succinct behavioral and demographic description of the market you want to appeal to and attract
- Market definition: Which category your brand is positioning itself in, and the context of your brand relevance to your customers
- Brand promise: The most compelling benefit (emotional/rational) to your target market that your brand owns over your competitors
- Reason to believe: Compelling evidence that your brand can deliver on your promise
Once you identify these four elements, you can come up with a simple brand positioning statement using the following template:
For [target customers], [brand] is the [market definition] that delivers [brand promise] because only [brand] is [reason to believe].
Again taking Volvo as an example, its positioning statement might be this: “For upscale American families, Volvo is the family automobile that offers maximum safety.” That statement covers the elements of brand differentiation even while leaving unstated customers’ “reason to believe”—so strong is the reputation for safety its vehicles have built over decades.
4. Evaluate your brand positioning statement
You can test the draft of your brand positioning by answering these questions:
- Does it differentiate you from your competitors?
- Is it focused on your main target market?
- Does it enable growth?
- Does it present the unique value to your customers?
- Is your brand promise credible and realistic?
- Is it easy to understand and remember?
- Is it consistent in all areas of your business?
- Is it hard to copy? Can your brand own it?
- Will it withstand counterattacks from your competitors?
- Will it help your brand create more effective marketing and branding decisions?
If you find that your company answers in the affirmative to most of those questions, then you’ve put yourself in a good starting place with your brand positioning statement.
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You could follow every piece of advice available in an effort to position your brand, but the reality is you can only try to influence or shape your customer’s perception of your brand. That’s because positioning is not something marketers can create in a vacuum; rather, it’s a co-authored experience with their customers, as The Cult Branding Company points out.
The essence of who/what you are as well as what your customers want must together be reflected in your intentions and actions. If you’re able to capture a position that merges your company’s passion with a positioning strategy, then you’re on your way to building a great brand.