Standing out – the basics of Brand Positioning

Standing out – the basics of Brand Positioning

All the marketing books are telling you that it is important to differentiate your brand. But it is not always clear how to do it so it is meaningful for your business, helps your brand cut through the marketing noise and ultimately leads to brand sales.

1. Positioning. Do I really need it?

Positioning is all about differentiating your brand in the mind of the consumer. Positioning is creating the perceptions you want your target consumer to associate with your brand. Having a brand positioning is not an end in itself. It is just the beginning of the journey. The end of the journey should always be brand sales & brand growth!

A clear brand positioning it is the very foundation on which your brand strategy, innovation, communication and brand plans and tactics are built. Can you innovate or communicate with impact if you don’t have clarity on what your brand stands for?

2. Positioning. Do I really have it?

One of the very first questions I ask when I work with a brand team is about their brand positioning. It is sad to see how many use the terminology without actually understanding it clearly and therefore being unable to use it to drive brand growth. Examples such as “my brand positioning is premium” or “my products are made with natural ingredients” will hardly give the brand team a clear direction on what’s the next innovation or how will the next communication campaign look like.

If your positioning is just about fancy words and it is not actionable, your brand most surely is loosing money, if not now, on long term. You need a clear brand positioning not because the books say so but because you want brand growth.

3. Positioning. How to go about it?

If you want to build your brand positioning on your own, you can use the positioning statement below as a guidance. I use it successfully with my clients.

To…. (target group)…, who want …(target group’s needs)…, brand …. is the brand of …(competitive framework) ….. , that …. (benefits)…., because only brand (reason to believe).

Here is a Tide example from the Competitive Positioning of Richard Czerniawski:

TO (target group) mums with active children and husbands, WHO NEED (target group’s needs) 1. Consistent outstanding cleaning and 2. Total care for their families’ clothes TIDE IS THE BRAND OF (competitive framework) Laundry Care Detergent that (benefits) is the best choice for consistent, outstanding cleaning and total care for family clothes BECAUSE (reasons why) 1. Heavy-duty cleaners & stain removers (powerful enzyme technology) 2. Special fabric protectors (protective fiber complex) 3. Value added ingredients (Dawn, Febreeze, Downy).

This positioning statement is a great tool but you can formulate your brand positioning in whatever shape or form you like. To make it actionable though, you want to consider at minimum:

I. Brand’s target: clearly you want to differentiate your brand in the minds of consumers. For that to happen you have to know who your consumers are.

Segment your market and chose your target. You can do that with sophisticated segmentation research or with common sense. Chose the segment you want to target and try to find as many things as possible about them (age, sex, where they live, how they live their life, values, aspirations etc). Knowing your consumers better will help you find that space in their minds and hearts that is relevant to them.

 II. Competitors: your brand does not exist in silo. Consumers evaluate all the brands available and decide which one addresses their needs and shares the same values. You have to be very clear with who is your direct or indirect competitors and how they are perceived by consumers.

Make sure you talk about consumers’ perceptions, not yours. You can quickly distinguish between what YOU believe consumers perceive and what consumers actually perceive by asking this question: “Where do I have this information from” – if it is from research, industry knowledge or consumers blogs or Facebook, you know for sure that this is what the consumers think.

III. Consumers’ needs: as a brand builder you should be able to know what needs your consumers have.

Obviously, you want to address with your brand those needs that are stronger. Even if your brand has outstanding features and benefits, if there is no need for them or consumers are indifferent to them, it might be a lottery for your brand to win in the marketplace.

The most common needs are the needs to: be loved, achieve something, have fun, bee free, stay clean, have friends, be accepted, get attention, win, be healthy, be beautiful.

IV. Brand’s benefits: this is the trickiest part of the positioning exercise. Most marketers are so attached to their brands or know them so well, that it is difficult to stay objective. Even more, valuable features are sometimes taken for granted. When you build your list of benefits, 2 pieces of advice here:

  • look outside your category. For example, if you are a gifting chocolate brand, look at cosmetics or fashion. See what other brands benefits are appreciated by your target consumers and see if you have those to offer.
  • stick to your core expertise. Do not force on the list benefits which your brand does not have, just because the consumers want them. Your company must have the capabilities to support delivering these benefits on long term. For example, if your product is not made with natural ingredients and therefore doesn’t give the consumers a natural , wholesome experience, do not claim it just because the trend is towards natural. There are many other trends you can tap into. Stay true to yourself and to your brand. Consumers will appreciate it.