Learning how to position your brand in the market.
Brand positioning is essentially an exercise in defining the unique space we need our brand to occupy in the consumer’s mind. It is an articulation of how our brand should be perceived in the market. Brand positioning begins internally.
The initial step is to define the following
Who – you are targeting
What– is the need you are serving
Why – your audience should believe you
The “who” is where market segmentation happens, determining which audience is most likely to buy from you, and the most in need of your product/services. This becomes your target audience, on whom your priorities should be focused on.
The “what” states the problem your brand solves for the consumer. Define how your brand helps them or accentuates their life .
“Why” is reason to believe that your brand is better than other brands at solving the problem, meeting the need.
Be sure to differentiate between strategy and tactics. This helps you stay true to your positioning and correct yourself when you’re deviating. Focusing on tactics such as how to market your brand can deviate you from focusing on the “ why “. Why the audience should place their trust in your brand to solve their problem, is a more fundamental aspect to the brand’s success.
Brand positioning in essence is an internal document that guides all your activities and has to be communicated externally through the vast range of brand development activities undertaken. Unlike slogans, positioning statements are developed for internal purposes and aim to reflect the competitive advantage sought. While the overall statement should be aspirational, it can’t be so far removed from the reality of the current situation as to lose credibility in the minds of consumers. The external slogan is a creative interpretation of that brand positioning. The brand positioning statement should be short, simple and leave no room for ambiguity.
The 3 C’s of positioning
Consumers: Defining the target audience and focusing on value claims that will resonate, and in turn, make your brand desirable to those consumers. From features, attributes and special ingredients (the ‘what’) to benefits consumers receive (the ‘what’s in it for me’) or deep-seated needs & values your consumers aspire to (the ‘why’).
Competitors: Focusing attention on your competition within a chosen frame of reference will help you target specific claims that distinguish your brand from its competitors. Identify how consumers perceive and interact with your competitors, find their shortcomings and consumer pain points, to define a favorable position for your brand that differentiates your brand and the brand experience to the consumer.
Company: Ensuring the positioning statement is realistic, and can be delivered reliably at every interaction with customers. Some brand positions will be easier to infuse into all aspects of operations than others, which in turn will result in more value being created.
By focusing on who to serve, where to play, where to win, and why consumers should believe you, the main guiding principle for crafting a positioning statement can simply be expressed as:
“For [target market], Brand X is the only brand amongst [competitive set/category] that [unique claim/benefit], because [reason to believe/support points].”
Communicating your brand positioning
Brand positioning statement is a living document that evolves with your brand growth. It is crucial that the whole company is bought into the vision, what you’re trying to achieve and how your offering will help you to achieve that vision. This begins internally, with a communication program to unite your workforce in working towards one goal, guided by your positioning statement. This enables everyone to deliver experiences that benefit the consumer and the brand simultaneously.
Brand positioning is a strategy ingredient that has to be communicated externally through well thought out campaigns. Your marketing strategy should be centered on and reflect your brand positioning, articulating the need you serve, why your target audience should believe you and ultimately choose you over your competitors.
Nike highlights the difference between internal and external communications.
First off, Nike targeted runners. Reflecting this, the positioning strategy was ‘The lightest shoe in the market that would last in longer-distance running at a price lower than the German brands in the market’. As Nike became more popular, this evolved to – “For serious athletes, Nike gives confidence that provides the perfect shoe for every sport”. The Nike slogan renowned throughout the world is “Just do it”. An active phrase empowering everyone in sport, and wider society too. In fact, the slogan is used to position Nike on some of society's most important issues, most notably the racism row in America with Nike supporting Colin Kaepernick in a historic campaign in 2018.
This was the beginning of Nike’s very vocal positioning on inequality in society, which led to a shift in messaging that resonated the same tone. In May 2020, Nike released an advertising campaign across social media with the tagline “For once, don’t do it”, as they advocated we all be part of a needed change for an equal society. As the brand grew they had to adapt and their positioning statement reflects this.
“I’m a Mac”
Apple personified their product offering in an advertising campaign called “I’m a Mac”. Positioning as newer, cooler and more casual than an out of touch PC, Apple was able to position their product – and brand, exactly where they wanted to – as more modern, hip and easy-going, compared to Microsoft
McDonalds vs Burger King
Burger King, being a challenger brand, is cheeky in their tone of voice and even more so in their subtle digs and stunts aimed at McDonalds and their products. Their communications have won fans, awards – and customers, all around the world. On the other hand, you have McDonalds. Who are renowned as the leader in their category, and refuse to respond to Burger King – because as soon as they acknowledge them, they’re not distancing themselves from their competitors and their status as category king can be disputed.
A common mistake brands make is creating advertising that is far away from their brand. What they say and what they do are two different things. And actually, brand purpose is sometimes used to justify this marked difference with a blurring of the lines between brand positioning and brand purpose. So eager to have a say on societal or environmental issues, the brand’s messaging is at risk of becoming less about competitors and instead focuses on a very large target audience so they can have relevance – often forgetting about who they are, and the need they set out to meet at the very beginning. When this happens, a conflict is created between what they say and what they actually do and the brand is then at risk of erring away from their strategy towards their intended vision.
Brand repositioning isn’t a quick fix. Improving your brand position, or a repositioning may be a consequence of poor business performance or changing consumer needs. However, it should only be undertaken after extensive research.