Creating a brand position can feel overwhelming. This blog post is a roadmap on how to make a brand positioning statement. We will run through different tactics and strategies for each step of this brand positioning process.
But first, If you haven’t already, check out our blog on what brand positioning is and why your business needs it.
Brand Positioning Approaches
While brand positioning is multidimensional, there are different approaches that you can base it on.
- Quality-based approach – This is suitable when your product is known to be reliable, long-lasting, and sturdy. It also works well for luxe categories.
- Value-based approach – This is a good approach when your product offers the best value for money in the market. The focus should be value for money and not the actual price itself.
- Emotion-based approach – This is a good approach when you want to focus on how your products make customers feel. It works well for products and services that fall under the aspirational category. It is also a good fit for heritage brands that focus on nostalgia.
- Problem solving-based approach – This approach focuses on how your customer’s lives are made simpler or better thanks to your product. Focus on the benefit for the customer and not the actual features of the product.
- Differentiating-approach – This is probably the most powerful brand positioning approach but also the hardest. It also works only if your product is radically different from the rest of the market. For example, brands like Apple and Tesla have carved a space for themselves solely because they are entirely different. It also only works when you are confident your product will consistently keep breaking the norm. Apple is again an example of a brand that has succeeded in this.
Brand Positioning Process
The brand positioning process involves asking yourself some critical questions. The answers to these questions will allow you to form a framework for your brand positioning statement.
Question 1 : Who are your consumers?
Let’s start with the most crucial aspect of any profitable business – customers or consumers. Brand positioning exists in the minds of customers. To influence the way your brand is positioned, you need to understand your customers well.
- Identify your target customers – Ensure you have customer segments and profiles in place.
- Refine your customer segments – The more defined your customer segments are, the easier it will be to understand them and influence decisions.
- Multiple customer segments might require different brand positions – If you have a range of products or services, you might need multiple brand positions. In which case, create customer groups and have a separate brand positioning statement for which one helps. However, they all must tie back to your overall brand positioning.
Question 2: What makes your product or service unique?
This is not your USP or what your product is currently best known for. Identify what you want your customers to identify your product for. It could be an aspirational emotion or a unique benefit.
Avoid choosing aspects like price point or customer service. Best price and good customer service are things customers expect from every product. Also, avoid selecting elements that can be easily replicated by competitors or phased out by technology. This will make your brand positioning redundant pretty quickly.
If you are unclear how to differentiate your USP from your brand positioning, consider creating a brand pyramid.
What is a brand positioning pyramid?
Brand positioning pyramids are a visual representation of different aspects of your product that help determine the branding framework.
Collating this information will require inputs from multiple stakeholders and not just the marketing team. You can also get insights from customers and partners.
Here is what a typical brand positioning pyramid looks like.
How is a brand pyramid useful?
Collecting information from different teams allows checking if your whole company is on the same page. It also helps identify gaps and plan better for the future.
Framework for different branding aspects
It is easy to confuse different aspects of branding like brand positioning, brand image, product positioning, and USPs. While all of these aspects can have an overlap, they are independent of each other. The brand pyramid helps distinguish them clearly and create a strategy for each.
Question 3: Where do you stand against the competition?
It is imperative to understand your competitors. This helps you evaluate where you stand against them. Not just in the market, but more importantly, in customer’s minds.
A few aspects of your competitors that you can look at:
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What is one thing they are good at? You might want to avoid adding this to your brand positioning, especially if your competitor is well established.
- What is something they can improve or will find hard to achieve? If your brand has the upper hand in this, you should consider adding it to your brand positioning statement.
- General customer perception of your competitor’s brand
Brand positioning statements are not publicly available information. By looking at these insights, you can estimate your competitor’s brand positioning.
If you want to benchmark your brand against multiple competitors, brand mapping is a valuable tactic.
What is brand mapping?
Brand mapping is another visual tool that helps you understand where your brand is placed against your competitors. Brand mapping is also known as perceptual mapping. It enables you to see if you are where you want to be. And also who else is in that space.
Here is an example of brand mapping.
In this example, you will see where Facebook stands against other social media platforms.
Here are some tips to get started:
- Choose aspects that are critical to your customers, not what is vital to your business or your competition
- Use publicly available information such as reports, surveys, etc. to understand where your competitors are on the map.
- Leverage customer surveys to understand where your brand is truly on the map.
Question 4: What is your frame of reference?
This is your benchmark to see who you are competing against. For example, Nike would be in the category of sportswear. However, if you have multiple products, you will have that many frames of reference. For instance, Coca-Cola has sodas, bottled juices, and snacks. The category for each of these varies drastically. Choosing your category will allow you to see how others in the same category have positioned themselves. This gives you a reference point and also ensures your positioning is not too similar to anyone else.
Our blog on What is Brand Positioning takes a deeper look at this.
Question 5: What is your brand experience?
This step in the brand positioning process helps you articulate how you want your customers to feel when they use your brand. To answer this question, here are some sub-questions you will need to look at,
- What is the problem you are trying to solve? For example, PayPal offers easy but safe money transaction services.
- How do you want your customers to feel when they use your product? For example, Royal Enfield owners feel they own a piece of legacy.
- What will make your customers keep coming back? For example, Citibank offers 24/7 services around the world.
Brand experience is tied to emotions. This is important for two reasons. A lot of purchase decisions are driven by emotions. Second, an emotional connection helps cement your brand deeper in the customer’s minds.
Question 6: What is your current brand position?
Even if your business has not actively worked on a brand positioning statement, it is already positioned in customers’ minds. This view is based on your marketing messaging and their experience with your product. It can also be found in customer service. Another important reason why brand positioning needs to be communicated company-wide.
Speaking to your customers is the best way to understand their understanding of your brand position. If you are a large company, you could do customer surveys. If it is not something you can handle in-house, you can hire research firms to help you out. They can even help you get an objective view of how your brand is perceived against the competition.
Speaking to a few select customers might work better if you are a smaller business or a B2B with fewer clients. Keep the conversations informal with open-ended questions. By doing this, you will receive an unbiased opinion. Sometimes you might realize that the existing brand position is way different from your vision. This is not always a bad thing. Businesses ultimately exist for customers. Getting their point of view and leveraging it is always helpful.
Question 7: Does your brand position contradict itself?
When deciding your brand positioning, avoid using factors that contradict themselves. For example, “premium or luxe” and “best price in the market” or “healthy” and “tasty.” While it might be true that you believe your product can do both. It can confuse your customers.
Brand positioning statements form the framework for marketing communication. By using seemingly contradictory terms, it can dilute your messaging and confuse consumers. For example, a chocolate bar claiming to be healthy and tasty can cause consumers to be skeptical. Pick one, preferably the unique one, and stick to that.
However, it is noteworthy some brands do use contradictory terms to position themselves. For example, Subway positions itself as tasty yet healthy. This positioning did not happen overnight. It took several years of laddering up brand strategy to get there.
Another example is Apple, which has always been an innovator in branding. When Macintosh launched, it was positioned as “user-friendly.” However, the general perception was that user-friendly computers were not good enough or powerful at that point. Apple quickly understood this and came up with the tagline, “The most powerful computers are ones that people actually use.” One of the reasons Apple could pull this off was because, as a market leader, they were confident of delivering on this promise. Another aspect we will cover later on.
Question 8: How can you effectively communicate your brand positioning to customers?
As you begin framing your brand positioning statement, one thing is to consider: Can you effectively communicate this positioning. If it is too complex or requires investment, do ensure your team has the resources.
There are three ways in which a brand’s positioning can be communicated:
- The product or service itself – The performance and user experience is the biggest champion of brand positioning.
- Associations – Logos, taglines, brand ambassadors, color schemes, channels of communication, and other forms of messaging.
- Consumer’s preconceived notions – This is often based on their personal beliefs. Understanding customers is critical to leverage this.
Can you communicate your brand position across these aspects? Suppose your answer is no to even one of them. In that case, you have to relook at your statement or your marketing implementation.
Question 9: How do you implement brand positioning strategy?
Every marketing function can help implement brand positioning – marketing collateral, social media, public relations, email marketing. The list is endless. It is also important to remember that even all customer-facing staff are also ambassadors of your brand. Sales pitches to conversations with your store staff are also avenues for brand positioning implementation.
While technology has opened up communication giving marketers more options, it has also made conversations two-way. What this means is that customers now have a stronger voice. Their opinions can be both good and bad. Hence, now more than ever, brands need to pay close attention to how they communicate their positioning.
If you need some inspiration on tactics for implementing brand positioning, we have a separate section at the end of this blog.
Question 10: Are you staying aligned with your brand positioning?
Your brand positioning statement is not meant to be created and kept away. It needs to be a core aspect of all business decisions. So the final and most critical question in this brand positioning process is to check the ground reality of your brand is aligned with your brand position.
Before creating your brand positioning strategy – Take an objective look at what you can offer your customers. Do not include aspects that sound grand but your business cannot deliver. Also, do not be tempted to position yourself as something you aim to be in the future. You can gradually move up the brand ladder and modify your positioning.
For example, Disneyworld is positioned as a magical place full of fun. Their tagline, ‘The happiest place in the world,’ reflects this and is also a pretty bold statement. It is important to note that Disney did not start with this grandiose brand positioning. They gradually grew to where they are.
After creating your brand positioning statement – Your brand positioning process is not a one-time effort. It is an ongoing business process. Businesses need to ensure they live up to the brand positioning statement.
For example, if you are positioning yourself as a hassle-free service but if there are customer service complaints, it is a problem. It is a clear mismatch between reality and your positioning. Ultimately customers will start seeing your brand based on their experience. In such a case, fixing the ground-level problems is the solution.
On the other hand, sometimes, some of these issues may be entirely out of control. For example, FedEx used to position itself as the fastest way to send information. However, with technology, that no longer is true. Instead of trying to change ground reality, which was beyond their control, they repositioned themselves.
The formula for a brand positioning statement
The end result of your brand positioning process is a brand positioning statement.
If you need a foolproof formula to frame your brand positioning statement, check out our blog on – The Importance Of Brand Positioning In Making Your Business Profitable
Tips to keep in mind before you frame your positioning statement
- Involve all stakeholders, not just marketing. Branding positioning involves every single person in the company. Stakeholders must communicate the same message across teams.
- This is a time-consuming process. It involves collecting information and insights from both inside and outside the company. It also might involve multiple iterations. However, this is a process that is well worth the time and effort.
- Future proof your brand positioning statement but don’t set it in stone. This might seem contradictory. While it is vital to ensure your brand positioning statement does not become irrelevant soon. Sometimes technological development and evolving societies mean you have to revisit strategies. This includes brand positioning as well.
Implementation of Brand Positioning
The brand positioning process is not just a whiteboard activity. Here we will talk about two different ways you can implement your brand positioning.
Brand positioning through advertising
This is probably the most used method of brand positioning. Advertising gives you the option of clearly stating what your brand stands for. Supported by images and videos, it catches attention and can make an impression. Here are some key aspects to analyze before using advertising for brand positioning.
Messaging and narrative
The tone, imagery, and intent of your messaging all influence customer opinion. These need to be reflective of your brand positioning statement. Also, choosing phrases, images, and symbols with certain commonly accepted perceptions helps enforce messaging. And finally, the most crucial part is consistency to reinforce your message.
Platform of choice
Depending on your brand, you can choose to advertise online or offline or a combination. Your choice of platform is also essential. The social media platforms or media publications you choose should depend on where your customers consume information. It should also reflect the media house/ social media channels you want your brand to be associated with. For example, if you are a luxury brand, you might want to advertise only in select premier publications.
Respecting customer privacy
This is an often ignored aspect of online advertising. With the emergence of re-marketing and collecting cookies, many consumers find online advertising intrusive. How frequently you advertise, if you choose to re-market, etc., are also ways to reinforce brand positioning. Brands that constantly bombarded you with messaging across platforms can come across as “spammy.” How you choose to respect privacy is also a way of positioning yourself.
Brand positioning through events
Brand positioning through events is popular with major B2B companies. This is because brand positioning for B2B is more complex, and in-person interactions always have a more substantial impact.
Here are the ways events can help with brand positioning:
Value of event – What is the theme of the event? Is it going to offer participants a chance to interact with industry experts? Does it allow them to network and build connections? The value participants take back home is associated with the brand.
Choice of venue – Where you choose to host your event significantly impacts how your brand is perceived. Large brands often choose luxury venues to offer a premium experience.
Exclusivity – Choosing to open an event for all or only for customers or even a select group of customers makes a difference. The more exclusive or niche your brand, the more exclusive it can be.
Types of events for different branding needs
Several B2B leaders host a flagship event annually. Customers usually come to associate these events with the brand. For example, the LinkedIn conference for marketers. It helps participants upgrade their skills and network with peers. They are reinforcing LinkedIn’s image as a career growth platform.
Some major brands also choose to sponsor existing events. This is also another way to leverage events for brand positioning. For example, TCS has been supporting the New York marathon. Over the years, they have also sponsored marathons worldwide, reinforcing their image as a global leader. It is vital to choose an event that is in line with your company’s image.
The impact of the global pandemic on events
The global pandemic put the brakes on several marketing events. While some companies were hesitant about what to do next, a few quickly transitioned to online events. The TCS virtual marathon is again an example. By swiftly adapting to massive change, brands were able to position themselves as innovators or adaptors.
Now that you understand the brand positioning process well, have a look at the brand positioning statements of successful companies for some inspiration.
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