“Brands that are consistently presented are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience brand visibility.”
The first step towards brand consistency is knowing your brand position. This article will take you through brand positioning and why it’s the essence of business success.
The Importance of Brand Positioning
Brand positioning is “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market.”
In simpler terms, it is how the world perceives your brand. It can be how it makes your customer feel; for example, some brands are seen as aspirational or luxurious. It can be the value it offers your customer. For example, some brands are seen as “value for money” or “accessible for all income groups.” Several B2C brand positioning is also dependent on its looks. For example, some B2C brands are positioned as “chic” or “sturdy.”
What is the role of Brand Positioning?
Brand positioning is not just a “good to have” strategy. It has a key role to play in meeting your marketing and also sales objectives. Here are some roles that brand positioning plays:
- Stand out from the competition – Creating a solid brand position helps you stand out from your competition. This is especially useful for B2B companies. In most B2B industries, multiple brands have the same offering with marginal differences. Having solid brand positioning is all the more important here.
- Break through the noise – The internet today is full of noise and clutter. Digital marketing has become more challenging in this crowded space. A strong brand position helps cut through the clutter and establish brand recall.
- Justify pricing strategies – When consumers can clearly see the value your product offers, they will see value for money spent. This message can be conveyed effectively through good brand positioning.
- Amplify your brand promise – While your tagline might clearly state your brand promise, brand positioning can help amplify this. Over time, this can help push leads further down your sales funnel.
- Create a framework for marketing – Knowing what you want your brand positioning to be can guide marketing tactics. It can serve as a framework for all messaging. Right from your website, social media, to even promotional products.
Unfortunately, there are instances where the audience can perceive a brand in a negative light. This can be because of certain events or insufficient information about the brand. Hence you must decide your brand positioning and tailor your branding strategy accordingly. When businesses put in the effort to customize their brand narrative, it helps cement brand posting the way they want it to be.
Advantages of Brand Positioning
Four components of Brand Positioning
No matter what your industry is, every brand position needs to be built on four essential components.
Every brand positioning statement should answer these four questions:
- Who is your target audience?
The more specific you are, the clearer your position is. For example, a brand like Nike’s position statement would probably include “For sports lovers who want stylish athletic wear.”
- How does your product help your consumers?
Explain the value your product or service offers to a customer. For example, Coca-Cola’s brand positioning might say “refreshing and delicious cola drink.” Or Air France’s brand position can state that it “Flies maximum routes in the world.”
- How are you different from your competition?
Talk about what sets you apart from the competition. For example, Apple’s brand positioning could say, “Best privacy features in the mobile phone market.”
- Why should consumers trust your brand?
Highlight the primary reason customers can trust your brand. This is also tied to the reputation of the brand. For example, GE’s brand positioning might focus on its “129-year-old heritage”.
Brand positioning and customer world views
Every individual has a “world view.” This is based on their experiences, beliefs, and biases. This view guides their perceptions and decisions. Understanding your TG’s world views and using that as a component for your brand positioning can be valuable. Since a worldview influences perception, you can understand how to position your brand to get a positive perception in the customer’s mind. Also, since this view influences decision-making as well, this will automatically help with pushing purchase decisions.
While this is a solid component for creating a brand position, it is rarely used. Most brands try to find real estate in consumer’s minds without really understanding what already exists there. A word of caution, this will not apply to all industries. If you have a vast target market, it will be hard to focus on the worldview. If you have a very niche market, there is a higher chance of this working out.
What is a Brand Positioning Statement?
We have discussed what brand positioning is and how it can help. A brand positioning statement is putting this down in writing. While this might seem obvious, surprisingly, many companies do not write their brand positioning statement.
Once the statement has been framed, it has to be shared across all teams in the company.
The brand positioning statement is not just for the marketing team. Everyone from sales, product development, to human resources has to be on the same page. While a brand positioning statement is predominantly meant for marketing and sales, it can indirectly impact other teams.
Let’s also take time to note what a brand positioning statement is not.
Your brand positioning statement is NOT.
- Your product or service tagline
- Your vision statement
- Your company mission statement
- Your business goal
- Your growth plan
There might be some elements in common with the above, but it is not the same. While your brand positioning statement is how you want the world to see your brand, it is not meant for public view. This is why it is pretty hard to find a company’s brand positioning statement in the public domain. Marketing messaging should not just copy the brand positioning statement. It should rather be reflective of it.
Brand Positioning formula
If you need some help framing your brand positioning statement, here is a formula you can use:
What is B2B Brand Positioning?
“B2B companies with brands that are perceived as strong generate a higher EBIT margin than others.”
In several B2B industries, competitors often have almost identical offerings. Hence brand positioning has a huge role to play in B2B industries. However, it is also a lot harder and quite different from B2C counterparts.
How is B2B Brand Positioning Different from B2C?
- Longer sales cycles – Brand positioning needs to consider long sales cycles, some of which might even take a year or more.
- Focus on long-term relationships – Most B2B companies focus on building relationships and keeping clients on board for years.
- Multiple groups within one customer company– Unlike in B2C industries, a brand positioning needs to address different groups such as influencers, decision-makers and users.
- Purchase is not driven by emotion – B2B purchases are high consideration purchases. They are driven by logic. Hence B2B brands need to be creative enough to stand out from the crowd. But also careful enough to be taken seriously.
Laddering techniques and B2B Brand Positioning
When it comes to B2B branding, several companies choose the “laddering approach.” Where they gradually climb up a brand ladder. In such a case, the brand positioning also needs to be tweaked as the brand moves up a rung in the ladder.
Since B2B brand positioning is complex and layered, it is sometimes confused with product positioning and brand equity. Both of these are closely related to B2B brand positioning. But they are not the same. We will run through the differences in the next section.
What is the difference between Brand and Product Positioning?
If you have only one product or service, your product positioning is pretty close to your brand positioning. However, a lot of B2B brands offer a range of products or services. In which case, each product or service can have its individual positioning.
How different should product positioning be from your brand positioning? This depends entirely on your business. Let us look at some examples of different ways this can be done.
Example 1 – Coca Cola
Coca-Cola offers a range of products, and they all have their unique positioning. Coke and Minute Maid cater to different segments and have radically different brand positioning. Even though Thums Up and Coke are owned by the same brand and are both cola drinks, they have distinct positions. However, all these products have some shades of the parent company’s brand positioning.
Example 2 – Apple
Apple’s products have a slightly narrower difference in their positioning. It is not as wide as Coca-Cola. However, just like Coca-Cola, all Apple products have the brand positioning of the main company. The iPhone is the best camera phone, and the Macbook is seen as the perfect fit for designers. However, all their products are targeted at creative folks looking for superior technology.
Example 3 – Estee Lauder and L’Oreal
Estee Lauder is a luxury skincare and makeup brand. Because of its price point, it caters to a niche market. L’Oreal is a drug store brand, selling similar products but seen as an affordable option for everyone. The positioning of these two brands is so drastically different that very few realize the two are part of the same company.
What is the difference between Brand Equity and Brand Positioning?
Brand equity and positioning are closely related and influence each other. But they are not the same. One of the most popular definitions of Brand equity is “A set of assets or liabilities in the form of brand visibility, brand associations and customer loyalty that add or subtract from the value of a current or potential product or service driven by the brand.”
Brand equity is the value associated with your product. This dictates pricing strategy and, as a result, impacts sales. If your brand equity is really good, a customer will be willing to pay a premium price. Sometimes this might be more than what they will pay your direct competition. Hence higher the brand equity, the higher the profit.
The phrase “Brand Equity” gained huge popularity in the 1980s, when businesses saw potential. They realized brand equity is more of a business growth function and not just a marketing function, unlike brand positioning, which is used across the company but is primarily driven by marketing.
Brand Positioning and Product Differentiation
Product differentiation is what sets a company apart from the competition. It could be an exclusive feature or something that you do better than the competition. This is another factor that is sometimes confused with brand positioning. Though different, Product differentiation influences brand positioning. So ideally, you should be clear about your differentiation before framing a brand positioning statement.
Some companies make the mistake of choosing essential elements as differentiation factors. For example, avoid using price points, quality, or customer satisfaction as differentiation aspects. These are basic elements that customers expect from any brand. While your brand might be priced better or have high customer satisfaction, they are not strong differentiators. It is very easy for competitors or new entrants to duplicate this.
Here are some factors that make good differentiation:
- Aspirational ownership – For example: Jaguar
- Radically different from what is the market – For example: Tesla
- Nostalgia/Heritage – For example: Royal Enfield
The relationship between differentiation and position does not end once the brand position statement is prepared. If your brand does not live up to its differentiation, your brand position becomes void. You might have an ideal brand positioning in mind. But without maintaining differentiation, your customers will have a different view of your brand position. This brings us to the next critical aspect – the brand positioning trap.
What is a Brand Position Trap? (And how can you avoid it)
Some risks can push you into a “brand positioning trap.” Let’s take a look at the most common risks.
Risk 1 – Being disconnected from ground reality
Brand positioning is not just a vision but a strategy that needs to be worked on. A brand position statement needs to be an actual reflection of the business. Many organizations make the mistake of choosing an “ideal” brand position. Sometimes this is not in line with what they offer or can offer customers. Branding positioning is in the customer’s mind. Ground reality influences it heavily.
Risk 2 – Marketing strategies not aligned with brand positioning
From messaging to promotions, every aspect of marketing needs to be aligned with the brand positioning statement. Sometimes brands are tempted to change up marketing strategies radically. This tactic might be because of a new trend or poor sales. It is important to remember that all of this influences the perception of the brand.
Risk 3 – A brand positioning statement that is no longer relevant
While it is crucial to maintain consistency, sticking to a brand position that is no longer relevant to the industry is a risk. For example, the global pandemic has drastically changed the way some industries operate. Brands in these industries have to modify their position accordingly to stay competitive.
If you need some inspiration for brand positioning strategies, check out our blog post about how major global brands have achieved this.