When we look at popular companies, it’s impossible to ignore their brand strength. Sometimes these brands have become so powerful they warp the meaning of everyday things.
If someone told you, “Michael Jordan was the best Bull ever” you wouldn’t think of a giant horned animal at a rodeo.
It goes without saying that successful companies thrive by nurturing, analyzing and building their brand. Therefore, in order to succeed, you’ll need to construct a powerful brand.
So, how do we do this? One of the most effective ways is through brand positioning.
In this article, I’ll walk you through all there is to know about brand positioning, then provide you with unique strategies and ideas to improve your own.
What is brand positioning?
Brand positioning helps customers understand the values, ideals and benefits you want them to see when they think of your brand. Brand positioning goes beyond a catchy jingle or visually-stunning logo. Rather, it is a comprehensive strategy that shows your business is a notch above the rest.
Brand positioning creates a brand association in customer minds that urge them to perceive a brand in a positive manner.
Why is this so important? If we’re able to mold customer preferences however we please, this boosts things like sales and brand loyalty.
It has become increasingly more apparent that successful brands arise out of powerful, unique brand positioning campaigns.
To get started, you’ll need to create your own specific brand positioning. Here’s an easy guide to help you succeed.
Dynamic ways to build your brand positioning strategy
A lot of preparation goes into brand positioning. Use these carefully-constructed strategies in order to get the best results.
1. Learn what your customers want, then evaluate your brand’s capabilities
I’ll preface this by saying there will be things customers want that you can’t deliver on. Don’t be discouraged by this! Instead, focus on other issues you can help out with.
The first step in learning what your customers want is determining who they are. This is accomplished by researching your potential target market. Note that this research extends to current customers as well.
Once it’s clear who your target market is, determine what they want from a brand. Focus on the most common expectations across your audience.
Finally, take a step back to evaluate your brand’s capabilities pertaining to customer needs. If you’re able to meet them, you’re ready to move forward.
2. Evaluate your present brand positioning
Take a good look at how you are marketing your products or services. In what ways do they stand out from the market? If they don’t, what are some ways that they could? Deeply understanding your present brand positioning is the key to determining what steps to take next.
Because we’ve already analyzed and evaluated important target market details in step one, we now need to focus internally. Ask yourself the following questions:
- In what ways do we have an advantage over our direct competition?
- What are our brand values?
- What kind of tone or vibe does our brand circulate?
These are the questions that need to be answered in order to continue building a successful brand positioning strategy.
3. Analyze your competition – determine how they are utilizing brand positioning
“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.” – Ovid
The first step in this process is to figure out who the competition is, if you don’t know already. It’s a good idea to do some quick research into this, even if you already have a good understanding of who your competition is. Sometimes a new company flies under your radar.
I won’t delve too deeply into how to find your direct competition, since it’s pretty obvious and doesn’t require much digging. However, I will point out that a few quick searches on different platforms or some basic customer research can give you a good idea.
Once you know who your competition is, it’s time to learn more about them. More importantly, figuring out how they’re positioning their brand.
This type of research should be extensive and give you unique insight into how to position your brand. It should include detailed analysis of what the competition is doing right and what they’re doing sloppily. It should also tell you how they’re presenting their brand to the market.
With this information, position your brand to capitalize on the places where competitors fail, and emulate the ways in which they succeed.
Lastly, don’t forget that this research should be dynamic. Your competition will adapt just as you do. Be ready to analyze any changes they make.
4. Construct a powerful, unique brand positioning statement
“In a competitive crowded world market, it’s the well positioned brands that Stands Out!” – Bernard Kelvin Clive
A brand positioning statement requires creativity and an understanding of what types of things work as a statement. Remember that this will only be beneficial to you if it stands out.
Before we go any further, let’s make sure you understand what a brand positioning statement is.
What is a brand positioning statement?
A brand positioning statement details what your brand does, the benefits it offers and the audience it markets to. This is summed up in a short statement, typically one or two sentences in length. Lastly, it is an internal, rather than an external, document.
The most common misconception about brand positioning statements is their internal use. Many accidentally mistaken a brand positioning statement with a brand slogan or catchphrase. Remember that this statement is intended to guide your internal brand efforts.
Here’s an exercise that demonstrates how important it is to give a concrete brand statement. Consider the following two imaginary brands attempted to describe their positioning statement in one word:
Brand A: ‘Positive’
Brand B: ‘Environmental’
Notice the major difference between the two? Brand A is too abstract and doesn’t really define their brand positioning (all brands consider themselves positive).
Brand B, on the other hand, gave a much more concrete idea of what their brand is about. Keep this example in mind going forward.
With all this considered, let’s dive into the foundational traits of a successful brand statement:
1) Connects with customers
This isn’t to say that a brand positioning statement will be seen by customers (it won’t). Rather, you are creating a position for all projects and campaigns (which will be seen by customers) to follow.
2) Is an achievable promise
Guaranteeing the moon is great, unless you’re unable to launch off the ground. Evaluate and determine your limitations before structuring your brand around an impossibility.
3) Breaks free from market mediocrity
Remember that your competition is coming up with a brand positioning statement of their own. If yours is too similar, none of the projects or campaigns will be unique or give positive separation.
5. Extend this brand positioning to all corners of your projects
Once you’ve conducted thorough research and created a brand positioning statement, it’s time to express it throughout each area of your brand. There should be traces of it in your brand persona, communications, products and more.
This takes a company-wide effort, but the benefits are worth it. Once it’s clear that the statement has an impact in each and every project, there’s one more thing that needs to take place: efficacy evaluation.
In order to see if your brand positioning statement is paying off, make sure to occasionally evaluate its overall impact with customers. Stay vigilant with this and adjust accordingly.
Now that you know how to construct a statement, here are some successful examples to guide you further in this process.
Helpful examples to consider
Whether it’s a total commitment to their values or a unique stance compared to their competitors, successful brands always seem to make the right type of impact.
Here are some examples that I find illustrative and helpful when learning about how to position a brand.
When you see an Apple advertisement, visit an Apple store or log on to their website, it’s apparent what type of traits the brand consistently represents. You would probably describe their messaging as creative, modern and simple.
More importantly, Apple positions its brand to connect with their customers, suggesting that those who purchase from them are innovators who prefer simplistic yet intricate products.
This shines through especially in their advertising, where it’s clear that Apple makes their customers and audience feel like they’re part of a unique club when using Apple gear.
Dating apps left a bad impression in many users’ minds over the years. Despite the companies’ best intentions, dating apps have left users frustrated and wanting change.
Change arrived with Bumble, a dating app offering a totally new type of experience. Although still modern and packed with the typical features users loved, Bumble positioned its brand as one that was innovative and progressive.
It did this by limiting initial interaction, which reduced the potential for a barrage of unwanted messages from someone you’ve just recently connected with.
More notably, they challenged social stereotypes and antiquated norms by having women make the first contact before any other messages can be sent. This set the tone for the overall makeup of the Bumble experience for all users.
The popular coffee chain has gone above and beyond the normal realm of customer experience. It has become clear with the way Starbucks positioned their brand that they believe every customer interaction and experience is monumental.
The most surface-level example of this is writing the customer name on their cup, something that sets them apart, at least from other large chains. Less obvious are the continuous internal efforts to recreate the foundational reasons customers love(d) their stores.
Starbucks dedicated plenty of time, resources and effort to ensure their brand positioning shined through at each and every location. This is seen in their drive-thru structures, in-store designs and branded scents.
Lastly, here’s an example positioning statement I made for the popular automobile brand Tesla.
So, what are the takeaways from the above brands that we can use? One constant is the willingness of these successful, popular brands to take an alternative stance.
Similarly, we should look for ways to break free from the sameness other brands put forward.
One way to do this is with superior planning and strategizing. I’ll now give you some unique strategies designed to set you apart from competitors.
Key strategies to further yourself from the mundane
Your brand will only be as strong as the methods of branding you use to position it. Following an average guide will get you average results. Instead, you need strategies that break free from conventions and give your brand a boost.
Don’t compete when you don’t have to
“Companies that solely focus on competition will die. Those that focus on value creation will thrive.” – Edward de Bono
The reality of the market is there will be extensive competition. However, that doesn’t mean we have to get bloodied up and bruised fighting for that piece of the pie.
Sometimes it works a lot better to take a step back and find a smaller section we can have all to ourselves.
So how do we go about doing this? It all boils down to our overall focus. Instead of aiming our brand at a general market portion, we narrow our reach to its subsidiary sections.
Essentially, we’re creating value to a specific group within a mostly-deserted piece of the market. To do this successfully, it’s important to offer our brand as an answer to this group’s unmet requirements.
Remember, fighting for the bigger portions of the market is still important – we absolutely should target them. However, when there’s an opportunity to position ourselves to a niche group, it’s an underrated tactic to do so. Look for these chances in the future.
Take your visual elements a step further
“Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.” – Orson Welles
It goes without saying that visual elements are a big part of a successful brand. Things like digital graphics, flyers and logos boost campaigns and define projects.
However, creating these elements is only half the battle. Especially when it comes to brand positioning, a key path to success is maintaining visual integrity.
This is accomplished through analysis and re-evaluation of brand graphics throughout each project and campaign. Furthermore, there are different tools designed to help uphold visual element quality and relevancy.
Lastly, structure your maintenance so that it receives adequate review. This usually involves a consistent, scheduled process that ensures everything is looked over and brand elements are on point.
Pinpoint why your target market should pick your brand. Communicate this reason to everyone.
What are the unique benefits of your brand? What can it offer that others cannot? How do its products and services solve customer issues?
These are the questions you need to ask and answer to yourself. Armed with this insight, you’ll be able to communicate these unique advantages to customers.
Your ultimate goal here is to position your brand so that a spotlight shines on its best qualities – qualities that competitors can’t replicate.
This process clarifies the unique qualities your brand offers and makes brand positioning much more successful in all future endeavors.
The modern brand positioning map
Brand positioning is all about changing consumer perception, and getting a better sense of that perception is crucial.
The most effective way to do this is by creating a brand positioning map. This gives a visual layout of similar brands in respect to attributes and characteristics. Ultimately, it will inform you how customers perceive your brand compared to others.
As you can see from the pic above, a brand positioning map details how brands land on different traits, benefits and qualities.
In this example, which I created based on my own preferences, you can see that Reign energy drinks are healthy and inexpensive. Red Bull and Monster are less of a value and are unhealthy. Rockstar has good value but is unhealthy.
Each mapping you create should contain an axis of characteristics known to be important to your target market.
Including your competition takes some pride-swallowing in order to be accurate, but the future benefits are worth it. See where you are behind and where your competitors are ahead and you’ll be able to make changes.
Finally, don’t stop at one. There are plenty of things you can create a map for, so make sure you repeat this process until all aspects are accounted for.
It goes without saying that a strong brand is a difference-maker when it comes to success. Make sure to position your brand to reach your target audience in an impactful way.
Chances are, the more thought you put into brand positioning, the better your overall brand will be. Good luck!
Check out our complete branding guide to learn more.