Before you invest the time, money, and energy into developing a new brand, it’s important to make sure that your intended customers will recognize it as such.
A brand positioning strategy helps you make sure your brand can be easily identified by its target audience and distinguishes it from other brands in the marketplace.
It’s also an incredibly useful tool when marketing your brand to your potential audience and ensuring that they know exactly what value you provide them. Here are the essential elements of a successful brand positioning strategy.
Why is brand positioning important?
A brand positioning strategy is important for two reasons. First, it ensures that you will be able to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Second, it gives you the opportunity to introduce your brand as something unique and different from the competition. A strong brand positioning strategy will help establish your company’s identity and how it is seen by potential customers. The end goal is to create a lasting impression on the consumer so they will choose your business over another one.
What does it mean for my business?
It is important to develop an effective brand positioning strategy to help your business stand out. Without this strategy, you are merely guessing as to what will work best for your business and what message you want to portray. Developing an effective brand positioning strategy helps you articulate the core values and key messages of your business that are most important and relevant to target customers.
What are the seven elements?
A brand positioning strategy is the foundation of any successful brand. The seven essential elements are: market category, target audience, USP, brand differentiation, brand personality, brand identity and pricing strategy. There’s more to it than just creating a logo, naming your company, and figuring out where you want to be in the marketplace. It takes time and attention to detail to define who you are as an organization so that people can identify with your product or service. It also requires creativity to develop an authentic voice that conveys what sets your company apart from others in its field.
The brand position should be communicated consistently across all channels, including social media platforms. Remember that all communications need to be aligned with the overall message so they don’t confuse or distract from the company’s brand story.
1) Market Category
Deciding which market category, subcategory or creating a new category to position a brand under is an important decision. Market categories are not created equal, and allocating resources to a strategic market category can be the difference between success and failure. So before you start developing your brand positioning strategy, think about what type of market category you want to compete in. Ask yourself questions like:
• Who is my target audience?
• What do I have that no one else does?
• Who are my competitors? And what makes me different from them?
In some cases, where the market is highly crowded or considered a red ocean market (lots of businesses fighting each other) it can be worth positioning your brand in a sub-category or creating an entirely new category (blue ocean) for your positioning strategy. this can reduce the number of competitors you have to compete against or remove any competition altogether. This is a great way to build a unique brand with a focused target audience and unique value proposition but it does come with a trade off, brands that create new categories or enter into lesser-known sub-categories will also have to market and promote the category as well as the brand.
For example the first-ever energy drink had to first market what energy drinks were and the benefits to the target audience alongside attaching their brand to that category.
2) Target Audience
A brand positioning strategy is what defines your brand and sets you apart from the competition. If done right, it will help grow your audience and make them more likely to buy your product or service. To do this, you’ll need to know who your target audience is. Knowing the personality traits of your target audience will allow you to tailor messaging to their specific needs and concerns. For example, if you’re selling athletic shoes, marketing to people who have an active lifestyle will be different than targeting someone who doesn’t exercise at all.
Understanding your target audience and the pain points, aspirations, fears and objections they have will help you to craft a focused and targeted brand positioning and value proposition to resonate with this audience. A key part of effective brand positioning is relevancy to your target audience if they are confused by or don’t understand your category or the role you play in their life they will likely never buy from you and struggle to remember you. Effective positioning and brand memorability go hand in hand the better more on point your positioning strategy is the more chance of audience recognition and buy-in you’ll have.
Beyond demographics, your audience’s psychographics are important to understand how they think, feel, act and their consumer habits, it is in these triggers, values and beliefs that can help you to craft a positioning ing strategy that is relevant and tailored to their specific needs, challenges and desires.
3) Identify your unique selling proposition
What makes your business different from others? This is the first question you need to answer when developing your brand positioning strategy. Your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition defines what sets your business apart from competitors and how you add value to the target audience. USPs usually take shape in one of two ways:
1) through a product or service benefit, such as guaranteed satisfaction;
2) through how the product is positioned in the marketplace, such as The World’s Best Apples.
To begin to uncover your USP you can go through a process of listing everything that makes you different and whittling this down to 2 or 3 top options that the competition can’t claim (so do your research first). Then think about how you would market each of these USP’s the one that is easier to build upon, generate creative ideas for and come up with marketing campaigns for is normally the one to focus on. Your unique selling proposition also wants to be simple and concise so you don’t confuse your audience or hinder memorability.
Avoid generic USP’s, for example, ‘customer service’ this is something your customers will expect and the majority of businesses talk about and unless you are going to go the lengths of Zappos and be the world’s best at customer service avoid these easily replicated propositions. Branding is about deliberate differentiation first and foremost and also building a defensible position for your business if you follow everyone else you break both of these rules.
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4) Brand Differentiation
Differentiation is an important part of any positioning strategy and can take many forms. Whether you want to differentiate your brand on the basis of price, quality, brand experience, product design, visual identity, personality or something else entirely, differentiation is key to ensuring that your brand stands out from the competition. In order to develop a successful marketing strategy, it’s important to understand what sets you apart from other brands in the same space and to continually double down on this in your campaigns, organic marketing and through your team. As said above branding is about deliberate differentiation and you can do this across every area in your business from the business model as Dollar Shave Club did in the razor market with a subscription model or through simplifying an industry through innovative product design like Apple did.
The more ways you can differentiate the better and especially want to utilise your own brand personality and visual identity. A lot of businesses copy the competition in the way they market, how they market and how they present themselves and in some cases you have whole industries whereby you can’t tell the difference between the companies in them, these stagnant markets are ready for disruption and change.
5) Brand Personality
Brand personality is an important part of your brand positioning strategy. It can play an instrumental role in communicating with your customers, and it’s what distinguishes you from competitors. By aligning your brand with a personality, you’ll be able to better identify who should be targeted as the end user (i.e., high-end vs budget-conscious), which in turn will help you create more targeted marketing messages. Once you understand your target audience and have crafted your value proposition and differentiation strategy you’ll be better placed to develop your brand’s personality and one of the best ways to do this is to use brand archetypes to create an archetype mix unique to you that can distinguish you from the competition.
Archetypes are distinctive character personalities that have been in use for thousands of use in stories, mythology and throughout history. They are also roles we take throughout our lives depending on certain situations and we also look for people to fill these roles in our life at different times we are hard-wired to recognise these characters and seek them out at different times. Each archetype is aligned with a customer need or desire so If you know your target audience is feeling at the point just before interacting with your brand you can build your brand’s personality type on the archetype they are seeking.
An example of this is a businessman who is middle-aged and works for a large financial institution in the city, they go to work everyday same routine to the same office, in a large grey building to a small cubicle and rinse and repeat every day. It doesn’t take much to realise that he might be craving freedom, rebellion and the open road, this alerts his mind to look out for or seek brands, opportunities and life events aligned with rebellion, freedom and potentially at the extreme anarchy. This is why a brand like Harley Davidson jumps out at him at this point in his life and Harley Davidson communicates the spirit of the Outlaw Archetype by showcasing images of open roads and non-conformity. They also mix the outlaw with the Explorer utilising symbols of wings and the Everyperson leaning into the spirit of community.
If you create a well-defined brand personality it can tune a dull bland brand into an impactful, magnetic offering for your audience that if done correctly will draw your ideal audience to you.
6) Brand Identity
What does your brand identity say about your brand? Your brand identity can be anything from the company’s name, to its logo, to the tone in which it communicates with customers. The role that your brand identity plays in your positioning strategy depends on what you want people to know about your product or service. To do this, you must first decide on the type of positioning strategy you would like to use and then choose an identity that best suits it. Your branding should match your positioning strategy because a poor match will lead to confusion among consumers and even cause them to negatively associate themselves with the brand. Your brand identity is made up of four layers:
Core (Heart of the brand) – The foundation for an effective brand identity includes purpose, vision, mission and values
Strategy (Brain of the brand) – The strategic aspect to your brand includes positioning and differentiation
Communication (Personality of the brand) – The way you communicate to your audience includes personality, tone of voice, messaging and marketing
Design (Face of the brand) – The visual aspect to your brand includes logo, colours, fonts, collateral, signage, product design, packaging
In order to effectively position your brand these four layers need to be unified and in complete alignment.
Your pricing strategy will play a major role in your brand positioning strategy, especially if you’re selling to consumers. It’s important to consider what position you want your brand to take in the market and how competitive pricing will affect that position. For example, if you want your brand to be seen as affordable and accessible, then having low prices is key. However, if you want to offer high-end luxury goods for an exclusive clientele then higher prices are more appropriate. You should also think about price from the perspective of customer psychology. Some people associate lower prices with great value while others associate higher prices with quality products. In order to figure out which approach is best for your brand, it would be smart to conduct research on who your target customer base is and what they believe about pricing related topics such as value and cost effectiveness.
Brand Positioning Example
One of the most successful examples of brand positioning done well is Nike. Their slogan Just Do It captures the essence of their brand in just six words. The slogan makes it easy to understand what Nike stands for and why they are different from other brands. This positioning also created a sense of urgency that has led to decades of success for Nike. In contrast, GM had been struggling for years before deciding to abandon its position as America’s best-selling car company and instead focus on being a mobility company. They abandoned their iconic logo, saying goodbye to more than 100 years of branding. However, this pivot didn’t work out too well because GM still owns many car brands. If you know how strong the original GM was at one point in time, seeing them now can be heartbreaking—especially if you’re an old-school fan who remembers when big three automakers were synonymous with America’s automotive industry.
A brand positioning strategy is important for any business, regardless of size or industry. The key to positioning your brand for success is having a strategy that’s tailored to your unique business and situation.
Our guide has helped you work through the seven essential elements needed to craft your own successful positioning strategy. Now it’s time to start implementing what you’ve learned!
If you need any help with your brand’s positioning strategy, are not sure where to start with positioning or are struggling to re-position an existing brand schedule a brand discovery call to talk to one of our experts – https://calendly.com/elementsbrandmanagement/discovery-consultation-call
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A few more resources about brand positioning or related topics.