What sets you apart from the competition? Successful companies like Coca-Cola and Band-Aid have one important thing in common: a strong brand. In fact, their brand names have become generic terms for all similar products in their niche. If you cut yourself, do you ask for a bandage or a Band-Aid?
B2B companies with brands perceived as strong generate a higher EBIT margin than others. And if that isn't enough, successful branding yields benefits such as increased customer loyalty, an improved image, and a relatable identity.
There's only one surefire way to build a strong brand: brand positioning. Here's how to successfully position a brand in your market in 2020. In this article, we'll discuss how to successfully position a brand in your market by covering these topics:
- What is brand positioning?
- Why is brand positioning important?
- How to create a brand positioning strategy
- The brand positioning map
- Brand positioning examples
What is Brand Positioning?
Brand positioning is the process of positioning your brand in the mind of your customers. More than a tagline or a fancy logo, brand positioning is the strategy used to set your business apart from the rest.
According to The Branding Journal, effective brand positioning can be described as the extent to which a brand is perceived as favorable, different, and credible in consumers' minds.
Why is brand positioning important?
You have a reputation whether you cultivate it or not, so you might as well consciously think through brand positioning to reap its benefits.
Years ago, a soda company decided to do something different with its taste and position itself as unique. Now, Coca-Cola is reached for by millions around the world daily as a household staple — and it's positioned in our minds as the gold standard of soda.
Brand positioning allows a company to differentiate itself from competitors. This differentiation helps increase brand awareness, communicate value, and justify pricing, all of which impact the bottom line.
How to Create a Brand Positioning Strategy
- Determine your current brand positioning.
- Identify your competitors.
- Conduct competitor research.
- Identify what makes your brand unique.
- Create your positioning statement.
- Evaluate if your positioning works.
- Establish an emotional connection with prospects and customers.
- Reinforce your brand's differentiating qualities during the sales process.
- Create value.
- Ensure that customer-facing employees embody your brand.
Creating your own brand positioning strategy involves diving deep into the details of your brand and discovering what you do better than anyone else. These six steps help you create a brand positioning strategy that's unique to your business.
1. Determine your current brand positioning.
Are you currently marketing your product or service as just another item on the market, or are you marketing it as something distinctive? Your current brand positioning gives you important insight into where to go next. You'll need to understand your current position to further analyze your competition.
Start by considering your target customer and defining who they are. Next, identify your mission, values, and what makes you different from the rest of the market. Finally, take stock of your value proposition and your current brand persona and brand voice.
Matylda Chmielewska at LiveChat Partner Program advises, "We all like connecting with brands that sound and feel authentic to us. Instead of building a complex lingo that no one will be able to understand, just talk human. Start with researching who your (ideal and existing) audience is, and use their language."
2. Identify your competitors.
After analyzing yourself, it's important to analyze your competition by performing competitor analysis. Why? You'll need to see who you're up against to conduct competitor research. That research will help you decide what you can do better in your strategy to gain an edge.
There are different methods for determining your competition, including:
- Conducting market research: Ask your sales team what competitors come up during the sales process, or do a quick search using a market keyword and see which companies are listed.
- Use customer feedback: Ask your customers which businesses or products they were considering before choosing yours.
- Use social media: Quora offers a platform where consumers can ask questions about products and services. Search these forums to discover competitors in your niche.
3. Conduct competitor research.
Once you've determined who your competitors are, it's time to conduct in-depth competitor research. You'll need to analyze how your competition is positioning their brand in order to compete. At its simplest, your research should include:
- What products or services your competitors offer
- What their strengths and weaknesses are
- What marketing strategies they're using successfully
- What their position is in the current market
4. Identify what makes your brand unique.
Building a unique brand is all about identifying what makes you different and what works best for your business. Chmielewska suggests, "Start by defining what 'effective' really means for your brand -- and then build its image based on that."
Chances are, after you conduct competitor research, you'll begin to see patterns. You'll start to see some businesses that have the same strengths and weaknesses. As you compare your product or service to theirs, you might find one of their weaknesses is your strength.
This is what makes your brand unique; and it's the perfect starting point for positioning your brand in the market. Take note of your unique offerings as you compare, and dive deep to identify what you do better than anyone else.
5. Create your positioning statement.
It's time to take what you've learned and create a brand positioning statement. According to The Cult Branding Company, “A positioning statement is a one- or two-sentence declaration that communicates your brand's unique value to your customers in relation to your main competitors.”
There are four questions to answer before creating your positioning statement:
- Who is your target customer?
- What's your product or service category?
- What's the greatest benefit of your product or service?
- What's the proof of that benefit?
From there, you can craft a simple but compelling positioning statement. For example, take a look at Amazon's positioning statement: “Our vision is to be the earth's most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Amazon's target customer -- although incredibly broad -- is anyone. They sell a wide range of products for everyone, which is also their greatest benefit. And the proof? It's all online.
6. Evaluate if your positioning statement works.
Taking the time to position your brand to appeal to a certain customer is just the beginning. Once your positioning statement is created, it's time to test, experiment, and gather feedback from your customers on whether or not your positioning achieves its goal.
As Ryan Robinson of Close.io says, “Investing the time and effort into positioning your brand to appeal toward a specific vertical, type of consumer, or demographic is only a small part of the battle. It's crucial to test, experiment, and actively gather (real) feedback from your target customers on whether or not your positioning is actually having its desired effect. We've doubled down on our positioning by consistently asking for (and listening to) feedback from new customers when they join, and it's clear that both our content and its delivery style remain a key asset for our brand."
7. Establish an emotional connection with prospects and customers.
Connecting with your prospects on a human level before going in for the hard sell builds trust, and helps your prospect have a more positive experience with your company's brand. For example, at the beginning of the sales process, reps should take ample time to learn about your prospects and what problem they are looking to solve by using your product.
8. Reinforce your brand's differentiating qualities during the sales process.
With a strong brand position, the differentiating properties of your company's offering should be easy to understand and refer to. Make sure your prospects understand what makes your brand unique throughout the sales process.
9. Create value.
Your main goal should be to help your prospect solve a problem or overcome a challenge they are experiencing. Ideally, your company's offering is part of the solution.
10. Ensure that customer-facing employees embody your brand.
Customer-facing employees are your company's most valuable ambassador. Prospects should receive an experience that embodies the core values of your company and aligns with the company's brand. For example, if your company takes a light, fun approach to branding, you should incorporate this language into your sales conversations. Having an overly serious or stiff tone would not be authentic to your company's brand.
Brand Positioning Map: The Power of Perception
If you want to see how your brand compares to others in consumers' perceptions, a brand positioning map can help. According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), “Perceptual brand mapping is the visual plotting of specific brands against axes, where each axis represents an attribute that is known to drive brand selection.”
Image source: American Marketing Association
A brand positioning map consists of attributes that are important to your target audience. To do mapping right, it's best to have multiple versions of the map based on different sets of attributes. By placing your brand and your competitors on your map, you'll see who's more competitive in a certain area over the rest.
The attributes used in the map come directly from the values your customers hold dear. The perception of your product or service is linked directly to those values. Brands focusing on shared values win, in the end.
As Harvard Business Review states, “Build brand loyalty on shared values with your consumers. It is not the number of interactions a buyer has with your brand, but the quality and relatability of the interaction.”
Brand Positioning Examples
- Delta vs. JetBlue
- Billie vs. Gillette
- Chipotle vs. Taco Bell
- Lyft vs. Uber
There are plenty of companies that have excelled at brand positioning over the years by building a positioning strategy that rivals the rest. Here are five great examples:
1. Delta vs. JetBlue
Delta and JetBlue have shown who wins when hospitality and high-end rival one another. After Delta stopped serving peanuts and reduced legroom, JetBlue entered the market boasting about its gourmet snacks and expansive legroom. It found success by focusing on friendly service instead of a lucrative frequent-flyer program.
2. Billie vs. Gillette
In recent years, examples of the pink tax — or products geared towards women being more expensive than gender-neutral or male-equivalent products — have been brought to light in the media. One product category that has been plagued by the pink tax is the shaving category, where women's products are often marketed as an afterthought.
Direct-to-consumer brand Billie is tackling the pink tax issue head-on, using a subscription model selling women's razors at half the price of drugstore competitors, offering customers referral credits known as the “pink tax rebate.” Well-known shaving brand Gillette has taken notice, now offering a subscription option for its Venus razors.
3. Chipotle vs. Taco Bell
Chipotle and Taco Bell's fight for market share delivered a study in quality versus quantity. Although Taco Bell is known in the market for Mexican fast food, Chipotle entered the same space by competing on quality instead of price. One of its ads stating, “We're Not Afraid to Say We're Real Chickens” speaks to the company's dedication to successful branding.
4. Lyft vs. Uber
Friendly or far-fetched? Which one wins? Although Uber burst onto the rideshare scene quickly, it offered overly-executive rides with sleek branding. Its branding was too luxurious, leaving some consumers turned off. Lyft entered the market promising friendly and fun service instead of far-fetched luxury.
Founded in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe after her departure from Tinder, Bumble was positioned as an app designed to empower women to take control when connecting with new people. In addition to its initial focus on bettering the female-user experience, Bumble has expanded beyond the dating category giving users the option to find friendship and professional connections within the platform.
As you can see, a strong brand makes all the difference when entering or competing in any market. A unique brand positioning strategy is critical to making a statement, getting (and keeping) your target audience's attention, and successfully growing your brand.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Dec 29, 2019 8:45:00 PM, updated November 19 2020