The How-To On Brand Positioning

The marketplace is crowded, and its full of brands jostling for position.
They all want to win their place in the consumers mind.
Here’s how it’s done.

Defining Market Positioning.

Depending on who you talk to, positioning is a marketing term that has come to mean different things to different people.

It was originally coined from The Positioning Era Cometh, a wonderful piece written in the 1970s by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
I define positioning as how the customer perceives your brand versus comparable or competitive brands.

In its most simplistic explanation, positioning is what the customer thinks about you.
Are you cheap or luxury or middle of the road? Are you the healthy or non-healthy option? Are you convenient or slower than a snail?
Are you a good guy or a bad guy?
What space in the mind of the consumer do you occupy?

The reason that positioning is important is because it provides meaning to your brand.

On the downside, once it’s set in the consumers mind, it is extremely difficult to change it. (Let’s be honest, who really believes that McDonalds is a healthy choice despite the heavy advertising of salads and wraps? Burgers, fries plus a Supersize Me movie killed any opportunity for a repositioning of the brand.)

The point is that the consumer forms a view of your brand – and cannot easily wrap their mind around you meaning another. All the more reason to ensure your positioning is right to start with.

3 Steps to Create Your Brand Positioning.

Product attributes are the qualities or characteristics of that particular product. Here are some examples:

  • Toothpaste attributes might include fighting plaque, whiter teeth and fresher breath.
  • Car attributes might include safety, reliability, cheap to run, status, speed.
  • Insurance attributes might include peace of mind, fast claim service, market value replacement, cheap premiums, specialist service.

Leadership is an attribute. If you are the market leader or the leader – you should say so.

Here is a great local example:
If you’re the first product in your product category, choose the most important attribute for your product category and promote your product on that attribute.

If you’re not the first, find one that no-one else is using.

Don’t copy your competitor, you need an attribute that sets your product apart so you can be different and can provide a genuine alternative. (The rule of the follower is to do the opposite of the leader so you can provide the consumer with a genuine alternative.)

Above is an old example – but it made #1 position in the Top 100 Ads of all time so it’s a good one.
(I would have like to have found a more modern example, but finding good positioning material is hard.)

The advertisement, for the Volkswagen Beetle, was released at a time when most Americans were buying very large cars.
It’s position is obvious – think small – it is exactly the opposite to its competitors.
By positioning as the opposite, Volkswagen was able to offer the American buying public a genuine alternative. And they sold plenty of cars in the process.

Step 3: Communicate your position.

If you are the first in the product category, your positioning message should include a leadership statement.
“The world’s first (whatever) for (whoever)” “Fastest Growing (whatever)” “The biggest supplier of (whatever)” “Australia’s No. 1 choice for (whoever)”.
If you’re not the first in the category, but you are the first to grab an available attribute, run with the attribute.
For example, “the toothpaste for whiter teeth”.
Then you need to explain why whiter teeth is important.

The use of Taglines or Slogans.

The world is full of very badly worded slogans. There, I’ve said it (and it’s true).
Taglines (or straplines or slogans) are the short statements that usually appear with business logos.

The most effective taglines need to:

  • Assert your leadership or
  • Position your business by repositioning your competitor.

For example,
Coca Cola’s “The Real Thing” establishes its leadership – it’s the genuine article and it was first to market. (By contrast, Pepsi’s slogan The Choice of a New Generation, made even more famous when Michael Jackson’s hair was set alight, positions Coca Cola drinkers as old.)

The Epic Battle Between Hertz and Avis.

Avis Car Hire’s “We Try Harder” established its challenger (or number 2) brand status behind Hertz. It implied that Hertz was too big to care about its customers.

This tagline was supported by these very famous advertisements.

In them, Avis openly acknowledged that it was the Number 2 brand.

It offered customers various reasons why they should choose to deal with the number 2 brand, including coming to Avis because its queues were shorter.

Other Influencing Factors in the Consumers Mind.

Brands/products need personality.

The elements of a personality include its name, packaging, price, its advertising and what it does and where it is bought. Its personality ultimately becomes its image and this image should work to reinforce its position.

On the most basic level this means not having an old fashioned logo on a “modern” product; or using “boring” packaging on an “exciting” product. And especially don’t regularly change your brand since you’ll only confuse your customers, most of whom don’t like being confused.

How can You Change Your Positioning If You’ve Made A Mistake?

If no-one knows your brand, it’s easy to change because no-one has any preconceived idea about what you stand for.
If people do know your brand, you have a problem and the best way to resolve the problem is to create a new brand.
READ: More about Marketing Strategy and brands


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