Today’s consumers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages and seemingly endless product and brand options. With such a broad selection, you’d think that buyers will easily switch to novel products, and new companies can easily take a slice of the market share.
But this is not always the case. Some companies have embedded themselves so deeply in the minds and lives of their target consumers. Their ability to capture their consumers’ wants, needs, and values–and consistently deliver on their promises–allowed them to continue to dominate their categories.
Such is the power of brand positioning.
EquiBrand Consulting defines brand positioning as “the conceptual place you want to own in the target consumer’s mind–the benefits you want them to think of when they think of your brand.”
Consider for example these U.S. companies with the highest brand values.
Among the reasons behind these mega-brands’ success is that they have a clear, well-thought-out brand positioning strategy–and they align their businesses with it.
Take for example Walmart’s brand positioning statement: “For price-sensitive shoppers, Walmart is the retailer that helps them feel ‘smart’ and live better because only Walmart delivers unbeatable prices on the brands they trust, in an easy, fast, one-stop shopping experience.”
This statement is not merely lip service–it guided their marketing campaigns, influenced their offerings and product pricing, and even permeated their customers’ experience.
Crafting a brand positioning strategy may be time-consuming but it offers companies–from home businesses and startups to large companies–several long-term benefits, especially clarity and focus.
- Clarity: Crafting brand positioning statements allow companies to get clear on their competitive advantage and how they fare against other brands within their category. Moreover, the process allows business managers to know the actual position they occupy in their customers’ minds, and contrast this with the position they aspire to hold.
- Focus: Once you nail your brand positioning strategy, you can laser-focus your advertising, content, innovation, production, distribution, and pricing toward this long-term strategy.
How to Craft an Effective Brand Positioning Strategy
To be able to craft a brand positioning statement that will propel your company forward, you need to gather information on your brand’s current positioning. Also, get to know your customers, identify your competitors and discover your similarities with them as well as your competitive edge, then choose how you wish to position yourself in your selected category.
1. Understand your brand’s current positioning, existing customers, and target clients.
Gather information on your current and ideal customers. Aside from demographic information, uncover their aspirations, values, and priorities.
Also, find out what they think of your brand. What attributes do they associate with your company? Why are they choosing you over other companies or service providers?
2. Identify your competition.
Aside from identifying who your competitors are, find out how you compare with them in the minds of your current and potential clients. For instance, are they buying the same products from your competitors? Why? Do they view your competitor brands as more innovative, customer-centric, or high-end?
You can use a brand perception map to help you picture your brand’s position in consumers’ minds vis-a-vis your competitors. This tool also allows you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, the things you have in common with other brands, and the features that help you stand out in your chosen category.
3. Map out how you are similar with and distinct from other brands.
To do this, you can use a centrality-distinctiveness map (C-D map). The C-D map goes beyond perception and helps businesses visualize both attributes they share with other brands in a category (centrality) and what allows them to stand out (distinctiveness).
When identifying your shared and distinctive attributes, look at different factors such as quality, values, benefits extended to customers, market segment being served, and unique attributes, ingredients, or processes.
Another key benefit of the C-D map is that it allows decision-makers to visualize both positioning and business performance in one tool. For example, brands that are considered more distinct and less central (such as Tesla among cars and Guinness among beers) typically have lower sales volumes but command premium prices. Brands that are more central (such as Ford for cars and Busch for beers) have relatively lower prices but higher sales volumes.
Similarly, you can use a C-D map to determine your position in your category’s centrality-distinctiveness spectrum and consider the implications of moving to other quadrants. For example, if you are seen as a more central or mainstream brand, increasing your prices may pull down your sales volume.
Source: Harvard Business Review
4. Choose how you want to position your brand.
There are multiple ways you can position your brand. You can:
- Focus on your distinct benefits or strengths.
Tesla, for instance, has positioned itself as an innovative manufacturer and dealer of luxury electric vehicles.
Apple, among the world’s most valuable brands, highlighted its strengths with campaigns like “Think different.” Moreover, Apple aligned its identity with innovation and consideration for its impact on both buyers and the planet. This permeated its products, messaging, business practices, and customer experience.
Meanwhile, Etsy focused itself on a specific value: to Keep Commerce Human. It has designed an enabling environment for buyers looking for one-of-a-kind pieces and sellers who are turning their creative projects into profitable businesses. Sellers can even easily create an Etsy referral program so their customers and fans can earn from promoting their products.
- Identify your product with a customer segment.
Instead of capturing the craft beer market, Budweiser, the world’s most valuable beer brand, has been using an all-embracing tagline: “This bud’s for you.”
The company stood by its relatable, inclusive, and no-fuss theme even as the popularity of artisan beers rose. Its past marketing strategies reflected this as well. It used the statement “Proud to be macro” during its 2015 Super Bowl ad, released the “Born the Hard Way” ad in 2016, and for a time, used “America” in their cans in place of their brand name.
- Emphasize price/quality attributes.
You can promote your brand as offering premium products or services, which explains its higher costs. Alternatively, you can position your company as a provider of high-quality products at more affordable or competitive prices.
One company that executes this so well is Walmart. The company positioned itself as a hassle-free one-stop-shop for quality products with unbeatable price, so succinctly captured in its tagline, “Save Money. Live Better.”
5. Create your brand positioning statement.
Once you have a clear idea of where you stand in customers’ minds and how you wish to reposition your brand, you can start creating a laser-focused statement.
If you don’t know where to start, check out brand positioning statements of major brands, such as Amazon:
“For customers who want to purchase a wide range of products online with quick delivery, Amazon provides a one-stop online shopping site. Amazon sets itself apart from other online retailers with its customer obsession, passion for innovation, and commitment to operational excellence.”
You can also use the positioning template from HubSpot: To do this, fill in the brand positioning statement:
For [your target market] who [target market need], [your brand name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors] because [reason why target market should believe your differentiation statement.]
- Your target market: Clearly define the market segment you want to serve, from their age group, gender, social and economic status, location, and other relevant characteristics.
- Target market need: Identify the need you wish to fill in.
- Main benefit: Identify the key benefits customers get when they buy from you. For instance, if you’re in the sportswear category, what attributes do you want buyers to associate with your brand? Is it comfort, functionality, quality, or a unique, luxurious style?
Whichever benefits you want to highlight, ensure that these are attributes that truly matter to your target customers.
- Reason why they should believe your differentiation statement: Be ready to back up the benefits you highlight with sufficient data, client testimonials, or statements from industry experts or highly respected individuals.
Once you’ve crafted your brand positioning statement, start rolling out changes throughout your company. Aside from your marketing strategist or team, instruct your managers and employees to update all your materials, ads, messaging, research and development, manufacturing, and even your expansion plans to align with your new brand positioning.
But your efforts must not stop here. Using the C-D maps, keep track of whether or not your efforts are helping shift consumers’ perceptions closer to your desired positioning.
Note as well that emerging factors–new competitors, niche markets, technologies, and changing consumer needs–can impact your company. As such, you must regularly monitor how these factors are affecting your positioning in clients’ minds. Be ready to adjust your marketing strategy or business processes to retain your competitive edge, or reevaluate your brand positioning or undergo a rebranding to stay relevant.