"Hoover", "Jeep", "Chapstick", "Biro" - these aren't product names, they're brand names. How have these brands managed to stick in our minds so well that we use their name instead of the actual item we're referring to? The answer is positioning.
Positioning is a crucial part of brand strategy and its entire purpose is to get customers to remember a company for a particular thing. It could be anything from pricing, to a product, to even a feeling. This might sound simple but successful brand positioning requires careful research and execution. Not having a positioning strategy can lead to huge amounts of money being wasted on ineffective marketing or simply being drowned out by competitors who know what they're doing.
By the end of this post you'll know exactly how to craft a unique positioning strategy for your business that customers remember you for. Without further ado, here are the 5 steps you need to develop an effective positioning strategy.
Knowing why your company exists beyond making money is the key to strong positioning. A purpose rooted in doing good is what will connect customers with your brand on a deeper level. This doesn't have to be a big existential issue like solving world hunger or poverty (although if you're doing that, great!). Simply something that makes a positive difference in people's lives is more than enough. That could be in your industry, your immediate community, or even in your office for you staff.
Take a look at these examples:
Nespresso: "Cultivating coffee as an art to grow the best in each of us."
Apple: "To create products that enrich people's daily lives."
British Airways: "Bringing people, places and diverse cultures closer together for more than 100 years."
When you find your purpose, everything the business does day to day will be connected to it and guided by it. When you know WHY you do things, what you do and how you do it answers itself. You become driven towards a singular direction.
"When the why is clear, the how is easy."
Your brand positioning is only as strong as the experience you give to your customers. When you truly know who they are, you can position yourself strategically as a brand that fulfils a particular purpose in their lives.
The best way to go about this is by understanding their needs, wants, and pain points, and then listening to what they have to say to gain insights about who they are. If you profile enough people you will begin to see patterns in their unmeet needs that your brand can fulfil and become known for. Reveal these unmet needs by asking them questions, observing their behaviour, and listening to what they say about you and your competitors. For more information on how to dig up these golden nuggets, check out "3 Strategic Ways To Find GAPS In The Market In 2022."
"Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room." - Jeff Bezos
Once you've got the data you need, plot your findings on the following documents:
This process will leave you with a tangible representation of your customers that you can use to guide your positioning strategy. The most important thing here is not to guess or make assumptions. Understanding customers' behaviour, thoughts and feelings is no easy task but it's extremely powerful for the growth of your brand when done successfully.
Positioning is about being known for something specific that none of your competitors are already known for. So, in order to become known for that thing you need to influence the the way people think and feel about your brand. For example, when you think of Rolex you think of wealth, luxury, and high status. You could argue that Rolex alone owns this position in the luxury watch space, but I bet you didn't know that they're actually owned by a non-profit. Why? Because that's not what they want you to know them for so they don't position themselves that way.
There are endless options when it comes to positioning. You could be the luxury option (Marks and Spencers) or the cheap option (Poundland), the one that's known for happiness (Coca Cola) or the one that appeals to the younger generation (Pepsi), the safe option (Volvo) or the quintessentially Italian option (Ferrari).
Be creative when figuring out what you want to be known for. The best place to start is your competitors; what are they known for? Plot them out on a positioning map, then place your brand as far away from them as you possibly can.
After you've identified the problems your brand solves and researched your target audience, you're ready to develop your positioning statement. This is where you combine all of your findings into a concise sentence that captures the value you provide, who it's for, and what makes it different.
There are a few different templates out there for creating a positioning statement, but here's the one we like to use:
We help [TARGET AUDIENCE] who [CHALLENGE / PAINT POINT THEY HAVE] to [KEY BENEFIT OF YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE]. Unlike [COMPETITIVE ALTERNATIVES] our solution [DIFFERENTIATOR].
Example positioning statement for a home bakery that makes Welsh bread:
We help families living in Britain who crave the warm feeling of home baking to enjoy authentic home-made bread. Unlike other baked goods brands, our bread uses traditional Welsh methods to evoke a reminiscent feeling of childhood.
Do you see how clear this positioning is? The whole concept is built around home comforts, warmth, and the simplicity of childhood. It's so clear you can visualise it. You can clearly see how this will guide all brand experiences such as packaging design, brand identity, tone of voice, messaging, and so on.
Remember, a positioning statement is not something you share publicly so the goal is not to craft a beautiful piece of copy that persuades customers to buy from you. Instead, a positioning statement should be used internally to guide all branding, marketing, and communications. It serves as a reminder for everything you do differently to your competitors and what you want your brand to be known for.
Now that you know what position you want to occupy in the minds of your customers, it's time to put things into action. From here on out everything you do needs to be in alignment with your positioning strategy.
Lets take our Welsh home bakery brand from earlier. One day we decide we want to add a new product to the range. We quite like the idea of crumpets. Would this be a good idea? Absolutely! Crumpets are a traditional British food that many people enjoyed during their childhood. What about churros? Would that work? Whilst churros are really delicious, they're completely wrong for the target audience we speak to and the position we've claimed. It would muddy our brand in the minds of our customers. It's like someone who always wears smart suits suddenly showing up in a flowery Hawaiin shirt. It's weird...
Is this all starting to make sense now?
A great example of a brand who owned their position successfully is Avis. In the 1960's Avis knew they were second-best to Hertz when it came to car rental. So what did they do? They adopted it as their positioning strategy. This led to the inspiration for their "We try harder" campaign and it worked amazingly well for them.
As you can see, the right positioning strategy can truly make or break your business. Over the past 10 years we've seen a huge shift in the way consumers think about brands with a lot more intentionality on who they buy from. Customers want to feel like part of a tribe and they want to see that the brands they advocate for can adapt to their needs.
Your positioning strategy is the key to unlocking an unoccupied part of your customer's minds so that they never forget you. If you position your business well it will continue to pay itself back for decades to come.
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