How to Create a Good Brand Positioning
Brand positioning is the cornerstone of a good marketing strategy. It is a single-minded statement that defines who you are, who you serve, what value you provide them, and why you are different. Your brand positioning is axel that your marketing communications’ wheel spins around.
Some Brand Positioning Examples
Here are a couple of good ones. You may have heard of these guys.
For individuals who want the best personal computer or mobile device, Apple leads the technology industry with the most innovative products. Apple emphasizes technological research and advancement and takes an innovative approach to business best practices — it considers the impact our products and processes have on its customers and the planet.
For individuals looking for a quick-service restaurant with an exceptional customer experience, McDonald’s is a leader in the fast-food industry, with its friendly service and consistency across thousands of convenient locations. McDonald’s’ dedication to improving operations and customer satisfaction sets it apart from other fast-food restaurants.
As you can see, they are single-minded (Apple = innovative products, McDonalds=service). They are clear about who they serve, what they deliver, and what sets them apart.
What they leave out is important. Note that Mcdonald’s does not reference the food they serve, and Apple is for people who want the best, not the cheapest, not the most reliable, etc.
Getting It Right Is Hard
Every type of message emanates from this: Your advertising, product communications, PR, sales pitches, website copy, employee communications, yada yada, all emanate from your brand positioning.
This thing is kinda important
The problem is that it’s hard to do well. It’s often the source of a great deal of internal strife. I have worked with many clients who struggle to get agreement on what their central message should be. The result is a brand positioning that lacks focus and is constantly in flux. Frankly, when I ran my own software company, it was a moving target for a long time.
Brand Positioning Framework
In the work we do for clients, we use this simple 4-part framework to hone in on the positioning. You can start at any of the four vectors on the chart. If in doubt start with your Mission. The key thing is that you do all four.
Start With Your Mission
I am going to assume that you are not starting with a greenfield and you are developing a positioning for a business that is either a going concern or at least a well-formed idea. You will most likely have a mission statement or at least something that describes what you do. This should also define your purpose and aspiration and where you are going as a company.
Note: Your mission and your brand positioning are not the same thing. Your mission tells your employees and investors where you are going. Your positioning tells prospects why they should consider you. Capeesh? (As they say in Brooklyn)
Determine a Competitive Gap
Analyze your competitors’ messaging. What do you they say on their web site? Can you write a positioning statement for each of them? You are looking for gaps or at least trying to determine who competes directly with the space you think
It’s hard work but it’s critical. When I ran a software company, there were over 100 companies that did what we did and many were much better funded than we were. I was obsessive about understanding how the top competitors in our space were positioning themselves and we took steps to create our own niche. We zigged when they zagged. This was successful at creating a real differentiation that we became know for.
How Is The Market Defining What You Do?
In each market, there are analysts, influencers and subject matter experts who your customers go to for advice and insight. KLAS and Gartner are obvious ones but there are bloggers and key opinion leaders in each market niche who write and speak at conferences.
Your prospects listen to what they say and it is very important to pay attention to this. Sadly, I have seen some companies be quite arrogant that they know better and ignore what the market is saying.
One other thing to study is search patterns in you market. They are indicative of custom behavior and language. I had a client that positioned themselves as an asynchronous communications company. They had a good rationale as to why and some of their customers agreed with them. The issue was that when I googled asynchronous communications, the search results displayed companies that did something completely different. They dropped this reference from their positioning and used a different term that unambigously described what they do.
Illuminate and Validate With Customer Insight
Last but not least is getting customer feedback and illumination. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. This may seem obvious but many companies don’t do it or don’t do enough of it. Getting customer feedback on your positioning is critical.
Ideally, you start the process here. At minimum do it later in the process. But please for the love of all that’s holy, do it!
We work with companies on market entry strategy, messaging and marketing optimization so we do quite a lot of this work. In this market, we have found that the best way to do this is one on one interviews with prospective buyers and customers. We use structured interviews in a 30 to 45-minute zoom call.
These interviews include positioning testing.
Before the interviews, we will brainstorm 5-6 different short positioning statements, each focusing on a different customer benefit. The feedback we get on this helps to prioritize what the most important benefits are and invariably what language to use to communicate this.
The advantage of interviewing customers and prospects is that customers will call you on your BS and tell you if a positioning is not one you can credibly support.
At a minimum, this activity will help validate your hypotheses in how to position your brand. Done well, this process wil surface insights about buying behavior, language to use and avoid, and other nuances that can make or break your positioning.
Writing a Brand Positioning Statement
The output of this work will help clarify who you serve, what benefit is most important to them, how to differentiate yourself and what language to use. Now you need to create a positioning statement.
There are many ways to do this.
In the example above, you include:
- Who you serve (be as precise as possible)
- What benefit you provide
- What sets you apart
- The essence of how you do it
- Your purpose as a company (this is a somewhat new addition but highly advisable)
The traditional statement is structured like this
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].
Start With Why
Lately, I have been using the Simon Sinek, Start with Why Framework to create a short statement that defines why you do what you do, how ou do it that what you do differently as the outcome.
And One More Brand Positioning Framework for Luck
This pretty good article by Zendesk provides a different framework with some examples.
The most important thing is that you create a positioning statement and you get buy-in to it.
How We Can Help
We are passionate about helping clients define a clear, competitive and compelling positioning. It’s hard to do well and many clients struggle to do it on their own. We can help you in several ways:
- Getting insights from customers and prospects
- Providing an objective viewpoint on your mission
- Doing the hard work of analyzing the competitors
- Assessing third-party sources and evaluating analyst perspectives
- Creating options
- Getting you and your leadership to alignment
How can you get started? Let us take a look at your current positioning. We can give you a quick objective assessment.
You can reach me at email@example.com