A Beginner's Guide To Brand Positioning

What is brand positioning and how can you use it to build your business?

The world is a very competitive place with an endless stream of businesses jostling for a share of the market. If your brand is just another me-too product, it may not generate meaningful sales to build a profitable business, or at the very least, to break-even. Brand positioning is a key pillar that can greatly contribute to the success of your business.

What is brand positioning?

Brand positioning is a crucial aspect of marketing and business strategy. It simply refers to how a business will position a brand or product in the market using various differentiation strategies including pricing, distribution, promotions, product attributes, and product applications to name a few. In doing so, brand positioning aims to distinctively position the brand to create a unique, indelible customer perception for the brand or product, and thereby set it apart from the competition.

For example:

  • A clothing brand can position itself as an ecologically sustainable provider of luxury clothing

  • A car brand can position itself as the most innovative car maker

  • An arts & crafts retailer can position itself as having the largest variety of handmade hand-made art & crafts items

  • A retailer can position itself as offering the most price competitive prices

Why is brand positioning important?

Brand positioning essentially differentiates your product from the competition:

A product that offers very little differentiation from its competitors will be an uphill task to get off the ground; consumers will not have an incentive to switch from their current brand of choice, and retailers will not see the need for another similar product on their store shelves.

Brand positioning facilitates the buyer's purchase decision:

Without a clear positioning statement, buyers will have to screen through multiple similar alternatives before they decide which one to buy. This takes time, and often results in a frustrated consumer. A clear positioning statement assists the buyer in deciding which product best matches the buyer's needs thereby saving considerable time and inconvenience.

What are the types of brand positioning strategies?

There are several brand positioning strategies. Some of them are:

Price-based positioning:

A brand/product is associated with competitive pricing. For example, a retail brand can position itself as offering the lowest prices.

Quality-based positioning:

A brand/product is associated with high quality. For example, a shoe brand can set itself apart from other shoe brands on the basis of high quality.

Application-based positioning:

A brand/product is associated with a specific use. For instance, a toothpaste brand can position itself as toothpaste for people with sensitive teeth.

Attributes and benefit-based positioning:

A brand/product is associated with specific attributes and benefits. For example, a brand of snacks can emphasize the fact that it is organic.

Competitor-based positioning:

A brand/product is associated with superiority compared to competitors. For example, a car insurance brand can compare its insurance policies to that of its competitors and establish superiority.

Influencer-based positioning:

A brand/product is associated with a celebrity or influencer. For instance a sports wear brand can be associated with a some key celebrity athletes.

Value-based positioning:

This has two approaches; a brand/product is associated with high price and therefore creates a psychological effect of having high value; or it could be lower priced compared to competitors with minimal difference in features and therefore positioned on the basis of affordability and therefore greater money’s value. For instance, in the first approach, a luxury handbag brand can be priced high on the basis being a high value status symbol. In the second approach, a mobile phone brand can advertise itself as offering similar features compared to competing phones but at a lower price.

What tools can be used in brand positioning?

The most popular brand positioning tool is perceptual mapping. Perceptual maps (also known as brand positioning maps) can be helpful to compare your brand with the brands of your competitors in terms of consumer perceptions. Your brand can be compared with competing products on several attributes so it is likely that your business will develop several perceptual maps. The attributes on each perceptual map comprise of product attributes that are important to your target market consumer.

How can a business create a brand positioning strategy?

Your business can use the following steps as a guide to create an effective brand positioning strategy.

1. Determine how your brand is currently positioning itself

Study your brand's current positioning. Is it ust another product with very little differentiation?

2. Identify your competitors

Study your competitors, and their brands.

3. Study the positioning of your competitors' brands

Conduct research to understand your competitors' products, how they differ from other competitors in the space in terms of product offering, pricing, distribution, marketing strategies, and thereby assess how your competitors' are positioning their brands.

4. Compare your brand's current positioning with that of your competitors to identify what makes your brand unique and how it stands out

Compare your brand with that of your competitors to identify what makes your brand unique. Study the strengths and weaknesses of your brand vs competing products. Your competitors' weaknesses could be your strength.

5. Create a positioning statement

A positioning statement is essentially a statement (usually no more than two sentences), that describes how a product or service fulfills a particular unmet need of a target market. It is meant to serve as an internal tool to help marketing teams understand how the brand is expected to be perceived in the minds of consumers and accordingly tailor their marketing strategies and efforts to support that consumer perception.

6. Test the efficacy of your brand positioning statement

Once your brand positioning statement has been created, you will have to test it to ensure it is effective and thereby helping achieve your business goals. Consumer surveys, customer feedback are a few methods your business can use.

What are some brand positioning examples?

  • Walmart, one of the world's largest retailers, has positioned itself as a retailer offering the lowest prices possible.

  • German auto giant Mercedes Benz has positioned itself as a car maker that offers the best in engineering, safety, and luxury.

  • Whole Foods has positioned itself as the a retailer offering nourishing, high quality, organic foods