What Is Brand Positioning?
May 23, 2023|Read time: min.
- Brand positioning is a strategic process of establishing a unique and compelling position in the minds of target consumers, setting your brand apart from competitors.
- Brand positioning is established relative to competitors and ensures that your target consumers know the unique value you offer when they think of your brand.
- Successful brand positioning leads to increased market share, customer loyalty, and a sustainable competitive advantage, driving the overall growth of a business.
As a marketing strategy, brand positioning involves how a brand differentiates itself from competitors to create a distinct perception in the minds of consumers. Your positioning strategy ultimately determines how consumers see you, signaling to them whether or not you’ll be able to meet their needs.
Since it was first introduced in the 1960s, brand positioning has evolved significantly in response to various changes in consumer behavior, technology advancements, and market dynamics.
Positioning strategies have become more customer-centric, purpose-driven, personalized, and digitally focused. It is now an ongoing process that requires adaptability, agility, and a deep understanding of consumer behavior and market dynamics.
Brand positioning, defined
Brand positioning is the strategic process of establishing a unique and distinctive position for a brand in the minds of consumers.
Brand positioning strategy includes determining a target market category, target audience, brand differentiation, brand personality and brand identity, pricing strategy, and more.
Successful positioning today involves not only creating a unique market position, but also building meaningful connections with consumers through relevant, engaging, and purposeful experiences. It determines who your competitors are in your category, and when done right, can also impact how much consumers will pay for your products or services.
Ultimately, brand positioning aims to establish a unique and compelling position in the market. By identifying and communicating the unique value they present to a customer — whether that’s a product feature, pricing, or something else — brands give consumers a reason to prefer them over the competition.
What is a brand positioning statement?
Brand positioning eventually means creating a positioning statement. This is a descriptive summary of your offering, its target audience or market, and how it solves the audience’s problem. This statement helps marketers steer their marketing efforts in a consistent way.
The positioning statement relies on:
- Audience and market research
- Competitor and competitive landscape analysis
- Customer personas
- Consumer intent data
When developing a brand positioning statement, consider leveraging a positioning or perceptual map. This will help you visually plot and analyze how consumers perceive you and your competitors.
A perceptual map typically consists of a two-dimensional grid or matrix that plots brands based on specific attributes or dimensions that are important to consumers.
The map visually displays the relative position of brands and allows marketers to understand how their brand compares to competitors. It also helps identify opportunities for differentiation, driving strategic decisions regarding brand positioning, market gaps, and potential areas for growth.
Why is brand positioning important?
Brand positioning lies at the heart of marketing strategy because it defines why what you have to offer is different, and better. How you position your brand to meet your target consumer’s needs will determine how likely they are to choose you when the time comes.
The key benefits of successful positioning include:
By clearly defining its unique value proposition and communicating it to the target audience, a brand can create a distinct identity and establish itself as the preferred choice among consumers.
More market share
A well-positioned brand has a higher chance of capturing a larger share of the market.
When consumers perceive a brand as offering superior value or fulfilling their specific needs, they are more likely to choose that brand over competitors. This leads to increased customer acquisition and market penetration.
Brands with strong positioning often have the ability to command premium pricing. When consumers perceive a brand as offering higher quality, exclusivity, or unique features, they are willing to pay a higher price for its products or services.
This can lead to improved profit margins and revenue growth.
When consumers resonate with a brand’s values, promise, and overall positioning, they become more emotionally connected to the brand. This fosters long-term relationships, repeat purchases, and positive word-of-mouth recommendations, driving customer loyalty and advocacy.
A well-positioned brand has greater recognition, perceived value, and positive associations among consumers. This translates into intangible assets, such as brand reputation, brand loyalty, and brand awareness, which contribute to the overall value of the brand.
Long-term competitive edge
Strong brand positioning provides a sustainable competitive advantage. By carving out a unique position in the market, a brand becomes less susceptible to price-based competition and market fluctuations. It creates a barrier for competitors to replicate, thus securing a distinct market position.
Consistency and clarity
Effective brand positioning brings consistency and clarity to all brand communications and interactions. When positioning is well-defined and understood, it guides marketing efforts, messaging, and customer experiences.
This consistency enhances brand recognition, reinforces brand values, and fosters trust among consumers.
Expansion and diversification opportunities
When a brand has a strong positioning and loyal customer base, it can leverage its reputation and extend into new markets, product categories, or customer segments with greater ease. This facilitates business growth and diversification strategies.
Attracting and retaining talent
A strong brand reputation, a compelling brand purpose, and clear positioning can attract individuals who align with the brand’s values and mission. This helps in building a talented and motivated workforce.
Types of strategies
Brands can position themselves using a variety of characteristics that act as focal points or positioning goals.
Some examples include setting yourself apart with exceptional customer service, offering convenience, being a price leader, high quality offerings, or being a problem solver and connection builder.
Brands can pick one or aim to deliver excellence across the board in the hopes of further standing out. Note that these characteristics are perceptions in customers’ minds after the brand awareness stage. Brands can simply influence how they’re perceived.
Some common positioning goals include:
Convenience and customer experience
Brands that build an infrastructure of touchpoints to consistently deliver value to consumers by simplifying their pain points with convenience become trust leaders. When consumers view a brand as easy to work with, convenient when they need help, and offering great experiences, it’s tough for competitors to catch up.
Price and value
Price leadership and emphasizing the brand’s affordability or cost-effectiveness is another path to setting a brand apart. Better yet, leading not by price but by overall value influences the value perception without sacrificing your pricepoint.
Quality-based positioning aligns your brand around a commitment to high quality, premium experiences, or other luxury characteristics to appeal to consumers who value excellence and are willing to pay for it.
Sometimes, from a technical perspective, there may not be a lot that differentiates your product or service from the competition. In this case, differentiation can stem from the emotion that’s elicited when engaging with your brand, product, or services.
Customers tend to choose the brand that gets them, and brands can achieve part of that with aligned, consistent messaging.
Examples of successful brand positioning
The most successful brand positioning strategies help make a company’s name become synonymous with what consumers need and are looking for. For example, we don’t search for something, we “Google it”. We don’t contact a rideshare company, we “call an Uber” — even when it’s a Lyft.
Here are some brand examples that so successfully differentiated themselves that they are essentially the only solution that exists in the consumer’s mind:
Apple thinks differently
Apple has positioned itself as a brand synonymous with innovation, simplicity, and premium quality. Its positioning revolves around delivering user-friendly, beautifully designed products with cutting-edge technology.
Apple’s “Think Different” campaign emphasized its commitment to challenging the status quo and empowering individuals to be creative.
The brand’s consistent strategy has created a loyal customer base that values the seamless integration of hardware, software, and services across Apple’s ecosystem.
Nike just does it
Nike has positioned itself as a brand that inspires and empowers athletes of all levels. Its “Just Do It” positioning encapsulates the brand’s attitude of determination, motivation, and achievement.
Nike’s marketing campaigns and brand messaging often feature inspirational stories of athletes overcoming challenges and pushing their limits. By associating itself with performance, athleticism, and personal excellence, Nike has become one of the most iconic and influential sportswear brands worldwide.
Volvo is for life
Volvo has positioned itself as a brand synonymous with safety and reliability, focusing on providing customers with a sense of security and peace of mind on the road.
Volvo’s commitment to safety innovation and its “For Life” campaign communicate the brand’s dedication to protecting people, not only those inside the car but also pedestrians and cyclists.
This positioning has helped Volvo differentiate itself in the automotive industry and build a reputation for producing some of the safest vehicles on the market.
Steps to create a successful brand positioning strategy
Creating successful brand positioning involves a strategic and iterative process that cycles through who you’re targeting, what their needs are, and most importantly, why they should believe you can meet those needs.
Here are some key steps to follow:
Conduct market, consumer, and competitive research
Begin by conducting thorough market research to understand the competitive landscape, target audience, and market trends. Identify consumer needs, pain points, and preferences, as well as the positioning strategies of competitors.
This research forms the foundation for developing a unique positioning strategy and helps identify your ideal market segment.
Identify your unique value proposition
Craft a compelling value proposition that communicates the unique benefits and value your brand offers to customers. Highlight the key features, attributes, or experiences that differentiate your brand from competitors and address the specific needs of your target audience.
Define your brand identity, purpose, and current positioning
Clarify your brand’s identity by defining its core values, mission, vision, and unique selling proposition (USP). Determine what sets your brand apart from competitors today and how it aligns with the needs and aspirations of your target audience.
Owned asset optimization is one approach that can help organize the valuable assets a brand owns into a solid foundation for building your other marketing strategies around.
Write your brand positioning statement
Create a concise and clear statement that encapsulates your brand’s unique value proposition and target audience. The positioning statement should communicate the essence of your brand and its distinct positioning in a succinct and compelling manner.
Communicate consistently internally and externally
Brand positioning should be circulated and shared with key internal stakeholders to ensure alignment across your organization.
Externally, ensure consistency across all customer touchpoints and marketing channels. Align your brand messaging, visual identity, product offerings, customer experience, and marketing communications to reflect the brand positioning.
Consistency is key to building brand recognition and reinforcing your desired brand perception.
Monitor, evaluate, and innovate
Continuously monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your brand positioning. Gather feedback from customers, track market trends, and analyze key performance metrics.
Adapting and refining your strategy is important to stay relevant, address changing market dynamics, and meet evolving customer needs.
Brand promise is the value brands promise to deliver to their customers each and every time they engage with that company. Typically, brand promise communicates a brand’s story, brand values, and its vision and it focuses on creating an emotional connection. It’s also offering agnostic.
Brand positioning refers to the big picture efforts that situate your brand in the marketplace and competitive landscape. A brand’s tagline or slogan is just one part of the positioning process, often living under the brand personality and identity category.
While it is a small piece of the puzzle, strong brand positioning often includes a tagline that reflects the values of your target audience.
If brand positioning is the big picture strategy to connect with audiences and build the desired perception, brand purpose rand purpose is the guiding philosophy that answers the question: “Why does my brand exist?”
A brand’s purpose shouldn’t be to create great shareholder value or increase profits (although it can), it should be to serve consumers by offering consistent value and solving their problems.