What is Brand Positioning?
Put simply, brand positioning is the process of positioning your brand in the mind of your customers. Brand positioning is also referred to as a positioning strategy, brand strategy, or a brand positioning statement.
Popularized in Al Ries and Jack Trout’s bestselling Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, the idea is to identify and attempt to “own” a marketing niche for a brand, product, or service using various strategies including pricing, promotions, distribution, packaging, and competition. The goal is to create a unique impression in the customer’s mind so that the customer associates something specific and desirable with your brand that is distinct from rest of the marketplace.
Ries and Trout define positioning as “an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.”
Brand positioning occurs whether or not a company is proactive in developing a position, however, if management takes an intelligent, forward-looking approach, it can positively influence its brand positioning in the eyes of its target customers.
Positioning Statements versus Taglines
Brand positioning statements are often confused with company taglines or slogans. Positioning statements are for internal use. These statements guide the marketing and operating decisions of your business. A positioning statement helps you make key decisions that affect your customer’s perception of your brand.
A tag line is an external statement used in your marketing efforts. Insights from your positioning statement can be turned into a tagline, but it is important to distinguish between the two. (See examples of brand positioning statements and taglines below.)
7-Step Brand Positioning Strategy Process
In order to create a positioning strategy, you must first identify your brand’s uniqueness and determine what differentiates you from your competition.
There are 7 key steps to effectively clarify your positioning in the marketplace:
- Determine how your brand is currently positioning itself
- Identify your direct competitors
- Understand how each competitor is positioning their brand
- Compare your positioning to your competitors to identify your uniqueness
- Develop a distinct and value-based positioning idea
- Craft a brand positioning statement (see below)
- Test the efficacy of your brand positioning statement (see 15 criteria below)
What is a Brand Positioning Statement?
A positioning statement is a one or two sentence declaration that communicates your brand’s unique value to your customers in relation to your main competitors.
In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore offers one way of formulating a positioning statement: For (target customer) who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (product name) is a (product category) that (statement of key benefit; also called a compelling reason to believe). Unlike (primary competitive alternative), our product (statement of primary differentiation). However, we provide a more simplified structure for formulating a Brand Positioning Statement in the following section.
How to Create a Brand Positioning Statement
There are four essential elements of a best-in-class positioning statement:
- Target Customer: What is a concise summary of the attitudinal and demographic description of the target group of customers your brand is attempting to appeal to and attract?
- Market Definition: What category is your brand competing in and in what context does your brand have relevance to your customers?
- Brand Promise: What is the most compelling (emotional/rational) benefit to your target customers that your brand can own relative to your competition?
- Reason to Believe: What is the most compelling evidence that your brand delivers on its brand promise?
After thoughtfully answering these four questions, you can craft your positioning statement:
For [target customers], [company name] is the [market definition] that delivers [brand promise] because only [company name] is [reason to believe].
Two Examples of Positioning Statements
Amazon.com used the following positioning statement in 2001 (when it almost exclusively sold books):
For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.
Zipcar.com used the following positioning statement when it established its business was founded in 2000:
To urban-dwelling, educated techno-savvy consumers, when you use Zipcar car-sharing service instead of owning a car, you save money while reducing your carbon footprint.
12 Examples of Taglines
Once you have a strong brand positioning statement you can create a tagline or slogan that helps establish the position you’re looking to own. Here are 15 examples:
Mercedes-Benz: The Best or Nothing
BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine
Wharton Business School: The World’s First Business School
Miller Lite: Great Taste, Less Filling
State Farm: Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
L’Oreal: Because We’re Worth It
Walmart: Save Money. Live Better
Nike: Just Do It
Coca-Cola: Real Magic
Target: Expect more. Pay less.
Volvo: For life.
Home Depot: How Doers Get More Done
15 Criteria for Evaluating Your Brand Positioning Strategy
An intelligent and well-crafted positioning statement is a powerful tool for bringing focus and clarity to your marketing strategies, advertising campaigns, and promotional tactics. If used properly, this statement can help you make effective decisions to help differentiate your brand, attract your target customers, and win market share from your competition.
Here are 15 criteria for checking your brand positioning:
- Does it differentiate your brand?
- Does it match customer perceptions of your brand?
- Does it enable growth?
- Does it identify your brand’s unique value to your customers?
- Does it produce a clear picture in your mind that’s different from your competitors?
- Is it focused on your core customers?
- Is it memorable and motivating?
- Is it consistent in all areas of your business?
- Is it easy to understand?
- Is it difficult to copy?
- Is it positioned for long-term success?
- Is your brand promise believable and credible?
- Can your brand own it?
- Will it withstand counterattacks from your competitors?
- Will it help you make more effective marketing and branding decisions?
The unfortunate reality is that no marketer has the power to position anything in the customer’s mind, which is the core promise of positioning. The notion that positions are created by marketers has to die. Each customer has their own idea of what you are.
Positioning is not something you do, but rather, is the result of your customer’s perception of what you do. Positioning is not something we can create in a vacuum—the act of positioning is a co-authored experience with the customers.
Behind your positioning statement or tagline is your intention—how you desire your business to be represented to customers. Once the real role of positioning is understood, having a tagline or a positioning statement can be useful by clarifying your brand’s essence within your organization.
By examining the essence of what you are and comparing it with what your customers want, the doors open to building a business with a strong positioning in the mind of the customer. Why? Great brands merge their passion with their positioning into one statement that captures the essence of both.
Integrating Your Brand Positioning in Your Customer’s Mind
To position your brand in your customer’s mind, you must start from within your business. Every member of your organization that touches the customer has to be the perfect expression of your position. And, since everyone touches the customer in some way, everyone should be the best expression of your position.
Now comes the hard part: Put up everything that represents your brand on a wall. List all your brand’s touchpoints—every point of interaction with your customer. With a critical, yet intuitive eye, ask:
- How can I more fluidly communicate my brand’s desired position?
- Does every touchpoint look, say, and feel like the brand I want my customers to perceive?
Many marketers don’t have the clarity and conviction of following through on their words. Without certainty, you default to the status quo. Turn everything you do into an expression of your desired positioning and you can create something special. This takes courage; to actively position your brand means you have to stand for something. Only then are you truly on your way to owning your very own position in the mind of your customer.