Brand positioning, the source of distinguishing capacity

Brand positioning, the source of distinguishing capacity
Brand positioning determines the success of brands and companies. Brand positioning is the foundation of distinctive capability and aids in strong, unambiguous marketing and communication. Yet, this is not straightforward for every brand. What exactly is brand positioning, and are there good examples? In this article, we start with a definition, share brand positioning models, and guide you through a step-by-step plan to achieve a unique brand positioning for your brand. We even share a few inspiring books!

“What is brand x’s positioning?” is a common question and probably what the term brand positioning evokes in you. But when we talk about working on your brand’s positioning, we often mean something else: the process of achieving a strong, distinctive brand positioning.

This article explores both aspects.

Brand Positioning Definition

The definition of brand positioning is:

Brand positioning is a brand’s unique place in the consumer’s mind, compared to competing brands, and the factors on which this distinction is made.

So, if someone is interested in a company’s brand positioning, we might talk about the attributes, values, and proposition that make the brand recognizable. In rare cases—when it’s truly remarkable—we also discuss the strategy that has earned it this brand positioning.

However, the question of how a brand arrived at this positioning is less frequently discussed. While we also call this process brand positioning.

What is brand positioning

Brand positioning is the strategic process by which a brand determines the remarkable and valuable position it wants to acquire in the perception of the target audience, compared to the competition, and which communication and marketing strategy will be followed to make this known to the market.

Funny, isn’t it, how one word can mean both the process of creation and the final result. Therefore, we’d like to clarify what brand positioning means in practice.

Meaning of Brand Positioning

During the brand positioning process, you identify the unique combination of characteristics, values, and properties that distinguish the brand (will) from its competitors. Then, you determine how to use marketing and communication to let the market, potential customers, know. The goal of brand positioning is for the market to have a specific image of the brand, thereby creating a strong, recognizable identity. It ensures that the brand is presented consistently across all marketing communications, such as advertisements, product packaging, and online presence.

Done correctly, this leads to brand loyalty, loyalty, and, of course, a strong market position. Successful brands use this, for example, to achieve a higher margin or market share, or a higher return on their advertising budget. For the owner, building brand positioning is interesting; a strong brand fetches substantially more at sale.

As positioning specialists, we sometimes use the terms interchangeably: positioning and brand positioning. While you certainly position more than just brands. For instance, you also position products, people, departments, organizations, and so on. But even if you’re not positioning a brand, but one of these things, it makes sense to delve deeper into the process of brand positioning. The similarities are greater than the differences, as you’ll see in the rest of this article.

Goal of brand positioning

The goal of brand positioning is simple and is at the forefront of the definition: to occupy a unique place in the mind of the consumer. A unique place means that the consumer recognizes your brand as a brand with its own identity. The goal of the strategic process is therefore to determine the desired position, in line with your goals, and to develop a strategy with which this can be optimally communicated to the market.

Brand Positioning Agency

Brand positioning agency Merkelijkheid was founded in 2011 and helps dozens of companies with their brand positioning annually. We always do this together with our clients. Our approach revolves around a series of workshops where we draw conclusions and determine premises step by step. The final positioning is often no surprise but rather a moment of recognition: “Hey, yes, that’s right. That’s us!”

Curious about how we achieve this? We’d love to tell you all about our approach in a brief meeting. In 20 minutes, you’ll know enough to decide if we’re a good match for you.

Brand Positioning Example

What does strong brand positioning look like, and what’s the best example of brand positioning?

Our piece on Red Bull’s brand positioning is one of our most-read articles. The Austrian/Thai brand gives you a ‘boost,’ and this concept has been central to their brand positioning around the slogan ‘Gives You Wings.’ The company highlights one attribute of their product, and their entire marketing strategy is aligned with it.

Wakeboarding behind a drone in an infinity pool, then base jumping off a ramp from a huge building? These kinds of stunts are quintessential Red Bull:

In addition to these extreme stunts, the company is also known for its Formula 1 team, various football clubs, e-sports, and of course the sponsorship of individual athletes like footballer Neymar or cricket star K.L. Rahul. If you drink Red Bull, you too can deliver exceptional performances, the company promises. And with a turnover of nearly €10 billion, it seems we all believe it.

From the beginning, Red Bull chose a clear brand positioning and is certainly reaping the rewards.

Brand Positioning Model

Which brand positioning model should you use? That depends on your challenge and wishes, as there are various brand positioning models that can be used as a basis for brand positioning. From Unilever’s Brand Key model to our own competitive matrix, choosing one of the available models is an important step in brand positioning.

It’s good to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you want to position based on the market or primarily from your own strength?
  • Do I know what a complete brand positioning looks like for me?
  • Do I need to convince colleagues or superiors of the need to start positioning?

The answers to these questions help you choose from these models. We recommend not using all models, as this causes confusion and prevents making one clear choice

Handy Step-by-Step Plan

The brand positioning process can be captured in a handy step-by-step plan. We leave out the communication and marketing strategy, as this is difficult to generalize. We simply call it implementation, and it requires an approach tailored to your specific issue.

The 10 steps are:

  1. Burning Platform – If not everyone is convinced of the need to work on your brand positioning, the project is doomed to fail. What happens if you do nothing? Outline the burning platform to ensure everyone is ready for change.
  2. (Market) Research – What is your starting point, how is the competition positioned? Important trends and developments need to be mapped out as they significantly influence brand positioning.
  3. Strategic Framework – Use models to get as objective a view of the situation as possible. Avoid getting fixated on competitors or missing out on significant opportunities.
  4. Ambitions and (Brand) Values – What do you want to achieve, and what do you value? This isn’t a creative exercise but should follow from the culture and identity of the organization. Research this well as it’s a crucial milestone for brand positioning.
  5. Distinctive Capability – The brand is likely distinctive in several ways, but what factors are unique compared to the competition? Agree on what should be central in the positioning. This is a process of making choices, kill your darlings.
  6. Positioning Pitches – Draft different positioning pitches that clearly explain why a customer should choose your brand through an engaging ‘story.’
  7. Positioning Story – Develop the best fitting pitch into a complete positioning of about 300 words. It’s important that this story also offers a perspective for action: what does this mean for colleagues’ behavior.
  8. Determine Proposition and Core Values – Distill the proposition that convinces your customer on the spot to purchase and the core values that ensure your people remember the essence of your positioning from your positioning (pitch).
  9. Compile Positioning Document – Summarize the research, outcomes, key considerations, made choices, and the positioning in one document. The document’s goal is future evaluation or adjustment, or briefing a new colleague.
  10. Implementation – The last step varies per brand and positioning. Determine the marketing strategy, then set short- and long-term goals per department and decide which concrete actions will ensure the positioning is applied.

We’ve also written an extensive article about this positioning step-by-step plan, which we highly recommend if you want to follow it.

merkpositionering boek

Brand Positioning Book

For some, a brand positioning book is an important tool. But which one should you choose? A quick search yields dozens of books, all with roughly the same title. Fortunately, we’ve read quite a few and are happy to recommend a few top picks:

As you can see, three of the five books don’t directly deal with brand positioning. The reason is that brand positioning is only partly an exercise with models and frameworks. The process should lead to an insight, a slogan, or a proposition that you centralize within a brand. And these books assist in that.

Need Help with Brand Positioning?

Need help with brand positioning? Or could you use some support? Merkelijkheid has been through this process before. We work with marketing teams and executives to develop a strong, distinctive brand positioning for your brand. We have a fun, practical methodology that ensures you’re in the driver’s seat, while we provide the inspiration, guidance, and creativity needed to make the project a success.

Read more about our approach on our positioning page, but it’s even better to just get in touch directly. Merkelijkheid founders Tal and Ties would love to tell you more about our approach, results, and especially what it’s like to work with us. Will you let us hear from you?

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