The Role of Perception in Positioning

The Role of Perception in Positioning

The foundation of positioning lies in the tension between internal and external factors: identity and perception. These factors are juxtaposed in the positioning matrix. This piece focuses on perception; what sets it apart from brand awareness and why it’s important to incorporate perception into positioning.

A strong brand has a (marketing) strategy that at least addresses how that brand is perceived and by whom. Possessing accurate information about how the market views this brand or what they perceive is considered highly valuable. Hence, you see all sorts of research conducted to acquire this market-perceived information. How the market views a brand is what we refer to as perception. Perception means observation. In summary, perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting, and organizing sensory information. This information reaches the market through various channels, including controlled channels like TV advertising and uncontrolled channels like conversations with acquaintances.

We see the difference between perception and awareness as qualitative versus quantitative. A brand can have very high awareness but completely wrong perception. A good example of this is an article in a newspaper (Financial Times 3/10/11) about the beer brand Heineken in the American market. Almost everyone knows the brand, but it is known as “your old uncle’s beer”. In brand positioning, we see perception as reality. With only one or a few providers, mere brand awareness may suffice. But with a larger number of providers offering a similar product, perception plays an increasingly significant role. The question “how does a brand create connection with their market?” is therefore central in every positioning project.

Connection is about clarity. Clarity about what the brand entails and whether it fits. A clear and distinctive positioning enables the market to answer these questions.

Clarity and a “natural fit” lead to ambassadorship. The market is indeed excellent at explaining why they have this brand preference. You often see great examples of this on social media platforms. There, people leave no doubt about their affinity with a brand (both positive and negative).

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