How to craft the best brand positioning strategy for your market
Updated: Oct 15, 2021
How can a business stand out from its competitors and what should the most profitable offering be? How can a company position its brand in the industry and what are the strategies to do so?
By the way, what does brand positioning actually mean?
Companies should aim at differentiating from competitor’s products and offerings. A successful method to stand out is carving out a unique position in the marketplace. Brand positioning is another evergreen pillar of the #MarketingPlan, keep reading and learn everything you need to know to craft the best brand positioning strategy for your brand!
Table of contents
WHAT BRAND POSITIONING MEANS
A pre-requirement of brand positioning is a deep understanding of customers wants and needs, so I suggest you read my previous blog article where I go through market segmentation.
A business analyzes the market and discovers the groups of consumers that they can serve best. Afterwards, it positions its brand in the industry so that everyone recognizes its specific offerings and image.
Defining brand positioning
Brand positioning is a designing process which enables companies to outline their offering and image, and occupy a distinctive place in the minds of their target audience. In other words, the positioning defines consumers’ perception of a company and its brand.
Everyone within an organization should use the brand positioning as context before making any marketing decision.
Some of the variables which help marketers position a company are:
Characteristics of the product or service;
Perceived quality/price ratio;
User of the product or service;
Since a company’s position is not simple to change once established, it should be adequately concrete to reflect the present state of the business, but also visionary enough to leave room for growing. The perfect positioning lays in between what a brand is and what it could be.
Marketing and management of Kotler and Keller has identified three requirements for the right positioning (I’ve explained them in detail later):
Deciding a frame of reference by determining the target audience and relevant competitors;
Given a frame of reference, identifying similarities and differences with other brands;
Making a compelling motto (or mantra) to enclose the brand’s essence.
A different approach: brand storytelling
An alternative to the competitive brand positioning explained above is brand narrative and storytelling. The latter is a less structured approach that doesn’t require an in-depth consumer, company and competitive analysis.
In May 2009, Businessweek issued Selling by storytelling by Ronald Grover where he expressed the concept of brand positioning as a result of storytelling rather than an outline of specific attributes or benefits.
In A breakthrough approach to brand creation, Randall Ringer (founder and CEO of Verse Group, now part of MBLM) and Michael Thibodeau (brand strategist and creative director) have pinpointed five key aspects of brand storytelling:
Words and metaphors which weave the tale;
How consumer interacts with the brand over time;
How the brand represents people, objects and places, and its language;
The bond between brand and sensorial experience: brand engagement level with people’s heart;
The role played by the brand in consumers’ life.
They also elaborated the Narrative branding framework which is made by:
Setting: time, place and context;
Cast: the brand becomes a character with its own history (creation myth) and relationship with/responsibility towards the audience;
Narrative arc: how events unfold in the story;
Language: the brand’s authentic voice, its symbols, metaphors and leitmotifs.
Since I’m a digital marketer, I don’t feel like I’m the best person to talk about narrative, metaphors and language use. Above all, because I believe that a narrative branding approach requires a deep knowledge of the language and culture of a target population. Once you have understood the common guidelines above, the actual process to make an effective brand story may vary according to the industry, region, people’s culture and so on.
In this article, I’ll focus on an analytic approach to brand positioning.
HOW TO CRAFT BRAND POSITIONING
Segmentation, targeting and positioning are the backbone of all marketing strategies. In my previous article, I’ve already gone through the first two steps, so it’s now time to deepen all the elements mentioned above and give some useful guidelines and tools.
Identifying a competitive frame of reference
A competitive frame of reference determines the main rivals’ brands to compete with. That’s why it is strictly connected to the target audience: given a distinct public, a business competes with products or services which are close substitutes.
Mastering competition also means forecasting future rivals. For instance, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint spent billions of dollars to build their network, but thanks to the development of Wi-Fi networks and hotspots, Skype broke through. Another example is represented by the supplement industry. Just consider how deep the energy bar market is fragmented: every sub-category appeals to different people, in different situations.
Companies should acquire rivals’ real and perceived strengths and weaknesses to get a comprehensive lookout. They can interview customers to acquire this intel. The image below represents a poll example where clients expressed their preferences on three competitors.
Analyzing this positioning table, it is clear that the company could attack Competitor A on product availability and technical assistance, Competitor C on almost everything, but it should not engage Competitor B which has no main weaknesses.
Competitors are usually more than what marketers expect. Coca-Cola focused on its soft drink trade and missed seeing the growing market of coffee and fresh-fruit-juice bars which negatively affected its business.
The concept of competition comprehends a broader set of rivals. In 2000, Jeffrey F. Rayport and Bernard J. Jaworski published E-commerce where they suggested to profile companies’ direct and indirect competitors by mapping buyer’s steps in obtaining and using a product or service.
After identifying the primary competitors, marketers should try to figure out their strategies and objectives. What is each competitor seeking in the marketplace? What drives its behavior?