“Brand positioning has been defined by Kotler as “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”. In other words, brand positioning describes how a brand is different from its competitors and where, or how, it sits in customers’ minds.”
- The Branding Journal
It’s fairly obvious that having a distinctive brand positioning is crucial to the survival of your brand. Whether it’s a more innovative offering, a cheaper solution, or a more convenient service, you need to be seen as providing something different and unique to the marketplace.
The problem with positioning is that it can be very hard to find a sustainable point of difference that isn’t easily matched by your competitors. Unless you’ve created something that hasn’t existed yet, it can be a difficult task to find a positioning for your brand that is totally your own. If you go down the route of cheaper pricing, your competitors could easily lower their prices too. If you make small improvements to your products, your competitors would be hot on your heels to duplicate those improvements as well. So, while these approaches to brand positioning may be beneficial to consumers (as they get more options at better prices), it doesn’t do much to ensure the longevity of your brand.
So where’s the starting point to finding a positioning?
I would suggest starting with an investigation into your competitors’ strategies. Now this isn’t an inquest specifically to find something that you can duplicate. Instead, the goal of this analysis is to help you identify gaps in the market, especially when it is done alongside a survey of your target audience and consumers; discovering what their pain points are and what they want out of the marketplace.
During this investigation, aim to use your brand as a bridge to bring together what the consumer wants with what the market is offering. It may not seem like it, but every market has their gaps; pain points that consumers are made to endure because “that is the way it’s always been”.
Look at the taxi industry, for an obvious example. Before the advent of Uber, consumers were expected to find a taxi themselves, wait ridiculous amounts of time, and pay ludicrous prices. Then Uber walked in the door and said “there’s a better way” and the rest is history.
More than just finding a way to outsmart your competitors, finding a brand positioning can also be about turning an industry on its head; changing the way “it always was” to the way it should be. Only when you approach positioning your brand from this perspective will you be able to solely occupy that space.
Can’t innovate in your space? Try using customer experience as a positioning.
Nowadays, it’s no longer about creating the best product, it’s about empowering the best consumer experience possible. An example of this is the changing nature of how we view entertainment. For a long time consumers had been tied to traditional means of viewing content until streaming giants such as Netflix swooped in and changed the game.
It was once companies like Blockbuster that dominated the market and yet now in 2019, the brand has completely vanished from the public’s collective conscious. Streaming services like Netflix haven’t necessarily changed or created anything profoundly “new” (well except for that Bandersnatch film) though what they have excelled at is providing a much better experience for consumers all round.
With content made available on demand, services like Netflix are empowering consumers to make choices that wouldn’t have been possible in the pre-streaming era. Back in the day we were confined to experiencing the offerings of free-to-air television and cinemas although now we can see that the gears have clearly shifted. Consumers are now calling the shots on what they want to consume and when.
By approaching its brand positioning from a unique perspective, Netflix has carved out an exceptional point of difference meeting the needs of a rapidly changing industry that brands like Blockbuster unfortunately were unable to anticipate.
"A strong and powerful brand positioning statement captures an inherent tension that guides a creative solution and is already interesting, exciting and energizing in itself.” - First the Trousers
Want to avoid weak or superficial brand positioning? Cause Marketing might just be your solution
Cause-related marketing involves a joint effort between a business and a not-for-profit organisation that is mutually beneficial. It also refers to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and is a strategy that can be employed by brands to highlight or bring attention to a certain social or charitable cause.
The case for cause marketing can be used when trying to differentiate yourself from your competitors as it frames your brand’s positioning in such a way that demonstrates a higher degree of integrity to consumers. By showing that you care, your brand can serve as the bridge connecting people to a cause while establishing an authentic association with them in the process.
Whether it’s honest reporting, donation matching or even just spreading the message, it’s important that the objective remains that your brand wants to actually help make the world a better place rather than just offering up a tokenistic gesture to your consumer base.
That being said, it is crucial to make sure that your cause is genuine and to make sure that the reason for supporting it has long been established before deciding to pursue it as a differentiation strategy. Often companies get targeted for “green washing” which essentially is a form of deceptive marketing that promotes an organisation’s values, products and services as being environmentally conscious when they’re really not.
A great example of cause marketing is the clothing company Patagonia whose efforts focus on forest preservation and restoration as well as supporting local and international environmental grassroots organisations.
Unfortunately in instances regarding fast fashion, retailers like Zara and Cotton On who have launched their own “conscious collections” highlighting sustainability are now at odds with the business models that have made them so profitable in the first place. How can they possibly promote sustainability with the sheer volume of products they sell each and every week that inevitably encourages more consumption?
Cause marketing can be a great tool for demonstrating a brand’s integrity and transparency although if not utilised correctly, it has the potential to really damage a brand’s relationship with their consumers – cause and effect at its worst, am I right?
At first, getting the right brand positioning might seem like a deep dive but once you’ve got it you can rest assured that your brand will thrive amongst its competitors as well as leave a lasting, positive impression in the minds of your consumers.