Brand positioning is as exactly as its name suggests – identifying your brand’s position to other competitive brands.
This term usually describes the actual act of positioning — for example, devising a marketing campaign that communicates whether a brand is premium or affordable.
Yet brand positioning is also a simple phrase that has made its way into competitive vocabulary to describe the commercial playing field.
You could say, “Apple’s brand positioning is strong” or “Did you see how Walkers positioned their brand in that last ad?”
Fun fact: At the time of writing, Walkers is positioning its brand as so tasty it causes Mariah Carey to hit new heights of being a diva. See for yourself by watching the 2019 Christmas ad.
Brand Positioning Is All about Your Brand, but It’s Not about You
Importantly, brand positioning is less about where you think your brand belongs and more about matching this belief with the belief of your customers.
- Does your customer view you as the best quality provider?
- Does the everyday customer relate to you?
- Do they think of you as a brand they want to shop from regularly?
- Are you building a brand everybody talks about, but few can afford?
With that said, brand positioning is important for every type of company.
It’s not just for those who want to climb to the “top” or dominate the concrete jungle, so to speak.
After all, solidifying your position as an affordable go-to brand can be just as lucrative as upholding a luxury status. Just look at Burger King or Primark as “every day” success stories.
What’s more, whether you value the term brand positioning or not, as a marketer, you’ll be inevitably engaging in the act.
You take control of positioning a brand each time you promote a service or product. Targeting a particular group of people, using specific language and selecting certain visuals to communicate a brand message are all elements of brand positioning.
What Is the Effect of Brand Positioning?
The long and short of it is, effective brand positioning generates more sales.
If you do a good job of positioning your brand with a certain audience, you’ll be more likely to engage the right people — or at least some of the right people.
Those who fail to think about brand positioning are usually non-committal.
These brands don’t identify a niche or even major audience to strike a chord with and ultimately fail to attract anybody in an ever-expanding marketplace.
Remember, in this competitive era, brands need to be an exact match for a customer, or another brand will take your place.
The concept of brand positioning is to make your ideal customer feel as though your products and advertising are tailor-made for them.
It’s the equivalent of cupid making a perfect match between buyer and brand.
Instead of wandering aimlessly in the marketplace, you can now focus on a neighbourhood you belong to. Hopefully, the locals will feel the same, deciding to shop with you rather than a brand that metaphorically lives a few blocks over.
Brand positioning is also what gives you that all-important USP (Unique Selling Point). What differentiates you from your closest competitors?
Well, it’s fair to say that Adidas and Nike may “hang around the same streets” keeping a close position to each other. Yet brand positioning activities — that span from marketing to product development — allow both brands to scoop up a slice of the pie.
While Nike is increasingly focused on performance, Adidas focuses on play.
The same goes for the sophisticated scene that Cafe Nero displays versus the charitable Costa Coffee and the stylish Starbucks. These major coffee brands often compete physically for positioning in town centres and shopping malls, as well as fighting for brand positioning in the minds of consumers.
How to Successfully Position Your Brand
The key to positioning your brand is selecting the right neighbourhood. In other words, the right group of people to market to.
Not only will this narrow down your list of direct competitors, but it will also give your marketing efforts much more guidance.
You’ll have more time to worry about the markets that matter and spend less time trying to keep a watchful eye — well, on everything.
Should you be chasing the customers populating affluent areas like Manhattan and Chelsea? Or, is your brand a more modest personality that could feasibly attract punters in every major town and city across the country?
Once you’ve identified the right audience, you can speak their language.
Brand positioning is a subtle activity that breathes life into every area of your marketing department. It sways the small choices you make like the music on your latest advertisement and the representation of your models. And it also influences important decisions, like which product to develop next or what strapline to choose.
Let’s be clear. There’s no right time to look at brand positioning and it’s never too late to start.
It’s not uncommon to think about brand positioning before a company is even formed.
Entrepreneurs consider brand positioning constantly to find a gap in the market.
Is there a product that’s currently inaccessible to minimum wage households? Does an everyday product have the potential to become bespoke and luxurious? These types of brand positioning questions might help you to market a new idea for a company that could penetrate an existing market.
Similarly, brand positioning can be tweaked and changed “in the moment” without spelling gloom and doom for a business.
Large corporations make decisions like this frequently as a response to industry change and consumer behaviour.
You’ll have noticed the decor in McDonald’s has been revamped since the ’90s to become as mature as a hamburger and fries can get.
Kids parties and Ronald McDonald sightings are much less prevalent with technology and muted colours in place.
This action was the result of McDonald’s changing its brand positioning as the habits of fast food eating altered. Now, McDonald’s positions itself as a go-to for affordable food for all ages. The focus turned to attract the parents of the kids that McDonald’s advertisements once aimed to please.
As you can see, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to brand positioning.
The act of positioning is moldable, allowing you to constantly redefine what it means to shop with your brand.
With that said, some things will never change. Brand positioning is always influenced by the customer, what they want and what your current competitors are failing to deliver.