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Brand Positioning in the Marketplace

A case for Differentiation Strategy by Brands

Let us start by establishing what brand positioning is. This is the process of positioning a brand in the mind of its customers. In some cases, brand positioning is also referred to as a positioning strategy, brand strategy, or a brand positioning statement. The concept of brand positioning was made popular by Al Ries and Jack Trout’s bestselling book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. The idea is to identify and attempt to “own” a marketing niche for a brand, product, or service, using various strategies including pricing, promotions, distribution, packaging, and competition. The ultimate objective is to create a unique impression in the customer’s mind so that the customer associates something specific and desirable with a particular brand that is distinct from rest of the marketplace.
It is safe to say that brand positioning occurs whether or not a company is proactive in developing a position. However, if management takes an intelligent, forward-looking approach, it can positively influence its brand positioning in the eyes of its target customers.

Brand Positioning Statements versus Brand Taglines
Brand positioning statements are often confused with company taglines or slogans. Positioning statements are for internal use. These statements guide the marketing and operating decisions of a business. A positioning statement helps in the making of key decisions that affect customer’s perception of a brand. A tagline, on the other hand, is an external statement used in marketing efforts. Insights from a brand positioning statement can be adapted for a tagline, but it is important to distinguish between the two.

7-Step Brand Positioning Strategy Process
In order to create a position strategy, you must first identify your brand’s uniqueness and determine what differentiates you from competition. There are 7 key steps to effectively clarify your positioning in the marketplace:
Determine how your brand is currently positioning itself
Identify your direct competitors
Understand how each competitor is positioning their brand
Compare your positioning to your competitors’ to identify your uniqueness
Develop a distinct and value-based positioning idea
Craft a brand positioning statement
Test the efficacy of your brand positioning statement

Read Also: EXPLAINER: What NSE’s rebranding as Nigerian Exchange Group means

What is a Brand Positioning Statement?
A positioning statement is a one or two sentence declaration that communicates your brand’s unique value to your customers in relation to your main competitors.
In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore offers one way of formulating a positioning statement. However, the simplified structure below will be helpful in the formulation of a Brand Positioning Statement.

How to Create a Brand Positioning Statement
There are four essential elements of a best-in-class positioning statement:
Target Customer: What is a concise summary of the attitudinal and demographic description of the target group of customers your brand is attempting to appeal to and attract?
Market Definition: What category is your brand competing in, and in what context does your brand have relevance to your customers?
Brand Promise: What is the most compelling (emotional/rational) benefit to your target customers that your brand can own relative to your competition?
Reason to Believe: What is the most compelling evidence that your brand delivers on its brand promise?
After thoughtfully answering these four questions, you can craft your positioning statement:

Example of Positioning Statements
Amazon.com used the following positioning statement in 2001 (when it almost exclusively sold books):
For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.

Examples of Taglines
Once you have a strong brand positioning statement you can create a tagline or slogan that helps establish the position you’re looking to own. Here are some examples:
Mercedes-Benz: Engineered like no other car in the world
BMW: The ultimate driving machine
Zenith Bank: In your best interest
Wharton Business School: The only business school that trains managers who are global, cross-functional, good leaders, and leveraged by technology
MTN: Everywhere you go
Total: Committed to Better Energy.
Nike: Just do it
Coca-Cola: The real thing

Evaluating Your Brand Positioning Strategy
An intelligent and well-crafted positioning statement is a powerful tool for bringing focus and clarity to your marketing strategies, advertising and promotional campaigns. If used properly, this statement can help you make effective decisions to help differentiate your brand, attract your target customers, and win market share from your competition.
Here are 15 criteria for checking your brand positioning:
Does it differentiate your brand?
Does it match customer perceptions of your brand?
Does it enable growth?
Does it identify your brand’s unique value to your customers?
Does it produce a clear picture in your mind that’s different from your competitors’?
Is it focused on your core customers?
Is it memorable and motivating?

Repositioning Positioning
The unfortunate reality is that no marketer has the power to position anything in the customer’s mind, which is the core promise of positioning. The notion that positions are created by marketers has to die. Customers have their own idea of how they perceive your brand. Positioning is not something you do, but rather, is the result of your customer’s perception of what you do. Positioning is not something we can create in a vacuum—the act of positioning is a co-authored experience with the customers.

Behind your positioning statement or tagline is your intention—how you desire your business to be represented to customers. Once the real role of positioning is understood, having a tagline or a positioning statement can be useful by clarifying your brand’s essence within your organization.

By examining the essence of what you are and comparing it with what your customers want, the doors open to building a business with a strong positioning in the mind of the customer. Why? Great brands merge their passion with their positioning into one statement that captures the essence of both.

Integrating Your Brand Positioning in Your Customers’ Mind
To position your brand in your customer’s mind, you must start from within your business. Every member of your organization that touches the customer has to be the perfect expression of your position. And, since everyone touches the customer in some way, everyone should be the best expression of your position.

Last line: Many brands don’t have the clarity and conviction of following through on their words. Without certainty, you default to the status quo. Turn everything you do into an expression of your desired positioning and you can create something special. This takes courage; to actively position your brand means you have to stand for something. Only then are you truly on your way to owning your very own position in the minds of your customers.

Feyisitan Ijimakinwa is a Reputation and Perception Management expert. He is a prolific writer and researcher who, at different times, served as Head of Corporate Communications of top brands quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. A versatile communications specialist, he practiced extensively as a print journalist and was variously engaged in the broadcast media, working on radio and television. Feyisitan continues to write on corporate communications, brand reputation and perception management, and brand intelligence, among others. He organises the ‘Brand Intelligence and the Marketplace’ masterclass. Feyisitan advocates a pollution free and sustainable environment.