Brand Positioning (2023 Guide)

Brand Positioning (2023 Guide)
Article by Jelena Relić
Last Updated: July 10, 2023

94% of customers are more likely to recommend a brand that engages them emotionally.

How can your brand establish such a relationship?

The answer: Strategically developed brand positioning.

Read on to get brand positioning insights and tips that could nearly double your customer advocacy.

What Is Brand Positioning?

Brand positioning is the process of getting your target audience to notice your business through its unique image and offering.

It does so by making itself occupy a distinctive place in the mind of prospective and existing buyers.

To illustrate:

  • Ride-hitching service Lyft has positioned itself as a complete opposite of Uber’s overly corporate and cold image, with zany car additions, bright colors and relaxed messaging. They have successfully communicated the openness of their services towards all the users, as opposed to Uber’s exclusive feel.
  • Dollar Shave Club has introduced humor and greater affordability to the market of men’s shaving accessories, dominated by Gilette’s professional and masculine approach.
  • Tesla has introduced a shift in the perception of electric vehicles. Brands like Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt put emphasis on ecology and affordability, while Tesla added a dash of luxury and high-end lifestyle.

Through brand positioning, enterprises create brand associations in the minds of their customers in order to make them perceive their business in the desired way.

The key problem brand positioning is trying to solve is how to distinguish a brand and how to make it stick with customers.

It is a multi-faceted strategy that businesses use to set themselves apart from the rest and describe, to the target demographic, how their brand is different from competitors.

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What Is A Brand Positioning Statement?

The brand positioning statement aligns the business in a certain direction and reaffirms the core values that it communicates to its audience.

Here are a few examples of brand positioning statements:

  • Disney: A brand that positions itself on introducing and reaffirming the magic of childhood into the lives of adults, as well as children, uses an appropriate tagline “Where Dreams Come True”. It fits both Disney’s outward brand identity and purpose and informs all its channels.
  • Apple: This brand’s tendency to innovate and create high-end, technically advanced, personalized products is reflected in their slogan “Think different”. Boldly claiming to be different and then delivering on the promise with your products is a true example of a successful positioning by being true and - different.

A brand position statement should assert a business’s primary demographic and explain how its products or services help with solving their pain points.

An internal benefit of a brand positioning statement is that all the employees within a company, from advertising to sales and in between, use it to align their activities towards a common goal.

A brand positioning statement has four core elements:

  • The target: Before making a brand positioning statement, a company must know what its target market and demographics are, based on psychographics, location, user pains and needs. 
  • The category/market: The business then needs to come up with a context and a frame of reference so their customers can evaluate their product or service. Without being able to place their offers in a certain market context, prospective customers may not even bother evaluating the offer you give them. 
  • The differentiator: A differentiation point or differentiation value is what makes your product or service unique compared to all the others. It is best to use one single point of differentiation in a positioning statement - unique benefits and features that will support the differentiator. For instance, instead of stating that your business is the global leader in something, it is better to state WHY it is the global leader. Think about the differentiators from the perspective of an audience that is interested in benefits that can solve their pain points.
  • The payoff: When a differentiator explains to the target audience how it will help them solve their pain points and achieve what they need, the audience gets the payoff. In order to know what is it that your customers want to achieve and what solutions they are looking for, you must understand and research your own market first. Determine the customers’ buying criteria and find out how your solutions and core differentiator fits that criteria.

A quality position statement contains information about the company’s demographics, purpose and potential taglines. It is typically one or two paragraphs long. Not being overloaded with information makes it easier for customers and employees to understand the position better.

The average construction of brand positioning statement may look like this:

"To [target market], [brand] is a [category] that [differentiator] because [target market] needs [the payoff]."

How To Develop a Brand Positioning Strategy In 7 Steps

  1. Define Your Ideal Customer Profile And Your Current Brand Positioning
  2. Define Your Competition
  3. Research Your Competitors
  4. Identify What Makes Your Brand Unique
  5. Decide On The Market Category You Want To Win
  6. Establish Key Values You Will Provide Your Target Audience With
  7. Test Your Brand Positioning Statement

To position your brand successfully means taking an introspective look into your brand and establishing what it does differently and better than everyone else.

Creating a brand positioning strategy unique to your company involves these seven steps.

Step #1: Define Your Ideal Customer Profile And Your Current Brand Positioning

To be able to really analyze your competition with an objective eye, you need to understand your current brand positioning and where you stand in comparison.

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Are you marketing your products and services as something different? 
  • Who are your brand’s ideal buyers? 
  • What problems do they need to solve?

You can define your ideal customer profiles (ICPs) - the clear definition of who constitutes the ideal buyers of your products and services - with your real customer data or by behavioral indicators, technographic or other audience characteristics relevant to you. 

Also, identify your brand’s values and mission, how they fit your market and your niche and how different they are from the rest. 

Take an honest look into your brand persona, brand voice and value proposition - do they communicate your unique values clearly?

Consumers are likely to connect with a brand that sounds and feels authentic. Sounding human and down-to-earth, instead of developing a complex marketing jargon, is the way to go. Try to adopt and use your ideal audience’s language.

Step #2: Define Your Competition

Competitor analysis and knowing who you’re up against on your market informs you on how to improve your positioning strategy to get an edge over everyone else.

Several ways in which you can perform competition research are:

  • Market research: Looking into companies that are listed when you perform a market keyword search and asking the sales team what competitors’ names appear during the sales process.
  • Customer feedback: Interviewing consumers about products or services they were using or considered using before they opted for your brand’s.
  • Social media: Search forums like Quora or Reddit where consumers ask questions and talk about your products to discover your niche’s competitors.

Step #3: Research Your Competitors

After defining your competition, it is time to analyze how they position their own brands.

This research should cover these questions:

  • What products or services do they offer?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What market strategies are they using?
  • What is their position in the current market?
  • What is their tagline and what unique values they point out in their messaging?

Step #4: Identify What Makes Your Brand Unique

Unique brands possess an X factor that makes them different and that works best for their business. Defining what this means for your brand and then building an image based on that is a good starting point.

Competition research will show you the patterns of businesses that have the same strengths and weaknesses. Comparing your products and services to theirs might also reveal that some segments in which they are weak are your strengths.

This is your brand differentiator - it’s what makes your brand unique, different and better. That is also a great starting point for brand positioning.

Take notes of your unique offers and look carefully into what makes you better and different than everyone else. 

Step #5: Decide On The Market Category You Want To Win And Establish Who Cares Most About Your Brand Values

Defining who within your target audience cares the most about your brand’s values and products is the basis for audience segmentation. 

This step helps with deciding on the context you want your products or services to have in order to make it easy for ideal customers to understand your brand value, messaging and positioning statement.

By focusing on a very specific market segment and fewer high-value buyers, your business can double down on marketing resources more effectively.

Step #6: Establish Key Values You Will Provide Your Target Audience With And Create A Positioning Statement

At this step, it’s time to translate your unique capabilities and features into the value they bring your customers.

Creating a brand positioning statement, a one to two sentence declaration which communicates your brand’s unique value to customers.

To create your positioning statement, bear these four factors in mind:

  • Your target customers
  • Your product’s or service’s category
  • Their greatest benefit
  • The proof of that benefit

Let’s take a look into Amazon’s positioning statement and analyze its anatomy:

“Our vision is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Amazon doesn’t segment its audience and isn’t into hyper-specification. Instead, everyone is their audience as they sell products for everyone. This is their benefit and the proof of this benefit is online.

Step #7: Test Your Brand Positioning Statement

Simply launching a positioning statement and not evaluating its effects may leave you and your business in the dark. Collecting feedback from your customers on whether your positioning has the desired effect, testing and experimenting with it is also very important.

Asking for customers’ feedback and listening to their impressions is important to maintain content and style in which it is delivered as a brand’s key positioning asset. 

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Three Popular Brand Positioning Strategies

  1. Differentiation
  2. Competitive Positioning
  3. Niche Focus

If you want to establish a unique and favorable position in the minds of customers, brand positioning strategies are a must. Here are three common brand positioning strategies:

1. Differentiation

Differentiation involves positioning a brand as distinct and superior as opposed to its competitors. The goal is to highlight unique features, attributes, or benefits that set the brand apart. This can be achieved by emphasizing product quality, innovative features, exceptional customer service, superior quality, or distinct brand personality. By effectively communicating these points of differentiation, businesses can create a compelling reason for consumers to choose their brand over others.

2. Competitive Positioning

Competitive positioning is a type of brand positioning strategy that focuses on differentiating a brand from its competitors in a crowded market. The strategy requires a deep understanding of customer needs and preferences, as well as a thorough assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of key competitors. With competitive positioning, businesses aim to highlight their strengths and advantages in relation to competitors.

3. Niche Focus

Niche positioning targets a specific market segment with unique needs or preferences. Instead of trying to appeal to a broad audience, the brand focuses on a smaller, specialized segment. By tailoring products, messaging, and experiences to this niche, businesses can position themselves as experts and cater to the specific desires of that target market. This strategy allows for more focused marketing efforts and the ability to build a loyal customer base.

4 Elements Of A Successful Brand Positioning Strategy

Every business manager wishes for their brand to be set in the minds of consumers as a gold standard in its industry. Positioning strategies that set great brands apart from the rest and make them extra memorable have the following defining qualities.

  • Form an emotional bond with the audience: The way to build trust with your prospects and existing customers is by establishing a connection with them on a human level before making a sale. Learning about them and the problems they are looking to solve makes sure that your audience has a more positive experience with your company. 
  • Communicate value: Helping your prospects solve their pain points or overcome the challenge they are facing by giving them value is always going to be a recommendation for successful brand positioning. In your advertising messaging, website copy and all other marketing channels, you should strive to give valuable content that is both relevant and helpful to your audience. 
  • Have clearly defined differentiating qualities: The differentiator values of a company make a strong brand position. These qualities should be easy to understand through clear and concise communication. Your brand messaging should make it perfectly understandable what makes your products or services unique all throughout the sales process and funnel.
  • Be an embodiment of the company’s brand and core values: Consistency in your brand messaging and what you do and provide must always be present. Prospects should always get an experience that captures the company’s values and aligns it with its brand. For instance, this means incorporating the same type of brand language and voice in your sales conversation.

5 Brand Positioning Examples To Inspire You

  1. Apple’s Lifestyle Brand Value
  2. Bumble’s Progressive Experience
  3. Nike's "Ordinary Man" Affirming Messaging
  4. Dollar Shave Club’s Low-Cost Humor
  5. Lyft’s Down To Earth Friendliness

There are successful brands in various markets and niches whose positioning sets the tone and standard for everyone else. Here, we take a look into five successful brand positioning examples that made the difference.

[Source: Apple]

1. Apple’s Lifestyle Brand Value

As one of the brands with the most effective brand positioning, Apple is usually seen as a role model. They formulate their positioning on these three elements:

  • Premium products
  • Premium service
  • Premium brand

Apple creates products that are different from anything else on the market: in their approach of focusing on value over features, in their design, use of materials and premium brand philosophy of not going into price wars with their competitors.

More than just an IT brand, Apple professes a lifestyle focused on quality. As a result, their brand affinity is possibly unlike any other company as they are one of the most valuable brands in the world. 

[Source: Bumble]

2. Bumble’s Progressive Experience vs Other Dating Apps’ Omissions In User Experience

Bumble is a dating app that realized and remedied the shortcomings of numerous other dating apps on the market and based its positioning on that.

Plenty of dating apps leave users frustrated with their experience, which Bumble saw as their chance to introduce a progressive and innovative user experience with fewer distractions and unwanted content.

This app also limits initial interaction and reduces the number of messages a user can receive from someone they just connected with.

What is Bumble’s even greater brand differentiator is that women only can make the first contact before any other messages can be sent, thus challenging social norms and making the app a more pleasant experience for women who are usually targeted with a barrage of messages.

3. Nike's "Ordinary Man" Affirming Messaging vs Other Apparel Brands' Focus On Athleticism

The global leader in sports apparel creates products that are both high-quality and fashionable. Their go-getting spirit and “Just do it” tagline befit their athletic target audience and the very essence of sporting determination. 

However, the brand goes beyond using sporting celebrities for the sake of promoting their achievements in Nike wear. They set the example with these figures for the ordinary consumer, affirming their aspirations to an athletic life.

Nike empowers the "average" buyer to expand their limits instead of just focusing on the sporting excellence of world-famous stars.

4. Dollar Shave Club’s Low-Cost Humor vs Gillete’s Masculine Professionalism

Gilette’s highly professional ads and general marketing messaging relying on cold and efficient masculinity had a stronghold on the market of men’s razors and care products.

Dollar Shave Club competes with this approach in two ways: through humorous marketing and affordable prices. Their brand positioning begins with their name that indicates the low cost that captures users’ attention.

But this brand also makes a strong case for the quality of their products, and the proof they offer for this in their light-hearted messaging further differentiates them in the grooming industry, leading them to become one of its major players. 

5. Lyft’s Down To Earth Friendliness vs Uber’s Cold Exclusivity

Uber and Lyft have drastically different brand positioning despite being the same service: ride-share apps.

Uber was the market’s pioneer and right from the get-go they positioned themselves as exclusive, sleek and adding a touch of luxury to “ordinary” people. Their cold branding in black tones befitted this brand persona of exclusivity.

Lyft presumably foresaw that this elitism may backfire and adopted a completely opposite positioning: approachable and fun drivers, quirky and zany branding and messaging with casual fonts and even cars sporting pink mustaches!

This was Lyft’s reaction to Uber’s positioning, knowing they had to position themselves as different to help them get a distinctive edge. 

This down-to-earth approach made the brand easier to identify with, as Uber was becoming increasingly criticized for its somewhat cold and elitist nature.

Why Is Brand Positioning Important?

Giving your brand a unique and distinctive position helps you stand out within the overcrowded market.

Think of it from the consumer’s point of view: today, the information and advertising overload are so severe they have a hard time defining what they actually need, let alone who to trust.

In fact, here’s a very telling stat that shows just how crowded it’s got: Americans are exposed to up to 10,000 ads...per day!

Through brand positioning, companies build authentic brands and position themselves successfully in their market, helping consumers make an informed decision.

With brand positioning, companies not only help customers understand how their products and services help them and why they should care about a certain brand - they also gain the following benefits:

  • Gain a foundation for all marketing and sales activities: Successful positioning is a basis for brand success. It informs the business’s strategic marketing and overall business activities, connects it with its audience, creates content that converts and holds together brand messaging. All sales and marketing activities need to speak to the target audience’s values that lie at the core of the brand. That helps customers understand how a product or a service can ease their pain points and work for them.
  • Avoid the crash that comes from positioning in the wrong market category: All products or services exist in certain market categories, while most can fit into multiple ones. When competing in a fitting market category, it gives your offerings a context. The target audience can understand your brand messaging and grasp why your product is the best choice for them. 
  • Brand differentiation: By making the brand differentiator clear, a business can stand out among the competitors because prospects see it as unique compared to others. Strong positioning points out obvious traits that make a brand special to the ideal customers that are most likely to buy from it. 
  • Being relevant to the right audience: Besides brand difference and uniqueness, being relevant to consumers’ needs is the other most important point of brand positioning. Prospects see brands that are positioned into a very narrow niche as relevant and knowledgeable in terms of specific terminology which helps them understand the brand’s value clearly. 
  • Improvement of customer retention: Brand positioning is useful for acquiring new customers, but it is also very effective with enticing customer loyalty. By positioning your brand, you set the right customer expectations and build trust with the audience. Meeting their expectations will cause existing consumers to continue to put their trust in you and will remain loyal to your brand. 

Takeaways On Brand Positioning

Brand positioning has become critical to a company's overall marketing strategy. Through brand positioning, businesses can establish their main point of differentiation and communicate their unique values to their ideal customers.

Successful brand positioning fosters customer loyalty, drives business growth, and allows companies to stand out in a crowded marketplace. By following the seven steps outlined in this article, exploring various brand positioning strategies, and continuously evaluating and adapting their positioning efforts, businesses can create a strong and enduring brand presence that resonates with their target audience.

Brand Positioning FAQs

1. What is the goal of brand positioning?

The goal of brand positioning is to establish a unique and favorable position for a brand in the minds of consumers, differentiating it from competitors and creating a strong, positive perception of the brand's identity, value, and offerings.

2. How to write a brand positioning statement?

To write a brand positioning statement, focus on identifying your target audience, understanding their needs and desires, and articulating how your brand uniquely satisfies those needs. It should succinctly convey your brand's value proposition, key points of differentiation, and the emotional or functional benefits it provides.

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