Today I’d like to talk a bit about Brand Positioning.
Brand Positioning is simply the place your brand occupies in the mind of the consumer and how it is distinguished from competitors. Successful businesses deliberately craft messages to communicate that position to their customers. Failure to take the lead in this process leaves it up to the market to position your brand. Brand Positioning happens, and if you allow your brand to be positioned by the market it will most likely not be optimum for growth of the brand and future success.
Don’t let the market choose your position for you!
Okay, okay, you’re way ahead of me, knew that, and have a defined brand position. Thats great, but I frequently see businesses craft brand positions not based on research or worse, based on category benefits. They step into the pitfall of choosing a position that is not differentiated. Often businesses pin their brand on a benefit that everyone in the market is required to have as minimum cost of entry, a category benefit. Another name for this is table stakes and according to Urban Dictionary table stakes is “the minimum amount of effort your lazy ass needs to expend to compete at work, in relationships, and basically all facets of life.”
What does “cost of entry” mean in brand positioning?
Let’s say you manufacture bicycles. A brand position based on “our tires are round” or “our brakes slow you down” does not differentiate you from any other bicycle manufacturer. Those qualities are required by every bicycle manufacturer in the market. You need to focus on something that only you bring to the bicycle experience.
This is a silly example of course. But if one of your current brand positioning statements is “we sell quality” you may want to take notes.
How do I position my brand?
It’s important to avoid promoting cost of entry benefits in your positioning. If you do, your marketing efforts will drive demand for the entire bicycle category rather than driving demand for your own business. The exception to this is when you are the dominant brand in a category since increased sales within the entire category will increase your sales disproportionately to others.
Here’s how you approach increasing demand for your business in particular:
- Identify all the things you are particularly good at.
- Isolate which of these are unique in the market.
- Determine which of these resonates with your target audience.
With bicycles it could be that your frames are stronger, or you have completely unique colors, or you have sizes that nobody else offers. What matters is that you uniquely own this special thing in your market and your customer cares about this thing you uniquely bring.
I rip on “we sell quality” because in today’s markets quality is a cost of entry. Modern manufacturing processes and efficiencies of scale have made extremely high quality available at every price point and for the most part today’s educated consumers don’t buy junk anymore. In my opinion, the JD Powers rating of “Initial Quality” is a lazy positioning statement because every car on the market today has an amazing level of initial quality. A more compelling statement is 5 year owner satisfaction.
Try to avoid using lazy quality claims in your positioning unless your competitors make stuff that literally falls apart in the hands of customers while they are looking at it. Ah, Yugo how we miss thee.
This takes effort
It’s not that difficult to do Step 1 and Step 2 internally. Many companies are tempted to stop there and never advance to Step 3 which requires getting outside of your office and interacting with your customers. Of course, this is where the magic happens. Without doing Step 3 you are basing your brand positioning on a hunch made while wearing blinders.
To pull this off you identify a few things that you are especially good at and after comparing that list to your competitors you identify the ones that only you can deliver. Perhaps you have colors and sizes that no other bicycle manufacturer offers. After reaching out to your target audience you learn that they could care less about unique sizes but they go ga-ga over your fancy colors.
There you have it, your audience has spoken. You choose a positioning around your unique colors, rather than around special sizes, and of course in place of simply having round wheels or good brakes.
You still have all that other stuff
You naturally still have special sizes, strong frames, round wheels, and great brakes. That’s cost of entry in the bicycle market. It is important for you to cover that in your marketing. But it’s not enough to position your brand on. For your brand to succeed and grow it needs to be differentiated, ownable and captivating to your customers.