All the marketing books are telling you that it is important to differentiate your brand. But it is not always clear how to do it in a way that is meaningful for your business and leads to brand sales.
POSITIONING. DO I REALLY NEED IT?
Positioning is all about differentiating your brand in the mind of the consumer. Positioning is creating the perceptions you want your target consumer to associate with your brand. Having a brand positioning is not an end in itself. It is just the beginning of the journey. It is the foundation on which your brand strategy, innovation, communication and brand plans and tactics are built. (The end of the journey should always be brand sales & brand growth! )
POSITIONING. DO I REALLY HAVE IT?
One of the very first questions I ask when I work with a brand team is about their brand positioning. It is sad to see how many use the terminology without actually understanding it clearly and, as a result, being unable to use it to drive brand growth. Examples such as “my brand positioning is premium” or “my products are made with natural ingredients” will hardly give the brand team a clear direction on what the next innovation is or how the next communication campaign will appear. If your positioning is just about fancy words and is not ACTIONABLE, your brand most surely is losing money, if not now, in the long-term. You need a clear brand positioning not because the books say so, but because you want brand growth.
POSITIONING. HOW TO GO ABOUT IT?
If you prefer to build your brand positioning on your own, you can use as guidance the 4 steps in positioning a brand as described by Jack Trout, the father of positioning:
1) Study your competitors and identify the attributes and / or benefits they own in the mind of the consumer
2) Assess your strengths and weaknesses (product, services, packaging, communication, distribution, customer help etc) and look for that differentiating idea.
3) Think long term: can you support your differentiating idea with facts?
4) Communicate the differentiating idea to your target consumers.
From my experience with brands, a positioning that is actionable should consider as a minimum 4 elements:
1. Brand’s target: clearly you want to differentiate your brand in the minds of consumers. For that to happen you have to know WHO your consumers are.
Segment your market and chose your target. You can do that by using either sophisticated segmentation research or common sense. Chose the segment you want to target and try to find out as many things about them as possible (age, gender, where they live, how they live their life, what they like to eat, see, do, if they have any preferences, what their dislikes are etc). Knowing your consumers better will help you find the space in their minds and hearts that is relevant to them.
2. Competitors: your brand does not exist in a silo. Consumers evaluate all the available brands and decide which one addresses their needs and shares the same values. You have to be very clear about who are your direct or indirect competitors and how consumers perceived them.
Make sure you talk about consumers’ perceptions, not yours. You can quickly distinguish between what YOU believe consumers perceive and what consumers actually perceive by asking this question: “Where do I have this information from” – if it is from research, industry knowledge, consumers blogs or FACEBOOK, you know for sure that this is what the consumers think.
3. Consumers’ need: as a marketer you should be able to know what needs your consumers have.
Obviously, you want to address with your brand those needs that are stronger. Even if your brand has “state-of-the-art” features and benefits, if there is no need for them or consumers are indifferent to them, it might be a lottery for your brand to win in the marketplace.
Here are a few of the most common needs that brands address: to be loved, to achieve something, to have fun, to be free, to stay clean, to have friends, to be accepted, to get attention, to win, to be healthy, to be beautiful. What about your brand? What kind of needs does it address?
4. Brand’s benefits: this is the trickiest part of the positioning exercise. Most marketers are so attached to their brand or know it so well, that it is difficult to stay objective. Even more, valuable features are sometimes taken for granted. When you build your list of benefits, 2 pieces of advice here:
– Look outside your category. For example, if you are a gifting chocolate brand, look at cosmetics or fashion. See what other brand benefits are appreciated by your target consumers and see if you have those to offer.
– Stick to your core expertise – do not force onto the list benefits that your brand does not have, just because the consumers want them. Your company must have the capabilities to support delivering these benefits over the long-term. For example, if your product is not made with natural ingredients and therefore doesn’t give the consumers a natural, wholesome experience, do not claim it just because the trend is towards natural. There are many other trends you can tap into. Stay true to yourself and to your brand. Consumers will appreciate it.
You can spend one day or a whole month to define your brand positioning – depending on how thorough you want to be. In both cases, the output should be a positioning statement. This is the positioning statement template I use when I work with my clients: