Positioning your brand for success

Your brand positioning affects what people associate with it and what they expect. Those associations and expectations influence your customer experience – not only what you deliver, but how it’s received.

Get your brand positioning right and you make your customer experience more positive. It also helps you stand out from your competition. Here’s how you position your brand for success.

Image of a game of chess
What’s brand positioning?

It’s how your brand is perceived by everyone that’s involved in it – your stakeholders, and why it’s different to your competitors – carving out your distinctive space in the market.

Your stakeholders include your customers, employees, suppliers and anyone else involved in leading your business. Chances are they’ll all see your brand a little differently because they experience it in different ways; your customers as the people you serve, your employees as the people that work for you, your suppliers with you as their customer, your leadership team as how it should be (perhaps rather than how it is).

Whether you’ve ever really thought about your brand positioning before or not, you’ll have an idea of how you want your brand to be thought of. That might be different to what is being experienced and perceived by your stakeholders.

Brand positioning is also knowing how you want your brand to be perceived, how it is perceived and working to close that gap.

Where to start?
Identify your target market

Who are your ideal customers? Create customer personas if you haven’t already. You can find out more about these here. What is it your customers need? What do they base their decisions about which brand to buy from on? Price, quality, product range, convenience, speed of delivery …

Know your competition

If you haven’t checked out your competitors since you wrote your business plan, take a fresh look. Who are they? Anyone new joined the market recently? What are they offering your target market? How are they standing out from their competition? How are they positioning themselves?

Take a moment to think about why you’ve chosen the competitors you have. Is it because you’re in a small market with very few competitors, or is it because you’re in a crowded market place and you share the same target market? For example, if you’re an online retailer selling sportswear for men and women, you’re competing against well known international brands that range from luxury to budget, so you’ll choose those that have the same target market, not all of them. If you’re selling maternity sportswear your pool of competitors is smaller and you’re likely to choose most of them.

Find out how your brand is perceived

Start with qualitative research – interviews or focus groups with some of your stakeholders to find out key things about your brand and what’s important to them, where there’s no right or wrong answer, they’re giving you the information.

You’ll need to know what they base their decisions about who to buy from on (attributes), what they look for from brands, what they need, who they think are your competitors, what they like and don’t like about them and your brand. 

Use that information to create a quantitative online survey to find out what more of your stakeholders think of your current brand positioning. 

Quantitative surveys are designed to find out what proportion (percentage) of a group of people believe, have questions that have lists of answers and the people answering choose 1 or more from the list.

Ask similar questions to those you covered in qualitative stage, but this time provide the answers for them to choose, using what you learnt.

When you’re analysing the results be sure to create the following:

Perceptual map
Helps illustrate the position of a brand in relation to its competitors using the customers’ 2 most important attributes.

Image to show what a perceptual map looks like when used for brand positioning

Spidergram analysis
Shows the perceived positioning of several brands for several attributes in one chart.

Image of a spidergram to illustrate how it can be used for brand positioning
Use the marketing mix framework to create something special

Go through each of the following and work out what it is you do or intend to do that’ll give your customers something better than the competition is offering.

Product: What you sell, whether it’s physical goods or services you provide e.g. adding features and benefits

Price: The price you sell your products and services for e.g. great value for money through lower prices, or prices that reflect the high quality of the goods sold

Place: Where you sell, promote or provide what you sell – your distribution channels, e.g. sell everything directly, no re-sellers

Promotion: How you promote your products, which channels you use (your promotional mix) including advertising, PR, digital marketing, personal selling, network marketing and so on

People: The people inside and outside of your business that help make what you do possible e.g. who you hire – getting the right people in the right roles and training them

Process: How you do everything you do e.g. map your customer journey and look to lessen any pain points or hurdles that might stop your customers from buying

Physical evidence: The tangible side of your brand and what you offer – anything people can touch, see, smell, hear or taste! Includes your products, packaging, decor, clothing, and so on. e.g. modern, clean, functional, tactile (you want to touch or interact with it!)

Now summarise your brand positioning

If you put all that together, what is it that is going to make you stand out from your competition and give your target customer something better? Describe the distinctive place in the market that your brand occupies.

For your brand positioning to be successful there are 4 things you need (the 4-Cs framework created by Jobber and Fahy in 2009):

Clarity: Be really clear about who your target market is and how you’re differentiating your brand from your competitors. How you summarise it needs to be simple enough that everyone you work with remembers it.

Consistency: Your customers are exposed to hundreds and potentially thousands of adverts each day. To cut through all that noise you need to present a consistent message with your marketing. Your customer experience also needs to be consistent so people know what to expect and to avoid disappointment. Brand positioning isn’t just about design and messaging, it’s about living your brand – consistently ‘being’.

Credibility: However you chose to stand out from your competitors, it’s got to be credible in the minds of your target customer. They have to believe that’s what you can do and do. If your customers aren’t convinced, they’ll be looking for evidence that proves or disproves it!

Competitiveness: How you stand out from the competition should give you a competitive edge. Something you offer your customers that the other brands fail to provide.

Then plan how you’re going to maintain it

Having used the 7Ps framework, your marketing mix is done! Your plan needs the actions you’re going to take to achieve it.

Do it all over again!

Not straight away – but you’ll need to repeat this at least every couple of years, if not annually, to maintain your competitive advantage and to keep standing out from your competition. Your competitors will be doing the same thing!

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