Is Your Brand Positioning the “Real Thing”? 6 Attributes

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6 brand positioning techniques for staking a claim in specific market segments.

Brand positioning involves creating a vision of a product or business relative to competitors.

As such, the messaging must be unique, focused and consistent. If not, you may be missing out on opportunities to distinguish yourself from “the other guys.”

The concept of positioning relates to how a product is perceived by customers relative to its competitors. It originated in the advertising industry as a way of identifying the product attributes that need to be inserted into the buyer’s consciousness.

For example, the product may be cheap, innovative, cool or high quality. Positioning helps provide a clear focus. It’s essentially about influencing attitudes and perceptions about a product or company brand, rather than changing the product itself.

Positioning improves performance by increasing awareness of a company’s or product’s capabilities and by refreshing or reinforcing an existing brand.

The following six branding techniques are useful for achieving distinction or for effectively staking a claim in a specific market segment:

1. Understand the market.

This involves finding a niche or part of the market where there’s space to establish and maintain a profitable position. Not only does this require an understanding of the market, but also the key trends and factors influencing the market.

This may require the recognition that in certain markets, at certain times, there are simply no attainable positions left.

2. Focus on the customer.

When planning or considering the position of a product or business, it’s important to remain externally focused and consider how the customer will perceive and react/respond to the message or offer. In other words, which message will have the greatest impact on the customer in the way that was intended?

3. Manage timing.

Positioning is often easiest when you’re the first in a new market: the value of first-mover advantage.

From this position, it’s possible to get to know the customer and to market in detail and then build a strong customer base and rapport with customers. Often, as a first-mover, the brand image appears responsive and innovative.

For brands that are not first-movers, it’s important to choose the right moment to launch, ideally when the market leader is weak or quiet or both.

4. Avoid head-on confrontations with the market leader.

The brand with the most to lose is the market leader.

They”ll react very powerfully against newcomers, using all the resources at their disposal – wealth, fame and customers. The brand that is attacking the market leader, therefore, needs some valuable, attention-grabbing, distinguishing feature – and it must strongly convey this in messaging.

5. Consistency is essential.

Once a position has been taken, it needs to be consistently and unfailingly defended. More than that, it has to be actively developed or the potential benefits of occupying that position will erode.

6. Choose a powerful and simple message.

To be effective, the message needs to be clear, simple and consistent (such as Volkswagen launching the Beetle in the U.S. with the slogan Small is Beautiful; Mars Bars’ claim to help you Work, Rest and Play; Ford Motor Company’s efforts being Driven by You; and Coca-Cola remaining The Real Thing).

The message should strike a chord with the recipient. Often the best way to establish a position is to “go with the flow” and associate with an idea, issue or concern that may already be in people’s minds.

What does all this tell us about branding?

Primarily, there’s a lot hinging on perception. We can see this if we take a brief look at what makes a brand iconic. A brand isn’t just one-dimensional or an idea; it’s big and alive. It resonates in the marketplace; it engages imagination and trust; it transforms products and services into something relevant, unique and true.

As John Kay from the Financial Times describes, our perception of a brand allows us to share its values: “I am irresistible,”  I say, as I put on my designer fragrance. “I am a merchant banker,” I say, as I climb out of my BMW. “I am a juvenile lout,” I say, as I pour an extra strong lager. “I am handsome,” I say, as I put on my Levi jeans.

Branding is all about perception, and perception drives our reputation. Brands are built and good or bad reputations earned, so let’s start building.

Related content:

Branding Doesn’t Matter When Culture Doesn’t Work

Branding: If You Build It, Will They Come?

Small Business Branding – What’s In a Name?

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