A “brand positioning” defines the space your brand aims to occupy in the minds of your consumers.
Defining a brand’s positioning is a pivotal decision brand managers must make when developing a brand strategy, as it influences all other actions and initiatives of the company. A well-defined positioning statement (the document that captures and summarizes the brand positioning) offers clarity, alignment, and focus, while a vague or poorly defined one leads to confusion and wasted resources.
Specifically, in this article, we’ll address the following questions:
- What is a brand?
- What is a brand positioning?
- What are the benefits?
- The best framework
- Good and bad examples (with comments).
What is a brand?
In the blog entry “An Actionable Definition of Brands. Benefits. Examples. Approach.” I defined a brand as “the sum of all the associations your most important consumers have about your brand.” I also argued that even though this definition is very simple, it, in my opinion, is the best way to define a brand as 1. It is the only definition I am aware of that considers how brands are formed in the mind of consumers (basically the psychology of brand building) and 2. It provides direction and is actionable.
What is a brand positioning?
Considering our definition of brands, brand positioning becomes the act of “defining and capturing the set of associations you want your consumers to assign to your brand in the next 3 to 5 years.” It serves as a tool to help brand managers identify and summarize the desired brand associations essential for a compelling brand strategy. Without a clear sense of what 3 to 5 associations you want to build in the next few years, developing an effective strategy becomes challenging if not impossible. In fact, how would you be able to assess whether any marketing initiative, whether an ad campaign, a new pricing strategy, a new product idea, a new package design, or even a new retail partnership would make any sense?
In the blog post “26 proven successful sources of brand associations” we cover in more detail how to identify relevant brand associations.
Benefits of a strong brand positioning statement
A well-defined brand positioning statement offers several advantages:
- It encapsulates the core strategic pillars of your brand strategy, defining your target audience, value proposition, frame of reference, and reasons to believe. It basically summarizes the brand associations you want to build.
- It provides strategic focus, aligning marketing efforts (the 4Ps) to create and maintain desired associations.
- It simplifies decision-making, helping identify on-brand initiatives and partnerships.
- It aligns all brand stakeholders, fostering a shared understanding of the end goal.
- It facilitates building brand equity over time, akin to “compound interest” for your brand.
The best brand positioning framework
Various frameworks are available for crafting a brand positioning statement, such as the brand pyramid, brand key, brand onion, and the Golden Circle. Many organizations even develop their proprietary frameworks reflecting their strengths and their beliefs about what it takes to succeed in the market. However, regardless of the model you choose, the classic brand positioning framework should address four fundamental elements and answer four fundamental questions:
- Ideal Target Audience: Define your target audience and what drives them, focusing on actionable insights.
- Frame of Reference: Describe the competitive space your brand occupies and its source of growth. This could be your immediate competitors but it doesn’t have to.
- Brand Benefit: Clearly articulate your brand’s unique value, avoiding generic benefits.
- Reasons to Believe: Provide credibility to your benefit claims and help differentiate your brand.
Good and bad examples of brand positioning statements
Let’s examine two statements for a fictitious health snack brand. The first is weak, and the second is strong:
This example is weak for the following reasons:
- Weak target description with no actionable insights.
- Generic frame of reference.
- Relevant but generic benefit statement.
- Relevant but generic reasons to believe.
This example, on the other hand, is strong for the following reasons:
- Addresses consumers’ unmet needs.
- Makes a competitive claim within the healthy family snack category.
- Highlights the unique “all natural” benefit.
- It provides a strong reason to believe “through better absorption of vitamins and nutrients from real fruits”.
- Ultimately, it is congruent; all the different sections work together to tell one compelling story
In the first example, associations are consumer-relevant but also generic. In my experience, a brand team typically comes up with this when guided solely by consumer feedback and what consumers want. The second example is more specific, differentiated, and relevant to consumers. It allows the brand to resolve a relevant consumer tension, and it does so in a way that is unique to this brand.
In my online course “The art & craft of brand positioning development,” I provide more good and bad examples of brand positioning and dive deeper into critiquing each example.
Examples of brand positioning and brand associations
A simple way to assess the quality and power of your brand position statement is to summarize what brand associations the brand positioning statement tries to capture. In the first example, as you can see, all the desired brand associations are fairly generic. They are consumer-relevant but generic. I could easily name you 15 brands that try to occupy that space.
In the second example, however, you’ll notice that some of the brand associations the positioning statement is trying to capture are overall much more specific and differentiated, and I would argue relevant to consumers.
In conclusion, a well-crafted brand positioning statement captures the three to five brand associations you want consumers to associate with your brand that will help your brand grow and meet its strategic objectives. The way to write this brand positioning is by answering four fundamental questions about your consumers, frame of reference, and brand, product, or service. This will provide the clarity, alignment, and focus you need and ensure that all brand-related activities are geared toward building the desired associations.
SIGN-UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER TO KEEP UPDATED
GO BACK TO 'FUNDAMENTALS” for more articles about brand strategy, brand positioning, customer insights, and creative problem-solving.
Learn everything there is to know about brand position development and become more “brand positioning fluent” than 99% of the marketing community with my online course “The Art & Craft Of Brand Positioning Development”. Learn what it is, how to set objectives for your positioning, how to segment your consumers, how to create genuinely differentiating and distinctive positioning statements, sources of brand positioning, how to assess, evaluate, and improve existing positioning statements (with examples), and learn what mistakes to avoid.
Do you just want to learn the basics of brand positioning development? Check out the award-winning “Brand Positioning Workbook: A simple how-to guide to more compelling brand positioning, faster”. Available on Amazon around the world. (RAISE the prices again?)
Working solo on a brand positioning project or preparing a positioning workshop? Check out the best-selling Brand Positioning Method Cards for guidance and inspiration.
Interested in insights and how to generate them instead? Then the Aha! The Indispensable Insight Generation Toolkit might be for you. Available as a set of method cards in the US and as a Kindle document outside the US.
Need an expert team to help you position or re-positon your brand and identify new growth opportunities? Then reach out
Alternatively, you may want punctual advice, feedback, and inspiration without hiring a consulting team. Then, book an hour of coaching with me.