Competition is inevitable. It’s one of the most important driving forces of change and follow-up success. However, as competition grows, your brand uniqueness might be at risk of fading away. Even if you managed to position it correctly and evolve it into a generic term for all similar products in its niche just like Band-Aid once did, you are still not fully protected from suffering negative consequences for your business.
How to (re)position your brand successfully and mitigate future impact of competition? The most important answers are revealed below.
What is brand positioning?
The father of marketing, Phillip Kotler, said it best – brand positioning is “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”. Тo further unravel the mystery of these words, brand positioning is the tool that allows your product or service to stand out from the rest operating in the same sector. This differentiation is also necessary for the brand to increase awareness, communicate its values, validate its price worth, all of which affect the end result.
Brand positioning consists of well-established features which should be modified according to the product’s particular case and specific needs in order to work well. The most fundamental ones are:
Narrow your focus on a specific set of customers you want to reach. Don’t disperse your energy on each and every person, because you will fall before you get the chance to grow. Also, studying the audience of your competitors might help differentiate your brand more successfully and connect with the customers right for you.
Unique selling proposition (USP)
This would be the exceptional characteristic of your brand that will make it most distinguishable from similar alternatives. Your USP will entice your customers to purchase your brand over others again and again.
Let’s take Apple for example. What is its USP? Price, quality, product? Maybe, but experience – intuitive usage, is the brand’s final signature really!
Positioning statement usually originates from the answer to the following question – How do I want my brand to be perceived? It should clearly define your customers; how it meets their needs; in which category to products/services it belongs; who are the competitors, etc.
A good positioning statement will include 4 important things: the target audience you address, the problem you are solving for them, the plan – how are you going to solve it, the success – how they will feel like after you have solved their problem.
You can finally create a perceptual map of the positioning of all brands in your business sector to detect any potential opportunities for growth. The map can consist of attributes that are important to your target audience such as quality, price, product features, and so on.
What is the real secret behind outstanding brand positioning?
Regardless of the fact if you are just starting your business or you want to transform it, here are some well-kept secrets you need to consider when you face brand positioning:
First create the story, then the product
The foundation is simple – the whole team should be united around a crystal-clear story whose purpose is to know how and why it will be influencing other people’s lives. And the second step is to build a great product, not vice versa.
Have one person as a chief accountable
Whether it is the CMO, CEO or somebody else, there should be one accountable person to lead the entire positioning and have the final call. The rest of the employees will just facilitate the process. If there is more than one person in charge, you will have several stories followed by blurred market results.
Successful differentiation equals well-aligned strategy, not only product features
The essence of your positioning strategy should disclose irresistibility and credibility – you promise the customers a feature that they want and you are the only one to deliver. Support it with reliable and relevant product capabilities. This will entice the audience to grasp the idea how those capabilities will exclusively make their lives better.
Study competitors and ask those two questions
Invest time in understanding the strategic stories of your competitors. Review their websites and ask yourself – 1) who is the person whose life the company claims it can change? And 2) what promises is the company communicating through its visual and written messages?
So, don’t focus only on competitor’s weaknesses and try to avoid them. Instead, reveal what they do well and then see what you do well. This step will give you a good hint how to tell your story and how to evolve it.
Don’t be afraid to de-prioritize aspects of the story
Detailed story does not secure accomplishment of final goals. Sometimes parts of it need to be decluttered and replaced by pure focus. For instance, your product guarantees safety and operational efficiency. Your competitors also communicate operational efficiency quite a bit. When you draw the line, even though your product promises both features, it would be smarter to focus solely on safety. Why? Because, honestly speaking, your product does a lot more than that. But the question is, which do you most want to be recognized for?
A smoothly working team can create an impeccable brand positioning strategy and efficiently send the message to the audience as long as it believes in it. The story should be clear and focused. Ideally, it should precede the product. Thus, the communicated promises can fully support the product capabilities, which will make it harder for the customers to attain without your brand. Just be authentic in your words and try to speak to your audience like people, not customers. Because, in the end, “positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.” (Al Ries & Jack Trout)
What’s coming next
In the next blog post we will dive a little deeper into the world of the perfect positioning statement, which includes reaching the correct target customers, solving their problem, adopting a plan to do so successfully and finally – leaving the audience with the right feelings!