How to Strategically Position Your Brand


Many people believe that if you have a great product or a great service, you don’t need marketing. 

They like to cite American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who supposedly said something like: “If a man built a better mousetrap, though he lived in a cottage, deep in the woods, the world will beat a path to his door.”

First of all, the quote is wrong. Here’s what Emerson actually said:

“If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.”

That sounds great. It seems to imply that if you have a great product or service, you won’t need to worry about marketing. But reality is a little different.

You can have the greatest product in the world and the most superb service, but if no one knows about it you will have a warehouse full of excellent products, or you will be sitting around your office, waiting for the phone to ring.

This is where companies make a big mistake with their marketing. It’s important to have great products and great services. But too many companies delude themselves by thinking, “If people knew how great our products or services are, they’d buy us every time.”

They try to market themselves by saying things like: “We’ve got the best quality, the best product, the best service and the best people.”

I’ve got three words for you: waste of time. Yes, all those things are important, but they won’t help you be successful with your marketing.

It’s not about the product; it’s about the positioning.

Strategic Positioning or brand positioning is a statement of who you are. It is what your target customers think about when they hear your brand name. Red Bull owns the words “energy drink.” 1-800-GOT JUNK? owns junk removal. What words do you want to own? What will make you stand out from the herd?

There are two important questions you should answer:

  • What word or words do you own in your target customers’ minds?
  • Where can you be perceived as a leader or as meaningfully different in some way?

Seth Godin in his book The Purple Cow says that you should stand out from the herd of competitors the way a purple cow would stand out from a herd of cows. That’s not just a little different. We’re talking “dramatically different,” and that takes courage.

The old rule of marketing was that you played it safe. You created a good enough product or service, and then you sold it with PR and advertising. You took out ads, you spent money, and you tried to drive customers to your business that way. That used to work, but it doesn’t any more.

Today, you need to create remarkable products or services that your target market customers will seek out and talk about. They will spread word‑of‑mouth about your brand.

You’ve already made the critical decisions about how you’re going to deliver value to your customer. You chose a value discipline. When you made that choice, you had to think about who your ideal target market customers are, and what they currently think of you and your industry. Now it’s time to decide how you’re going to market yourself to your target market customers.

It starts with being dramatically different. You’re either a purple cow of a product or service, or you’re a commodity. But that’s only part of the challenge. You must also be dramatically and meaningfully different to your ideal target market customer.

Just being good is not enough. Your competitors are good. Your customers won’t even start down the path to buy your product unless they think you’re remarkably, distinctively, and meaningfully different. You don’t win the marketing battle with the best product or service. You win the marketing battle with strategic positioning. So let’s think about how you can position your company.

There’s no one best way to position your company so you appear distinctively different from your competition. You need to choose a position that sets you apart in a way that appeals to your ideal target market customer. There are six basic ways to achieve that:

Position your company based on price point. 
Walmart, for example, offers “everyday low prices.” Price positioning can work the other way, too, when people use a high price as an indicator of high value.

One of the most commonly told stories is the one about how Chivas Regal was a struggling brand of Scotch whiskey until they doubled their price; according to this account, unit sales doubled.

Let’s look at some other ways you can position yourself:

  • Position your company by creating a new category, that’s what Red Bull did. Before them, there was no “energy drink” category
  • Position your company as something different from the category leader. In rental cars, the classic Avis advertising campaign, “We’re number two, so we try harder,” is a great example.
  • Position your company as a specialist 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is the specialist in junk removal. There are coffee shops all over the world that sell coffee and a host of other things like hamburgers and breakfast and pies, but Starbucks positioned itself as the coffee specialist, the brand you know offers premium coffee.
  • Position your company by being explicit about your target market customer. Curves is the gym solely for women. AXE (or Lynx, in some countries) cologne positions itself as the cologne that makes young men irresistible.

Find your strategic position 
Here are two questions that I recommend to help you identify your strategic position:

  • In what area(s) could you be perceived as the leader of a category or niche in your industry?
  • In what area(s) could you be perceived as being dramatically and meaningfully different from your competitors?

Strategic positioning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You have to consider where you are positioned compared to your competition. That means returning to the industry analysis to identify your key competitors, looking at their marketing material, and figuring out what positions your competitors have staked out in the marketplace.

Answer the following questions so that you have their positions fresh in your mind when you consider your own position:

  • Who are your key competitors?
  • What strategic position do they claim to own (if any) in their marketing messages?

When you’ve done your analysis, it’s time to state your strategic position. A strategic position is a statement of who you are. Ideally it conveys leadership or a point of difference. Write it out as best you can. Then refine it into a short phrase.

I use my Twitter Rule. See if you can state your strategic position in a short, concise statement of 140 characters or less.

The next big step is to look at things from your customers’ point of view and decide what benefits those customers should expect when they buy your product or service.

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By Stephen Lynch 

Author: magazinestoday

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