Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge - Part 1: Competitive Positioning Strategy

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Posted Jan 24, 2012
Susan Gunelius

If you missed my Brand Positioning Standards and Practices series, follow the preceding link to read it now and get a better understanding of what brand positioning is and why it matters. In my new series, Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge, you'll learn how to effectively develop a brand position that gives you a leg up on your competition and leads to measurable and sustainable growth.

What Is Brand Positioning?

Your brand's position is its place in the market where you do business. Every brand occupies a place in consumers' minds, which is created through their perceptions of your brand compared to all other available brands in the same market. For example, the Holiday Inn brand occupies a distinctly different position in the hotel market than the Ritz Carlton brand does.

Brand positions are determined by hard differentiators (tangible differences from competitor offerings) and soft differentiators (intangible differences from competitor offerings). I'll discuss differentiators in greater detail in Part 2 of this series. For now, you just need to understand that there are a variety of ways that a brand can be positioned against its competitors.

When your brand is well-positioned to leverage opportunities and close gaps in the market, you have a better chance of achieving growth success. However, great positioning is just one step. Many great brands with great positioning strategies have failed in the past. Brand positioning is just one part of your strategic plan for brand development.

The First Steps to Successful Brand Positioning

Before you can determine how to position your brand, you need to do some brand positioning research. You need to identify your competitors (both current competitors and future competitors), and you need to identify your target audience.

Until you have those two key pieces of information, you have no chance of successfully positioning your brand. How can you identify differentiators that matter to consumers until you do some research and get a better understanding of what they want and need from brands in the market? You can't!

You'll learn more about brand positioning research in Part 4 of this series, and the link in the preceding paragraph offers more useful information.

Finally, you can't develop a brand positioning strategy if you don't define your short-term and long-term goals first. At the very least, you need to put together a list of 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month goals and then develop a brand position that supports those goals. If your brand position is counter to your brand goals, you're in trouble.

The SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is a tried-and-true marketing technique that stands the test of time because it's a great way to gather all of the most important points related to your brand, market, and audience in one place.

Using a SWOT analysis, you create a list of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to your brand, your market, your competitors, and your consumer audience. Often, big opportunities and gaps rise to the top quickly in a SWOT analysis as do your own brand strategy's missing links that you need to close up before you move forward.

Keep in mind, a SWOT analysis is just a starting point, but it can help you get on track by making sense of a lot of seemingly disparate information and data.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge series coming up soon on the AYTM Research Junction blog where you'll learn about creating differentiators. Later, in Parts 3 and 4 of the series, you'll learn about competitive offensive and defensive strategies as well as brand positioning competitor research.

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