Brand Positioning Standards and Practices - Part 1: What Is Brand Positioning?

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Posted Nov 28, 2011
Susan Gunelius

The best brands own a word or phrase and a related space in consumers' minds, which become each brand's position in the marketplace. In simplest terms, a successful brand positioning effort enables a brand image and identity to instantly have meaning for consumers and differentiate it from competitor brands.

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In Part 1 of my new Brand Positioning Standards and Practices series, I'll cover the basics of brand positioning as well as strategy, research, and repositioning. Up first -- what is brand positioning?

Foremost, you need to understand a fundamental principle of branding:

Consumers build brands, not companies.

While it's true that companies and marketers can nudge consumer perceptions in a desired direction through marketing and advertising tactics, it's consumers who experience a brand, develop expectations for it based on those experiences, and believe the brand promise. Therefore, your brand's position must be believable and unique while also leaving the doors open for evolving consumers and markets as well as for future brand extensions and expansion.

To identify what your brand position should be, you need to take time to research consumers, competitors, and your industry. I'll talk more about research in Part 2 of the Brand Positioning Standards and Practices series, so stay tuned. In the meantime, let's dive deeper into the internal work that needs to be done to develop your brand position.

Brand Positioning Questions

Begin by asking yourself some questions to identify what your goals for your brand are. You might learn later through your market research that your initial goals are completely off track. This gives you the opportunity to modify your goals so they're realistic and attainable. Following are some questions to get you started:

  • What do you want your brand to be known for among your target audience? If you can own a specific word or benefit in consumers' minds, you've hit the brand positioning jackpot.
  • What can you deliver that competitors cannot do as well or at all? This is your niche and the basis of a strong brand position.
  • Does your desired brand position match your overall company goals and vision? Confusion is a brand's worst enemy.
  • Are your brand goals realistic? For example, attacking the market leader without sufficient funds to back up the effort is a recipe for failure. Stay tuned to Part 3 of this series to learn more about this topic.
  • Do you have the necessary funds to devote to developing your brand position? Brand positions aren't owned overnight. It takes time and money to own a position in consumers' minds, particularly if you're entering an established market. You also need to consider the money needed to sustain your brand's position once you successfully establish it.
  • Are you thinking long-term? Short-term goal setting is too short-sited for brand positioning development. You can support your brand position with short-term tactics, but a powerful brand position must be able to grow, expand, and extend well into the future.

Brand Focus

axe brand

It's important to understand that focused brands are powerful brands. Your brand position needs to be highly focused for best results. For example, is the AXE brand position focused or generalized? There is no doubt what the AXE brand stands for in consumers' minds.

Consumers' minds are inundated with messages every day, making brains very cluttered places. There is no time to sort through diluted messages or find one's way out of a jumble of confusing messages. Focus is key to brand success.

With that in mind, focus on the 10 following areas as you develop your brand position:

  1. Your position should differentiate your brand.
  3. Your position should affect and ultimately match consumer perceptions of your brand.
  5. Your position should identify your brand's unique value to consumers.
  7. Your brand position must be believable.
  9. Your brand position should be consistent in all areas of your business.
  11. Your brand position should be easy to understand.
  13. Your brand position should be strong enough to withstand competitor counter-attacks.
  15. Your position should match your brand promise, brand personality, and brand image.
  17. Your brand position should be difficult to copy.
  19. Your brand should be positioned for long-term success, changes, extensions, and expansion.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Brand Positioning Standards and Practices series coming up soon on the AYTM blog!

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