There is a seemingly unending current of resources online and in print about marketing, and most can be divided into two general categories: strategy and tactics. While most marketing resources focus on tactics, usually in relation to digital marketing (PPC, SEO, lead generation, etc.), this short ebook is about the bedrock of communications strategy and brand positioning.
We believe that, unless the primary principles of positioning are addressed in your brand, all of your strategies and tactics will be misguided.
Finally, although we are discussing marketing strategy doesn’t mean this ebook won’t be practical. By the time you reach the last page you will have the tools to think more deeply about your brand through our Positioning Worksheet.
Big picture of what we are going to cover.
The internet has created an interesting
problem for buyers. Whereas in the past
scarcity has been a problem to overcome,
today, the number of choices made
available to customers has become a
challenge in itself.
A well-positioned brand stands apart from competitors by distinguishing itself through unique attributes in order to make the buying processes easier. But not all brand attributes are equal.
Operational effectiveness, technological superiority or even attributes like price and quality are not real differentiators that create substantial distinction in the minds of customers, that is, unless price alone is the motivation for buying.
All of these attributes are fluid and can change overnight if competitors produce a better product or lower their price.
What separates great brands from commodities is that great brands connect with customers, not over product features but over an underlying idea or belief that rings true for both parties.
The textbook example is Apple’s belief in being different and challenging the status quo. Although this is a consumer product, the market favors B2B companies that avoid commoditization and clearly communicate what drives them to do what they do.
Quality is a favorite attribute that nearly all companies ascribe to their products and is arguably the most blasé. This is certainly not an attribute that companies should disavow, but the word has largely lost its meaning because most products claim this attribute as their own. Further, quality products are simply the starting point or standard that customers expect from their purchases.
A Possible Solution
By and large “quality” is not a differentiating idea per se; however, there are other ways to demonstrate quality without explicitly saying it. Part of the problem with quality is that makers of the worst product in a given segment would claim this attribute. If this is an attribute that your communications cannot live without, perhaps consider having all mentions of quality come from customers or other performance-related metrics that illustrate customers’ satisfaction, instead of simply saying it.
There are many components to a solid marketing strategy, but positioning is paramount.
Brand positioning is the means by which growing companies hone their communications
in order to increase revenue, expand to new markets, retain customers, increase pricing,
and more. Why?
1. Humans are hardwired to value what is unique. Brands that differentiate themselves from competitors by owning a uniquely desirable attribute are inherently more valuable to customers. For example, there are many car brands to choose from, but Volvo owns safety, the Geek Squad owns computer repair, and P&G owns consumer product innovation. The success of these brands can largely be attributed to how they have differentiated themselves from dozens if not thousands of competitors.
2. Humans generally associate things with one or two key ideas. BMW offers more than German engineering—they also offer leather seats, safety, prestige, and more, but they lead with one message, namely, that they create the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” When they came out with that tagline, there was almost certainly someone who argued, “What about luxury!? What about safety!?” But BMW has been successful because they focused on one attribute: performance driving. What specific attribute best conveys value to your customers?
Here are a few questions to consider when discussing positioning with your team.
Does your company focus on a single
Is this focus actually being communicated?
If asked, could clients identify the differentiator(s)?
Do employees understand the differentiator?
Aside from money, what motivates your
employees to get out of bed and go to
If your company was acquired and liquidated, what would be lost?
What intangible benefit do customers get from your products?
Who is your audience?
What do you want them to do?
What do they need to believe in order to act?
What do they need to know in order to believe?
What valuable attributes are not being
claimed in your market?
What channels are underutilized by competitors?
Does your brand have a different personality from competitors?
What is seamless brand storytelling?
Here’s an example to illustrate:
Let's say you go to a high-end mall with stores that carry some of the most prestigious fashion brands in the world. They display a number of visual cues that tell passersby about their brand and instantly create expectations about what is inside.
The remarkable window displays, security guards, and well-dressed employees convey important information about the value of the goods, the experience that shoppers will have inside, and, perhaps most importantly, information about the people who shop there.
For many people, these cues say, “Move along buddy; J. Crew is that way.” On the other hand, consumers with better fashion sense will be attracted to the quality and distinction associated with these brands.
These stores are not simply selling high-end goods; they are telling a complete and believable story about their brand through all of their customer touchpoints. In this case, high-end brands provide seamless high-end experiences. Everything from customer service, packaging, and the unexpected perks that go with shopping at one of these boutiques makes it clear that luxury is what these brands are selling.
Seamless storytelling comes from authentic brands who can’t help but act and communicate according to what they believe. What unique attributes is your brand claiming?
Are you a high-tech company? Does your website look out of date?
Do you look and feel like an innovator?
Do you emphasize customer service?
Is your website easy to use?
Do you have a chat feature on your website?
Do you target a specific niche?
Are you easily identifiable as part of the “tribe?”
Whatever you are trying to sell, make sure that you are consistently communicating a seamless brand story that is always believable and never gives customers a reason to doubt your authenticity.