Positioning Strategies for Meaningful Brand Differentiation

Positioning StrategiesToday’s post explores various positioning strategies a brand can use to differentiate from competition.

Each positioning exercise is unique, and is influenced by competition, internal strengths and weaknesses and long term strategic objectives.

3 Ingredients of an Effective Positioning Strategy

Brand positioning is much more than a name, a slogan or a logo. Positioning is the perception the brand creates in the mind of consumers.

The outcome of an effective differentiation strategy is a simple and unique message that is easy to communicate and reinforce over time.

The  key ingredients of an effective, and long lasting positioning strategy are:

  • Relevance-the benefit you are promoting has to be meaningful to the consumer. Always think as a consumer, not as a brand manager, and ask yourself: “Is this benefit really important? Is it something I  am willing to pay for?”
  • Sustainability-the competitive advantage has to be reinforced over time, in order to be remembered. It is important to identify as many supporting elements as possible on which to build your communication strategies. For example, a company that position itself on “trust” might use “peace of mind”, “risk elimination”, “personal relationship , “easy to reach” as supporting elements.
  • Easy to communicate and understand. Albert Einstein said “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it yourself“. The attention span of today’s consumer is shrinking.  Any competitive advantage that takes too much effort to explain and communicate is not worth pursuing. You should be able to use plain language, to quickly explain why your offer is better.

Positioning Strategies For Effective Differentiation

The Innovator

Possibly the most effective of all positioning strategies, differentiation through innovation is also the most difficult to sustain over time. But if you do, this strategy will allow you to radically change the game in an established category, or be the first in a new category.

Realistically, we live in a “me-too” world, with only a few companies are able to generate consistent innovation.

How do you support a positioning as an “innovator”? By always staying ahead of the curve and being the first to introduce an innovative product in your category.

It also requires to be able to respond to competitive moves quickly. Giants such as Microsoft, RIM, Sony and Nokia, once perceived as innovators in their markets, are currently struggling to define their competitive advantage, for this exact reason: the decision to ignore the obvious and the inability to catch up.

The Motivator

Johnnie Walker is my favourite brand of scotch whisky.

Does their product taste better than Ballantine’s and Grant’s? I have no clue. My preference is solely based on their amazing slogan “Keep Walking”. It summarizes one of my life goals: personal progress.

Positioning of people’s social and life motivators is one of the most solid differentiation strategy a brand can pursue.

The need to be recognized. The desire to be successful. The urge to make progress.

The focus with this positioning strategy is shifted from basic product features to the intangibles, which are impossible to compare or quantify. As a result, price becomes a non-issue.

Premium brands make good use of positioning on “emotions”, reinforced by supporting attributes such as a heritage, unique or custom made products, and superior design.

The Specialist

Xerox has become synonym with copying. When we search for information on the web, we “Google” it.

Successful brands are focused, that is, they own a narrow but strong positioning in the mind of consumer. The same rule applies to companies: the specialists are able to better allocate resources and provide a total customer experience in their respective niche.

There are many ways to specialize: create a narrow, but deep, product assortment; target a specific user group (Klein tools are number 1 tool choice for electricians); Offer a unique and simplified distribution system (Amazon is the original online store).

This positioning strategy is very effective weapon against large, multinational competitors, Usually they position themselves as “the one stop solutions” to all customer needs. The task of a specialist brand is to find identify their weaknesses and turn them into your competitive advantage.

The Money Saver

This is the most commonly used of all positioning strategies. Although the consumer benefit is undeniable (we all want to save money) it’s usually best to avoid positioning as “the lowest priced” brand. However there are a few success stories, Walmart being probably the best example.

The positioning strategy is difficult to support over time. In today’s global economy, there will always be a competitor willing to sell for less.

Bottom Line: Meet and Exceed the Promise.

At the core of every business there is a great product. Don’t think of only physical products, but services as well.

No matter what strategy you choose to position you company, the key to success is to deliver on that promise.

Ford’s slogan “Quality is Job 1” sent a powerful message. However it has rapidly become meaningless as customer experience with their vehicles suggested otherwise.

So before you explore positioning strategies make sure your offer will not disappoint.

For more on how to differentiate a brand visit the “Brand Positioning” resource page.

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