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What is brand positioning?

Brand positioning is the position your brand takes in its marketplace. “Position” means the territory it stakes out, what you want it to be known for – and what makes the brand different to any other. The position a brand takes should give you direction in terms of the way you market it, the way you make decisions about its future and the way you decide on things like developing new products and services.

What should brand positioning be like?

Brand positioning is an idea – or even an ideal – which should be articulated in a simple statement. This simple statement should be clear, but it should be high level enough to be applied conceptually to virtually all business activities.

For example, let’s imagine a brand that positions itself as “Beautifully simple, simply beautiful” (maybe it’s a stripped-back cosmetics company). This brand should be “Beautifully simple, simply beautiful” in everything it does. Its premises should be easy to use and lovely to look at. Its accountancy systems should be too. And the experience of working for them or doing business with them. A positioning like this means there should be an accompanying, organisation-wide culture of eradicating unnecessary complication – to make life as beautiful as possible.

Why is positioning important to customers?

Customers have a lot of choice. Even if, every now and again, a truly unique product comes to market, it won’t remain unique for long. If something is interesting enough, others will rush to copy it and get in on the act. This means that quite often, there isn’t a lot of difference between two products. In the leisure/outdoor clothing market, for example, a Howies t-shirt will arguably perform in pretty much the same way as a similarly-priced North Face t-shirt. So when people choose to buy from Howies instead of North Face, they’re making a choice at a deeper, more emotional level.

Howies’ positioning is about authenticity and genuinely understanding the needs of mountain bikers, surfers, skateboarders and general outdoorsiness. It’s also about ethical sourcing and local manufacture – and being cool in a way that respects nature and people. When its customers choose Howies, it’s not just for the design (which you could get similar versions of from a number of retailers). They’re choosing them because the values of Howies align – at least to some degree – with their own.

And this is why telling a clear and consistent story about your organisation is so important; it helps your ideal customer to find you fascinating enough to seek you out.

Why is a brand positioning important internally?

The position your brand or organisation takes in its market affects a lot more than marketing. It should also heavily influence your organisation’s culture and decision-making.

For example, if your organisation’s position in its marketplace is “empowering”, you would need to make decisions based on which courses of action are most likely to empower customers and your own teams. You would also need to have an internal culture that empowers. It’s what is meant by “living and breathing” your brand.

How does positioning fit in with the rest of brand?

The position a brand takes in its market is the beginning of its story. A brand’s position is its apex message. It should be the number one thing a brand or organisation wants its customers, its teams and stakeholders to know about it – and expect of it. And it should validate this expectation by thinking and acting in a way that aligns with the positioning.

A brand’s positioning, its values, its mission – and all other elements of brand – should align and support one another.

Does a brand’s positioning have to be about sustainability?

To be clear, a successful position doesn’t have to be “worthy”. Cillit Bang doesn’t pretend to be saving the planet – but it’s still a highly successful brand that customers actively seek out. That’s in no small part because of its positioning – and the way the brand consistently uses it as an apex message. (In case you’ve never encountered Cillit Bang, its positioning is about speed and effectiveness – Bang! And the dirt is gone.)

The reason that “sustainable” brands are often used as examples of great positioning is that they’re often very focused and make a really good job of telling a consistent story. We kind of think this is why the concepts of “brand positioning” and “brand purpose” have conflated somewhat in recent years. You can read what we think about this here.

How do you articulate a brand positioning?

A brand positioning statement should be just a handful of words. But the thinking and research to get to this short statement shouldn’t be scrimped on. When you launch a new product – or indeed, begin to think about how you could improve the way you’re letting the world know about your brand – you need to do a thorough job. When we help our clients to articulate their brand position, we do several things, including:

  • Research the marketplace to see how competitors position themselves in it
  • Talk to all stakeholders about what the brand does, what it promises and what it represents
  • Hold workshops to help teams express what’s special about the brand, and what the world would be missing out on if it weren’t there
  • Consider other elements of the brand (if they exist yet), including values and vision
  • Reach a position and stress test it to see if it will hold true in a number of scenarios
  • Create a final statement

Is a brand positioning statement the same as a strapline?

For many organisations, their positioning is expressed exactly in their strapline. However, the strapline and the brand positioning statement don’t have to be exactly the same. And while all brands should have a positioning statement, not all brands need a strapline.

Is Wordtree a brand positioning agency?

Yes, Wordtree is a brand positioning agency. We’ve created brand positions for organisations you’ll have heard of – and some that you won’t have. You can read about some of them here:

ASH
Sea Arch
Hornsby Law Group

If you’d like to talk to us about positioning, please get in touch.