Brand Positioning – Making the right impression
Brand Positioning is about creating the perception in the minds of your target customers that your brand/business can satisfy their needs and wants.
Immediately after the selection of your Target Markets (see last week’s blog for Target Market Selection) Brand Positioning is the second most important strategic marketing decision and planning area for your business.
If Target Market Selection is about deciding who you want to target with your brand, business and marketing resources, then Brand Positioning is about deciding what impression you want to make when you are lucky enough to reach your target customer groups.
“No point spending money reaching your target customers if you don’t know what you want to say to them when you do reach them!”
Brand Positioning is not only a critical part of your marketing strategy but it can also sometimes be one of the most difficult and most subjective concepts within marketing for people to grasp.
Branding History 101
I am not a history buff although it has been suggested that I occasionally attempt to re-write it to suit myself.
However, it occurred to me that if we look back at the origins of branding it can help shed some light on what it is that we need to achieve with our own brand positioning.
A quick Google and Wikipedia review suggests that branding dates back to the Ancient Egyptians (circa 3150 BC) where it was used to identify and protect animals. By the European Middle Ages (somewhere between the 5th and 15th Centuries) it was being used to identify larger grazing animals such as cattle. These European customs were then imported into the Americas where it became a very important part of Ranching where multiple brands (ownership) of cattle grazed the same areas of land. Livestock branding then spread to Australia in 1866.
Meanwhile, along this journey of livestock branding, other items have also been branded such as humans. Yes that’s right, branding was also used for identifying people. Slaves were often identified by branding. Criminals were often branded as punishment, humiliation and also for permanent record keeping. Later branding became common for identifying membership to groups, faith and tribes etc. often on a voluntary basis.
From there branding was found to be useful for identifying places, nations and of course businesses, products and services.
So History tells us brands are Unique and Communicative
The above history lesson tells us that the concept of branding is:
A) Associated with clearly and uniquely identifying something
B) Intended to communicate information about the branded item
Implications for Brand Marketers?
So as marketers the implications are that we need our brands to be:
- Clear and easily recognisable as our brands i.e. as unique as possible
- Effective in communicating what is special about our brands i.e. in keeping with the needs/wants of our primary target markets
Brand Awareness versus Brand Positioning
An important branding concept to get right is the difference between Brand Awareness and Brand Positioning. The differences are pretty obvious but getting the marketing linguistics right will help ensure you spend your marketing resources effectively.
Brand Awareness as a concept relates to the proportion of a population that remembers or recognises your brand. In other words, brand awareness measures the proportion of a population that is aware that your brand actually exists.
There are numerous methods and criteria for measuring brand awareness levels within a population which I will cover in future blog posts.
However, the main point is that Brand Awareness simply measures the proportion of a population that is aware of your brand.
Of course, we are most interested in the proportion of our Primary and Secondary Target Markets that are aware of our brand and what we can do to increase that outcome.
Brand Positioning on the other hand relates to the perception that is created in the minds of the target market. In other words, brand positioning is about the personality, style, values and qualities etc. that are communicated on those occasions where your target customer is made aware of your brand.
Brand Positioning is by far the most subjective of the two concepts and the one that we must strive to get right and then protect so that we communicate a powerful and consistent message to our target customers.
How to define the best Brand Positioning for your Brand
I have summarised what I consider to be the most important steps in defining your most appropriate, or ‘ideal’ brand positioning for your brand.
- Brand Audit
- Customer Needs Analysis
- Identifying Your Point of Difference
- Prioritising Key Attributes
- Protecting your Brand
Brand Positioning 101
As with last week’s blog topic (the selection of Target Markets) the topic of Brand Positioning is worthy of a semester at a reputable university. However, in the interests of keeping things real I recommend that business owners and operators follow the steps that I have outlined below.
Five (5) Steps to Defining your Brand Positioning
Step 1 – Brand Audit
Understanding how customers currently perceive your brand
One of the first things you need to do is understand what your customers currently think of your brand. A quick way of doing this is to analyse what messages your customers are being exposed to including:
- Your logo and branding devices
- Your website and social media presence
- Your premises, offices, factories or retail outlet
- The performance and professionalism of your staff
- The tools that you use to reach your customers such as emails, newsletters, advertising, signage etc. etc.
- All other elements that are exposed to your customers including delivery vehicles, packaging and even invoicing etc.
While you are completing this process it will also be useful to complete the same exercise on your competitors so that you can start to piece together the full picture that your customers will be exposed to.
“After all, your customers do not operate in a vacuum. They will be exposed to your competitors and hopefully, also your brand.”
If you have the time and the resources it is also good practice to implement some customer research. However, to achieve useful feedback and information it may be necessary to gain input and advice from a marketing company such as Baker Marketing or a consumer researcher as customer feedback generated by brand owners can sometimes be misleading for a variety of reasons.
Assess the Current Perceptions of Your Brand
The end outcome that we are after is to complete a stocktake of all the branding factors that the customer is exposed to in relation to your brand.
From here you can make an assessment of the current perceptions that your target customers are likely to hold.
Step 2 – Customer Needs Analysis
Understanding what is important to your target customers
The Customer Needs Analysis is about drilling down and understanding which needs and wants are of highest priority to your target customers when they are making a purchase decision.
There are two important concepts to consider here, namely:
- Which needs are most important to your target customers
- Which needs are most feasible for your brand/company to deliver or satisfy
Customer Needs versus Feasibility to Deliver
It is important to prioritise in terms of needs that are important to the customer. However, in addition to prioritising your brand attributes in terms of needs that are of the most importance to the target customer, remember:
“It is critical to ensure that it is feasible for you to actually deliver what it is that you are promising.”
Step 3 – Identifying Your Point of Difference
Defining what is most special about you
Many marketing texts talk in terms of:
- “Identifying your sustainable point of difference”
- “Defining your Unique Selling Point or USP”
- “Uncovering your Competitive Advantage”
- “Defining your Point of Distinction”
I sometimes think of it as:
“Discovering the Holy Grail of Brand Positioning“
Quite often the reality is that what is special about your brand is not completely unique. In today’s competitive market environment it is not always easy to identify points of difference that are of high importance to the target customer and that are truly unique or definitely sustainable as a point of difference.
However, we must strive to uncover that combination of high-importance needs that we can satisfy (i.e. feasible) and features and benefits that our brands offer that are most special, most unique and sustainable as a point of difference where possible.
Every time you do this you make it easier for your customers to:
A) Remember your brand and
B) Make a decision to choose your brand over competitors in the first place
Step 4 – Prioritising Key Attributes
Defining what is most important and feasible for your brand to deliver
Positioning Attributes are simply the marketing term for factors that define and/or describe your brand, for example:
- Premium, exclusive, luxury
- Economy, low-price, value-for-money
- Delicious, taste sensations, tasty
- Hi-tech, modern, traditional
- Etc. etc.
After completing Steps 1 to 3 you now have a list of your target markets needs in relation to your brand that is also prioritised in terms of:
A) Importance to the target customer
B) Feasibility to deliver
In Step 3 you may have also uncovered or further defined the Holy Grail of brand positioning (i.e. your sustainable point of difference).
You are now well placed to evaluate the best combination of Importance to the customer and feasibility and to define the most effective brand positioning attributes for your brand.
When working with business owners and operators we find that this can be quite a complex process. We find taking a structured approach to this decision making process and using tables and ranking criteria helpful in ensuring that our clients are making the right decisions.
Brand Logic 101
After you have completed Steps 1 to 3 and you should have a list of customer needs that are both important to the target customer and highly feasible for you to implement.
My logic tells me that if they are both of high importance to the target customer and highly feasible to implement then this is a good indicator of what should be your high priority Brand Positioning Attributes.
Step 5 – Protecting your Brand
Ensuring consistent brand positioning
The desired end outcome of Steps 1 to 4 is a prioritised list of brand positioning attributes which are both of high importance to the target customer and feasible to deliver. In amongst this will also be your most sustainable point of difference.
It is this high-priority list of Desired Brand Positioning Attributes in which I recommend that you use as the basis of your brand communication.
It is now important to protect your brand. This means you need to consistently communicate an image that reflects your desired brand positioning attributes.
If you want your brand to be seen as premium/hi-tech/exotic/professional/etc you must ensure that all messages to which your target customers are exposed are also premium/hi-tech/exotic/professional/etc.
This means that the following marketing tools must also communicate premium/hi-tech/exotic/professional/etc to your target customers:
- Logo/branding device
- Social media platforms
- Capability statement or corporate profile document
- Brochures and flyers
- Email marketing
- Promotional items
- Level of staff training
- Standard of premises
- Vehicles, uniforms and attitudes
- And basically every aspect of your brand that your target customers are exposed to!
Brand Positioning in a Nutshell
Although sometimes quite complex, the concept of Brand Positioning is simply about defining what is most important to your target customers and shaping your brand so as to communicate that you are able to satisfy those important needs.
So you could say that Brand Positioning is about taking more control of the destiny of your brand rather than having your brand image scattered all over the place like a leaf being blown about in the wind.