positioning strategy communicated with light at the end of the tunnel image

As highlighted in the first of this four-part series on brand positioning strategy, the most common method for defining a brand’s promise is through a customer end benefit—the “what.”  You know your brand does this when its promise answers the question, “What tangible benefit does the brand provide, presumably to its target customer?” Sometimes, however, a brand’s “what” might not be all that special, exciting, or unique. When multiple brands in a category attempt to position around a common end benefit—especially a pedestrian category ante—brand monotony is the inevitable outcome.

Focusing on “How”

A brand focused on the “how” focuses on the process or approach the brand takes to deliver, rather than the promise itself. Brands like these emphasize the added benefits that differentiate their product from others in the marketplace. When a brand has an end promise similar to others in the market, it is imperative they do not just promote that promise. These brands benefit most from highlighting a journey or an exciting path the product or service will take you on before reaching the actual end goal. We see these types of marketing with car companies, airline providers, and even some lifestyle brands. These types of companies all have similar end promises to their competitors, which is why focusing on the “how” is a great marketing strategy. 

One of the best examples of this positioning strategy is Apple. Apple has continued to focus more and more on the “how” approach. Functionally, Apple creates products that have almost identical competitors already in the market, making it essential they focus on other things. Since the core function of their products (calling, accessing the internet, etc.) isn’t as exciting or unique, Apple must market the bells and whistles of its products. Highlighting the high-tech camera or the face-recognizing unlocking software is what is going to get them ahead in the monotonous market when going against Samsung or Google.

Planet Fitness’ Judgement-Free Zone

When focusing positiosning strategy on “how” your brand delivers you are highlighting how the consumer will reach their ultimate goal—not merely what that goal is. Planet Fitness is a company doing a great job with this. With the slogan “Judgement-Free Zone,” Planet Fitness hoped to create a gym that will provide a comfortable environment for members to work out and better themselves. During an interview with CBS, CEO Chris Rondeau stated that “if you think about our business model and our marketing, it’s a marketing machine.” He believes that the way they are advertising their new approach to what a gym should look like will be what is going to make consumers pick Planet Fitness over its competitors.

We can see the “how” brand positioning strategy throughout the different markets and segments. The similarity of these markets is that they are all very crowded and in need of a change in focus. Marketing the “how” can be innovative and creative. Since consumers likely already know the end goal, markers should take this chance to create a new and more captivating journey or path their product will take customers on to distract from the less exciting end promise. 

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