What is brand positioning strategy?

A brand positioning strategy involves creating brand associations in consumers’ minds to make them perceive your brand in a specific way. A great positioning should stand for something unique in stakeholders’ minds (differentiated). Its promise must be both realistic and believable for that brand (credible). The promise is the distinctive payoff a brand provides to its intended target audience. It should also represent the brand’s primary point of difference.

Many successful brands offer promises that are about a purpose (a “why”), a process (a “how”), or relevance to a niche audience (a “who”), independent of (or in addition to) a benefit (a “what”). Regardless of which of these four types is chosen, the key is for the brand promise to represent something that is compelling about—and highly distinctive to—the brand. I will go into detail about the “what” in this post and cover the other types in subsequent blogs. 

Choosing the route to take your brand may never be smooth sailing. The brand you create can either stand out in a monotonous market or can be lost among its homogeneous competitors. How can a company create and build a brand that stands out in today’s jam-packed market? 

In the traditional brand positioning model, conventional wisdom suggests the promise must be a customer benefit—essentially the “what”—that the brand provides to customers. This type of positioning does have a significant advantage—transparency. When establishing the brand around a product’s benefits and attributes, it is clear to consumers what they will be gaining by purchasing it. 

Purchasing with Venmo

A relatively recent entrant to the payment space that focuses its brand on the “what” is Venmo. Venmo is an app that enables the quick and painless electronic transfer of money between people and businesses. Venmo has become so popular that the company name has become a verb, “Will you pick me up some food, I’ll Venmo you!” The company launched the app with the promise of security and convenience. When it involves their money, consumers want transparency, which made the “what” an excellent choice for Venmo. 

Another brand that positions itself around the “what” very well is Amazon.  Initially, Amazon was an e-commerce company that attempted to provide customers with a cheaper, more efficient way to buy products. Since then, Amazon has added a membership service with customer benefits such as one-day shipping, music and tv streaming, and photo storage. Amazon has always been ahead of its time, so few competitors have been in the same ballpark until recently. As a result, they have been able to market their services based solely on the service benefits, or the “what.” Other companies that are starting to follow in Amazon’s footsteps (e.g., Walmart, Target, Kroger), are having to work much harder to compete with Amazon. 

Brand positioning is evolving, and your brand must evolve as well

Highlighting the promise or benefit of the product or service seems like the logical strategy until those benefits and features are the same as your competitors. So, the “what” isn’t suitable for every brand. Brands will have a hard time standing out by fixating on their product when other companies are offering a similar or even exact replica of the product. Examples of companies that have run into this issue include electronics companies (Apple versus Microsoft), cell phone carriers (AT&T versus Verizon), and subscription video-on-demand services (Netflix versus Hulu). These companies may be better suited to focus on other types of brand positioning, such as the “who,” the “why,” or the “how.” Knowing which positioning strategy is the right one for your brand is a vital part of creating a brand. I will go further into these types and what they entail in later blog posts. 

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