Branding for Bucks: positioning is vital

Last blog I promised I’d speak to the concept of positioning and its importanceBranding for Bucks in the branding process.

Positioning is vital to a successful brand.

It is the most important aspect of branding, but it’s also a major determinant of how the business or product will be developed. So ideally, positioning would be an integral part of the original development of the business plan.

So what is positioning? It’s differentiating your business, product or service from your competitors in a way that’s meaningful and activating with your future customers.

I could write a year’s worth of blog posts about positioning. But I’ll stick to the basics here.

It’s essential for your business to provide a certain level of service that customers expect from a company in your product category. For instance, if you’re a dry cleaner, you need a system for cleaning – at least as good as the cleaners you plan to compete against. That’s a cost of doing business. Every dry cleaner must have that capability. Those “givens” that every competitor offers will not differentiate your business. You’ll need to take it, whatever “it” is, to another level to differentiate yourself.

You may find that difference in your business plan. But just as likely you won’t. It could be your business model: mobile dry cleaning for instance. It may be in the design of your product. It could be your experience and background if you’re providing professional services. Whatever it is, it must be something only you can ligitimately promote, but which your target market(s) – as identified in your business plan – will find compelling.

One other thing: you cannot pre-empt a competitor’s position by shouting louder than they do. Once a position, based on a differentiator, is established it’s their’s. You must find a position unoccupied by competition because imitators are generally losers in the branding arena.A strong brand will have a unique voice, but more important, a unique offering with attributes not shared, or at least emphasized, by competitors.

A recommended way to establish your unique position through differentiation is to follow a three-step process.

1) Identify the attributes of importance to consumers and determine how competitors rank with those attributes.This can be done through do-it-yourself market research.The important thing here is to measure how customers percieve various choices, not necessarily what the competitors say about themselves. Also, a measure of the importance of each attribute to consumers needs to be ascertained.

The star chart below shows one way of deliniating the results of such a survey. The example is for a restaurant attempting to enter a market already possessing many fine dining establishments.
Six attributes of restaurants patrons deem important

2) Look at various combinations of attributes, particularly those most important to consumers, and how competitors align in these matrices. Here you’re looking for positions that are not now being fulfilled, but are desirable of consumers.

Here are a couple of examples from the restaurant example. Note how the size of the grey circle indicates the uniqueness of a desirable position in the upper right of the matrix.

Positioning attributes important to customersa positioning approach

3) Determine how you can fulfill a desirable, un-occupied position. This may involve changing some of your early decisions about the business or product. It’s also an admonition to perform positioning research prior to making too many business decisions.

A declaration of your positioning and how you will defend it will now be incorporated as a plank in your brand platform, as well as in your business plan, revised as required to occupy the position. In addition, supplemental features that help in differentiating the offering should be included in your brand platform under the section I’d call “differentiators”.

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