AN OVERVIEW OF THE POSITIONING PROCESS
Few things will help your brand build an engaging online audience faster than a properly developed brand position strategy. The objective of a positioning strategy is to influence how your target characterizes your brand in relation to all the other options available to them. Being properly positioned in your target’s mind will help your brand stand out in the crowd by differentiating your offer, reinforcing brand value and increasing the probability of converting prospects to customers. In this article we’ll provide an overview of the steps you can use to ensure you position your brand to be able to compete online and off.
1. Lay the Foundation
A positioning statement does not exist in isolation. It is one of several parts of your brand’s strategy that must be built upon and carefully coordinated with the target market you have defined, your brand’s value proposition, brand attributes, external communication, and most important, the product itself. So before you begin your positioning exercise, make sure all these things are clearly defined.
2. Talk to the Target
You should have someone experienced in this type of interviewing help you. Ideally, this person is outside your organization to ensure an unbiased interpretation. This work is best done with in-depth interviews with a representative sampling of your target market. What you want to establish in the interview is:
- The category the target places your brand in. If your brand is not yet in the market, describe it to them as truthfully as possible and have them tell you how they would categorize it.
- How the subject positions your brand in that category. If your brand is not yet in the market, describe it to them as truthfully as possible and have them tell you how they would position it.
- How they position the other brands in the category or other competing options outside the category.
- What unmet needs are not yet covered by existing products in the category.
- How important those unmet needs (vacant positions) are to the target.
3. Analyze Findings
Data collected from the interviews should be examined by a third party experienced in this type of work to ensure an unbiased interpretation. This person should:
- Map the target’s existing categories and which brands they assign to those categories. Explore starting a new category.
- Map existing positions and how entrenched they are in the market’s mind. Weakly held positions may be taken from competing brands, although its usually easier to create a new position. Trying to take over an entrenched position is not advisable unless your product offers a jaw-dropping, highly demonstrable advantage in that regard.
- Suggest opportunities in terms of unmet needs that could be used to build a position around.
4. Adapt to the market
Most marketers understand that the position will influence brand promotion in terms of key messages and slogans. But more often than not, there are adjustments that can be made to the product, price, and place, as well as the promotion, to make the position more credible and defendable. Every effort should be made to make these adjustments. This is why the position work is best done early in the product development cycle while there is still time and willingness to make the adjustments required to occupy a valid position.
5. Focus, and then Focus Some More
Like good targeting, positioning is an act of exclusion, not inclusion. Do not try to cram too many attributes into your position. Aim to own one word. Any more than that and your position is likely to become invisible. Remember, there may be lots to say, but you can only say one thing first. That first thing is your position. It needn’t communicate every reason there is to buy your product, it just needs to differentiate you from the herd and invite further exploration of your brand.
For instance, Volvo owns (owned) “safety”. Did consumers only buy Volvos because of safety features? No, of course not. In the actual purchase decision process, safety probably took a backseat to several other attributes. In fact, there were other car brands that statistically were safer than Volvo. But none of those brands claimed safety as their position. For Volvo, safety was a relevant, believable, and unique position. Focusing on it gave the brand a consistent and differentiating theme to communicate, build a reputation around, create a brand story, maintain awareness with, and make the brand memorable.
So don’t get too hung up if your position does not include every reason people buy your product. Positioning is not a sales pitch. It’s a handle that differentiates your brand and gives your target something to grab onto and hold it.
6. Commit, Coordinate, and Nurture
Once you have a position, all your marketing efforts should orbit around it. Your position should be obvious from your promotion. But positioning isn’t a cosmetic promotional tactic. It is the core of your brand’s competitive strategy. So it must also be evident in the product itself, its price, and how and where it is sold. Moving forward, you should be trying to align all your prospect and customer touch points so that they reinforce your position.
And remember, positioning is not an event. It’s a process that needs to be tended to every day. A clear position consistently executed across all your touch points in a market can convey a significant competitive advantage to your brand. Hard to achieve, for sure, but well worth the effort.