The overarching reason why brands such as Nike, Apple, and FedEx attained iconic status is that they intuitively understood how to differentiate their brand in a noisy, cluttered marketplace—they dared to be different.
Over the past several years, our brand consultants have seen numerous examples of markets overcrowding and lines blurring. As a result, it’s almost impossible to differentiate one brand from another. This obscuring makes it hard for continued growth and even harder to get the valuation most brands pursue.
Does your brand have a point of differentiation that gives it an edge over your competitors?
Buyers consider four questions during the purchase process:
- What does the brand stand for?
- What are its promises to the customer
- Is it delivering on these promises?
- And most importantly, how is it different from everyone else?
If there's nothing that differentiates what you and your competitors offer, buyers have no choice except to focus on price. From there, things can only get worse as prices plummet and profit margins vanish. Brand positioning is what differentiates you and saves you from like everyone else. The way your business differs from others tells potential buyers how and why you’re the right choice for them.
Brand positioning strategy
Brand position or brand positioning is how your brand is perceived relative to competitive alternatives. It is the process of differentiating your brand from your competitors in ways that are meaningful to consumers.
The goal of brand positioning is to create a unique impression in a potential buyer’s mind so that the buyer associates something specific and desirable with your brand that is different from your competitors.
A strong brand position is the groundwork of every successful organization. The problem is, many brands don’t put enough emphasis on their positioning and often lack alignment with other business functions. This dilemma leads to inconsistencies in messaging, lack of clarity that confuses consumers on why they are a better option than their competitors.
Trader Joe’s might have been just another food store chain if it wasn’t for their unique brand positioning. With grocery clerks in Hawaiian shirts and fair trade coffee, Trader Joe’s has a style and a mission that sets them apart. The critical elements of Trader Joe’s branding success are fun, quality, and personal experience—their result has been soaring profits.
Dollar Shave Club quickly grew from a small start-up to a billion-dollar company with the help of strong brand positioning. Through clever marketing campaigns, Dollar Shave Club stole customers from traditional razor companies, like Gillette. They kept branding simple by focusing on three main features: convenience, value, and fun. In 2016, the online men’s razor club hit the jackpot when Unilever agreed to buy Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion.
Great branding strategy revolves around clearly articulating your differentiation against competitors. You must persistently push these differentiators to customers and prospects. Many marketers believe their job is to identify strategic advantage, but this falls short. Real differentiation is gained through unique attributes that form "accrued advantage" where customers perceive a meaningful brand difference and are less likely to purchase based on a low-cost offer of the day.
Without clear brand positioning, marketers may struggle to develop a clear idea of how your brand "fits" consumers' lives. Positioning accordingly can help you improve brand awareness, relevance, appeal, and more. Understanding your competition, your customers, and what makes you different, enables you to claim your unique space in the market.