Brand positioning, or how to make your product stand out from the competition

Every market strategy is built on the foundations of segmentation, target market selection and product positioning. The last term refers to the act of designing a company's offerings and image in such a way that they occupy a distinct place in the minds of consumers. These activities are aimed at locating the brand in the minds of consumers in a way that maximizes potential benefits for the company. It is worth bearing in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for brand positioning, as the appropriate choice depends on a number of external factors on which the actions taken depend.

Good positioning lies in the present as well as the future. It must be based on the current state of the market and the prospects for future development of the brand. The decision on positioning requires:

  • Establish a frame of reference by identifying the target market and relevant competitors,
  • To know the optimal points of similarity and differentiation in brand associations
  • to create a brand mantra that synthesizes its positioning and essence.

Frame of reference

A competitive analysis will be needed to determine the frame of reference. Which companies should be developed depends on decisions about target markets. A good starting point is to define a competitive frame of reference for brand positioning. An equally effective exercise is to identify the products and their collections with which the brand competes and which function as close substitutes.

Competition can be viewed from both an industry and market perspective. The first approach involves comparing companies offering a product or class of products that are close substitutes for each other. Viewing competition from the point of view of the market focuses on entities that satisfy the same consumer need. In fact, the need of a person who buys a word processor is to write - it can also be met with a pencil, pen or typewriter.

Points of differentiation and commonality

Having created a competitive frame of reference for positioning, the next step is to identify appropriate PODs (points-of-difference) and POPs (points-of-parity).

Differentiation points are features that consumers view positively, but are not provided by competing products at a matching level. These benefits should be tested in the area of 3 criteria: attractiveness, feasibility and differentiation.

Points of similarity, on the other hand, are characteristics that are unique to a brand but shared with other products. They come in two forms: category (features that a product must have in order for an offering to be perceived as credible) and competition (an association created to overcome a brand's weaknesses).

Sometimes more than one set of frames of reference can be identified for a single brand. The Starbucks chain can be used as an example. This entity defines several sets of competitors, where different POPs and PODs are present:

  • Fast food restaurants and small stores (McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Żabka),
  • supermarket brands for home consumption (Folgers and NESCAFE),
  • local cafes.

In this case, it may be useful to create positioning at the category level (for Starbucks: "fast food restaurants" or "supermarket coffee to drink at home") or using a representative example from each product type (for Starbucks: McDonald's or NESCAFE).

There is also the possibility of "okra" positioning, when the points of differentiation for one category become points of similarity in another, and vice versa. Subway restaurants position themselves as offering healthy, tasty sandwiches. This positioning allows the brand to create points of similarity in terms of taste and points of differentiation in terms of health in relation to fast food restaurants (McDonald's or Burger King), and at the same time points of similarity in terms of health and points of differentiation in terms of taste against restaurants and bars serving healthy food. The "okra" positioning helps increase market coverage and potential customer base.

Brand mantra

An effective tool for building positioning is brand mantras. These are short phrases of three to five words designed to capture the essence and spirit of the brand being positioned. It must sparingly communicate what the brand is and what it is not. The brand mantra should meet 3 conditions:

  • Communication (defining the categories of business conducted),
  • simplification (easy to remember) ,
  • inspire (appeal to as many employees as possible).

Once the mantra is built, it is easier to conduct compatible marketing activities.

To build a strong brand, you need to differentiate it efficiently. This can be done by applying differentiation through employees, distribution channels, image and service. However, the above-described activities require a lot of resources and a suitably qualified team.

Small companies often do not have enough resources for developed marketing activities. However, there are guidelines to help build the brand of such entities:

  • Use of low-cost marketing research,
  • Focus on building 1 or 2 strong brands, relying on a small number of associations,
  • The use of a well-integrated set of brand elements,
  • Generating publicity and creating a loyal brand community,
  • Using as many secondary associations as possible.

Product positioning is demanding, yet the benefits that come from it fully reward the effort put in. Try it yourself and see how popular your brand can become.

Konrad Krasnodębski

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