Seeking Positioning Excellence

In working with brand teams across a wide variety of industries, the positioning challenges we have faced are equally varied.  And while the experience of having completed hundreds of positioning projects has refined our ability to assist teams in trying to overcome the challenges their brands face, one thread remains common among most, if not all, projects.  These teams have a relatively general understanding of brand positioning and its role, but lack the depth of knowledge to allow them to fully utilize this asset in order to overcome complex challenges in their markets.

This is an understandable situation when taken in the context of the vast responsibilities held by brand teams.  However, since strategic positioning plays such a critical role in the ultimate success of a brand, increasing a team’s depth of understanding towards positioning development, as well as management, is critical.  The question becomes what is the best way to do this?

As we focused on this question it became increasingly clear that there was one solution. Organizations need to take a stance on how they will view positioning, while at the same time raising the level of positioning understanding among their brand teams. However, the solution does not lie on the shoulders of higher level management entirely.  Brand teams need to actively expand the depth of their positioning understanding, within and outside of their industry.

While most marketers can identify the core elements of good positioning (customer target, product benefit, emotional benefit, reason to believe, and competitive frame), many have differing opinions on how best to define them and the importance of each in helping to create differentiation from competitors.  More thorough education on the following is critical to the development of strong positioning:

  • How do we define a rich customer target? 
  • What role does segmentation play in identifying them? 
  • What do I know about the target and how do these insights potentially shape the positioning opportunities for the brand? 
  • What role does the product benefit play in selecting a customer target? 
  • What is the true competitive frame we are working against?
  • Is the product benefit just a simple statement of what the product does for our customer or is it something more? 
  • What role does emotion play in the market we are in, and how does the customer target we have selected shape it? 
  • Are we focused on product specific competitors or forces within the market? 
  • Is it advantageous for us to define a subset of competitors that we have a particular advantage against? 

It would not be possible to appropriately educate on all of these elements in one ‘tip’.  This tip is intended to illustrate the need for more than a cursory acquaintance with positioning.  You can easily see that without deeper knowledge, brand teams can quickly become lost in the positioning weeds and default to a simple, all encompassing positioning statement for the brand.  As we have discussed in previous PositioningTips (click; scroll to Day 5), this is a sure way to competitive mediocrity. 

Our advice to organizations is this: seek positioning excellence not just at a product or franchise level, but throughout the organization and at a corporate level. Take the time to give your brand management teams the tools and guidance they need to master and implement truly strategic brand positioning.  Make available well-sourced literature, develop case studies that illustrate the positioning approach you want your organization to take, encourage engagement with subject matter experts, provide detailed guidance on how to approach positioning, when they should do it, and how it fits in the strategic planning process.  Whatever you do, don’t take for granted that they know what they need to know.  They want the help, they need the help, and too many brands have failed to reach their potential because the help just was not there.

To brand team members, it is much the same: strive for positioning excellence from yourself, your team, and your organization. Seek out the information necessary to be appropriately educated on positioning and be willing to ask for help instead of moving through blindly.  Getting this critical step correct will set the strategic course for your brand throughout its lifecycle and directly affect your brand’s performance.

Brand Engineers l [email protected] l (201) 530-5360