A company’s Brand and its vision/mission are one and the same. What must be accomplished is the brand positioning in the marketplace.
The process and discipline of design, development, and management of a Brand is not only very important but requisite for success. Therefore many articles, I write, address the how and why to develop and manage a Brand. One major topic is Brand Positioning.
A clear competitive brand position is essential to brand-building because it defines who you are selling to, what your business scope is, and how you create unique value for your customers.
Your Brand Positioning is one part of the strategic platform of your Brand. It describes how you compare and compete against other brands. The other part of your strategic brand platform is your brand identity, which articulates what you stand for and believe in.
Brand Positioning Statement
Management for any business must forge a brand position statement. The statement should read as follows: For (core customer name), we are the (competitive frame of reference) who does (unique value) because (reasons to believe).
Competitive Frame of Reference
The mental file folder you want your customers to put you in. Usually this is your industry category, but keep in mind that people don’t necessarily think of products in terms of specific categories and in some cases you might be creating a new category so there is no obvious frame of reference. Plus, many purchase decisions involve ‘indirect competition’ – that is when consumers give themselves options: Water or soda? Dinner or movie? Vacation or new car?
The unique value of your Brand is what you do for people that either no one in your competitive frame of reference offers or doesn’t perform as well. You should think about and articulate this in terms of customer benefit. Look at what you do from a customer’s point-of-view.
Developing Your Brand Positioning
1. What business are you in? Consider what you do for consumers instead of the product/service you produce. Create a list of the possible businesses you might be in and identify the leading brands in each. The one that most directly reflects how your core customers think about what you do is probably your most effective competitive frame of reference.
2. Consider what life-stage your Brand is in. If you are a start-up, you should define your competitive frame of reference more narrowly since your primary challenge is simply getting consumers to choose you over other existing companies. Later in the life-stage of your brand, you should define your frame more broadly since you’ll probably want to consider avenues for new growth through adjacent markets, categories, capabilities.
3. List key competitors in your competitive frame of reference and the unique benefit each delivers. Use industry research, analyst reports, review of competitors experiences and communications, and social media to help you understand each brand’s points of strength and differentiation. Compile a description of each competitor’s unique benefit.
Competitive landscape mapping
4. Use competitive landscape maps to identify the competitive white space for your Brand. Start by drawing several charts, each with an x and y axis. For the first chart, start with axes that are standard for your category – for a snack food, for example, your axes might be low price vs. premium, sweet vs. salty, kids vs. adults. Plot on the chart the relative positions of brands in your competitive frame of reference.
On the next chart, use different axes that represent different attributes of your category. Continue to create new charts experimenting with different axes, especially those that speak to customer emotions or different usage occasions. The more charts the better to define your competition specifically.
5. Identify the unique value of your Brand by evaluating the opportunities in the landscapes. In each chart, pinpoint where the competitive white space is and place your Brand in that white space. Then examine the positions and unique benefits of competitive brands and identify the unique value of your Brand relative to theirs in the context of that white space. After you examine the charts, the one that reveals the most compelling value for your Brand should become clear. Namely, it’s the one with the most significant white space and the most differentiating benefit.
The process of Brand Positioning is both an art and science – but it works and will set your Brand apart from all others. And remember: all products or services can be copied. This only thing that can’t be copied is your Brand!
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