Brand Positioning and Your Competitive Frame of Reverence: A Step-by-Step Approach

Any brand consists of two components: its Identity and its Position A brand’s Identity (aka its DNA) articulates what the brand stands for and what the business believes in. A brand’s Position defines:

  • HOW it compares and competes against other brands
  • WHO you are selling to
  • WHAT is the business’s purpose
  • HOW to create unique value for customers

 A Brand’s Competitive Frame of Reference (CFR)

The CFR is the IMAGE you want customers to have of your brand within the market category you function in. The THINGS you do for customers that no other business in your CFR does or does badly, or not as efficiently. This unique value articulates customer benefits vs. product/service functions.

Step 1: Think Differently About What Business Your Business Is In

Consider WHAT your brand does for consumers vs. what you SELL. For example, if you are an insurance broker you are really in the business of selling ‘peace of mind to customers. If you own a store that sells sneakers, you are really in the inspiration and status business.

Create a list of the possible businesses you are REALLY in and identify the leading brands in each. The one that most directly reflects HOW their core customers think about WHAT they do is probably their most effective CFR.

Step 2: Consider The Life-stage Of The Brand

If you are a start-up or emerging business you should define your CFR more narrowly since your primary challenge is getting customers to choose you over existing competitors. Later in the life stage of your brand, you can define your CFR more broadly.

The answers to Steps 1 and 2 will provide an understanding of the best definition and
scope of your CFR.

Step 3: List Key Competitors in Your CFR and The Unique Benefit Each Delivers in The Marketplace

Use industry research, analysts’ reports, social media, published communications, press releases, etc. to help understand each competitive brand’s strengths and differentiation. Then, develop a description of each competitor’s unique benefit.

Step 4: Prepare Charts Which Identify The Competitive ‘White Space’ For Your Brand

Draw several charts, each with an X and Y-axis. For example, low price vs. premium price, women vs. men, online vs. in-store. Plot the relative positions of the brands in your CFR. Make as many charts as required. Refer to Step 1 when thinking of axes.

Step 5: Identify Your Brand’s Unique Value By Evaluating The Opportunities In The Charts

For each chart, pinpoint where the competitive ‘white space’ is (where there are no competitors) and place your brand in that space. Examine each chart and note the unique benefits of the competitive brands and the value of your brand relative to theirs in the context of the white space. The charts that reveal the most compelling value for your brand should become clear. It will be the ones with the most significant whitespace and the most differentiating benefit.

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