When most people think of branding, they think of the basic elements which define a company’s brand, such as a logo, tagline, or brand colors. While these may all seem like small elements, every choice made in the branding process can be hugely impactful in brand recognition and perception. In fact, color alone can improve brand recognition by up to 80%. However, creating a brand goes well beyond the scope of creating cohesive visuals and messages. A great deal of work must go into brand positioning, building brand equity, and telling a story that resonates with your audience.
Storytelling is one of the most effective marketing strategies of 2022; the modern consumer doesn’t just want to buy certain brands or products. They value the ideas and stories that brands create and market to them in attractive, value-creating ways. But how do brands come to represent different ideas? How do customers come to view brands as having different qualities? Where does a brand’s identity come from? This is where the concept of brand positioning comes in.
The first thing to understand is that branding and brand positioning are different. Your brand positioning strategy will play a role in branding, but a brand as a whole is much more than its position in the market.
Brand positioning is a way of shaping the perception your brand has among customers. The goal of a brand positioning strategy is to get customers to associate your brand with different qualities or traits. Some brands might want to be perceived as luxurious. Others might aim for value.
Take Apple, for example. It’s synonymous with innovation, design and elegance. Apple’s brand messaging is reflected in everything it does — from services and products to its website and all other assets. Or we could also look at Walmart as an example. The consumer goods giant speaks to affordability and convenience. It’s a one-stop store with cost-effective products, promising something for everybody. Each company’s brand positioning is clear (and effective). They know who they are and how they should represent themselves — from both a visual and a messaging standpoint — to their audiences. That stems from having a brand positioning strategy.
Your current position will be the starting point of your brand positioning strategy. In some cases, you might just build on the existing position you already have. In others, you might need to change perceptions or work to move your brand to a new position. Some businesses might need to build a new brand from the ground up.
This is another case where you need to look to your customers. What is their perception of your brand? Do they see your brand the way you want them to? Are they even the customers you want to target? Is the view of your brand favorable, unfavorable, or somewhere in between?
Most businesses compete in a sea of competition. You might even have several brands that want to hold a similar position to yours. This is why you need to find your unique value proposition, or something that differentiates your business from its competitors.
For example, your product might be more expensive than a competing product, but it’s easier to use or has other benefits. In some cases, your value proposition (or unique selling point) is a feel or a vibe.
If you’re going to compete, you need to know what you’re up against. Identify the brands you compete with and conduct a competitor analysis. What products do they offer that compete with yours? What do they do well? Where are they coming up short? What position do they hold in the market? What are some ways you can differentiate your brand?
You don’t want to copy the brand positioning strategy of your competition, but there can be value in studying it. It can help you identify marketing channels that offer a lot of value. You could also see gaps in the market. It could also help you identify current trends or predict market shifts that might come in the near future.
Brand positioning only works if it clicks with your intended audience. If you’re going to succeed, you need to know your customers and the ways you can reach them. Are they old or young? Do they even fit in a specific cage group? Are your customers mostly one gender? Do they share common interests? What would make them shop for products like yours?
Perform user research to learn more about your customers. Hold surveys and focus groups. Social media analysis can be another way to gain insights as you develop a plan for brand positioning. If you’re working on startup branding, you might not have many customers (yet). In that case, it might help to build a persona for the ideal customer you are trying to reach.
At this point, you can create a brand positioning statement. The positioning statement is a document that outlines the position you want your brand to take in the minds of customers. It outlines the message you want to convey and how you want to be perceived. Your brand may also outline points from the company’s vision statement or mission statement.
A clear brand positioning strategy boils down to how well you can communicate these fundamental questions:
Who are you?
State what your company believes in, your reason why. This is what is considered a mission statement; it should be the basis for separating your company from every other competitor.
What do you do?
This is where your business should explain the effect it’ll have in the marketplace (a vision statement). Brands like Starbucks don’t just sell coffee, they “believe what they do makes the world a better place.” So what they’re saying is that a cup of coffee inspires, nurtures, and makes people better. Your vision should be special and evocative; it should move people emotionally, rather than make sense intellectually.
Who do you serve?
Picture your most loyal customer, the one who’s most excited to work with you. If you can recreate that times 100, you’ll be able to identify who you’re selling to. Once you can narrow down who your best client is, it’ll be much easier to find and attract them.
Developing a brand voice will be a crucial element for many businesses trying to create a brand positioning framework. Your brand voice is the tone your brand uses when communicating with customers. It can make your brand more identifiable and more relatable. It can also give a brand more of an identity or personality.
How do you develop a brand voice? It will depend on several factors unique to your business and your brand positioning strategy. Go back to what you know about your customers. What do they want and expect from a business like yours? Do you have specific values you want to represent? Is there a type of personality that will work well for your brand? Build your brand voice and create guidelines for using it to communicate with customers.
A brand positioning strategy will not be effective if there’s no consistency. If customers are constantly getting different messaging or a different tone from one touchpoint to the next, it will be hard to establish or hold a position for your brand.
Customers are probably going to interact with your brand in many ways. From your website and social media to packaging and other brand elements, you need to ensure a level of consistency. For example, make sure you are using the same brand voice and consistent messaging no matter where your customers find you.
One final point is that brand positioning is a continuous process. If you stop reinforcing your position, it will begin to drift. Brands also need to realize that adjustments may be necessary from time to time. Keep an eye on your strategy and track results. See what works and what doesn’t. Listen to what your customers say and adapt accordingly.
If you’re interested in Big Human’s brand positioning services, feel free to reach out. We’d love to chat with you.