In retail, the key to success is location. Stores and local businesses have to be able to attract foot traffic in order to succeed. It’s all about being in the right spot.

The concept of position for brands is similar to the concept of location for retail. Whether you’re a local, national or online business, you need to find a location, the right spot, in your customers’ minds. It’s the spot where you highlight your product’s strengths so that customers will choose your products or services. Positioning is how you differentiate your products and define who you are and who you aren’t as a company, in the context of your competitors.

Brands are built by customers

Your customer is ultimately going to build your brand, not the other way around. It doesn’t really matter what you think of your products and services. The only thing that matters is how your potential buyers perceive them.

Because of this, positioning isn’t necessarily something you can control. Brand positioning is going to happen whether you develop a position or not, as people form opinions about you and determine whether or not to purchase from you based on those opinions. Customers ultimately experience your brand and develop certain expectations for it based on their experiences.

Why is brand positioning important?

Even though you can’t control what people think, you can guide and influence customer perceptions. The purpose of positioning is to steer customers down a certain path, to the exact aisle and the exact location where they perceive your brand the way you want them to perceive it.

Many clients come to us wondering why what they’re doing isn’t working. They’re not getting the visibility or traffic they need. More often that not, the problem is that they haven’t created that spot in their customers’ minds. They haven’t realized yet that brand positioning is one of the most important steps they can take toward reaching their target audience and achieving success.

Positioning can be a tough thing to do, especially when you’re ready to get going with your business or launch a new product. We all like to think our ideas and businesses are completely original and perfect. They may be, and they may not be. Sometimes our ideas aren’t as original as we think. Positioning might show that what you thought was a home run will only get you to second base, or worse still, to strike out. It gives you insight into your competitors and provide alternate pathways in case your roadmap needs to shift.

Steps to Creating Brand Positioning Strategy

To determine your brand positioning, it’s necessary to take a deep dive into your competitors, your target audience, and your industry.

Here are the steps to creating your location in the minds of your customers:

  • Decide what you want to be known for. What will your unique position in the marketplace be? What is your distinct value? Is there a key benefit or unique phrase that defines your brand? Discover what other companies in your marketplace are offering the same or similar products, and then find a way to position yours as being different in one key way. This will help you capture the attention of key audiences.
  • Find your direct competitors. Every great athlete has competitors, and your business does too. Competition is a good thing. Strong opposition is an asset to your business. It inspires creativity and intense focus to capture the market. Find out who your competitors are and determine what you deliver that they don’t. This will form the foundation of a strong brand.
  • Determine your current brand positioning. Your customers have already positioned your brand. They have a perception about you. What is it? Does it align with the goals and values of your business? If their perception doesn’t match what you want them to perceive, you’ll need to shift your positioning to close the gap.
  • Create realistic goals. Make sure you can deliver on your brand promise. Ideas here are much different than reality. You may have a large, unique idea but inadequate resources to execute. You have to be believable in order to influence perceptions. Make sure your brand positioning takes into account your ability to deliver it.

The brand positioning statement

Establishing a position is only good if you can communicate it in a way that makes it stick. Your positioning statement delivers your brand to the marketplace and establishes your competitive edge. It’s really about your intention and how you want to represent your business to customers.

The positioning statement is a simple one- or two-sentence phrase that tells your customers what they can expect and what makes you unique. It should believable and make an immediate emotional connection with your audience. It should also leave the doors open for a constant evolution so you can respond to any shifts along the way.

Make sure everyone’s on board with your positioning statement. Once you determine it, everyone on your team will need to describe your company with this one. This way you’ll prevent confusion in the minds of your audience. Don’t let your statement get watered down and miss the target. Use the same words, over and over, in the same way.

It’s also good practice to write your positioning statement down somewhere. It will become your core message platform. Include your product features and other benefits in one or two paragraphs.  This will form the backbone of future messaging.

Guide for creating a positioning statement

1. Identify your target customer. Summarize the demographics, behaviors and attitudes of consumers you want to attract. What influences their buying decisions? Are they they the only decision makers or are there other stakeholders involved? What are their needs and desires as they relate to your product? Uncover their behaviors and attitudes. Are they impulse buyers or rely on in-depth research before making a decision?

2. Keep it tailored to your target market. The best brands have a laser focus. Make sure your positioning statement is highly tailored and specific. You may have more than one target markets or niches. If so, create a different positioning statement for each niche. Don’t try to appeal to everyone with one statement and run the risk of diluting your message.

3. Establish your brand promise. Determine the one benefit you can own that your competitors can’t. Let customers know how the benefit differentiates you from others and what makes your product relevant to them. What will it help them achieve or do that they aren’t doing already? Will it save them time, give them a better quality of life, reduce costs? Whatever it is, make the benefit clear, and make sure you can be the sole occupier of it. You want to own it.

5. Make it credible. This is the how. How does your brand deliver on its promises and how can you communicate that? You want to create a brand promise that you can deliver, rather than an inflated idea of one that you can’t. Your customers will set expectations for your brand based on how they experience it. You brand promise should be realistic and attainable.

Brand positioning statement template

Positioning statement templates can be as simple as these two examples. The wording of your statement may not match these templates exactly, but it should contain all the components listed above. However you write it, make sure it’s different from what our competitors could say just as easily. It should be yours and yours alone. Above all, make sure it is meaningful, important, and relevant to your audience.

  • The (product) is a (product category) that (statement of key benefit) for (target customer) because (reason to believe).
  • For (target customer) who (statement of the need), the (product) is one that (statement of key benefit). Unlike (competitor), our product (reason to believe).

The statement of key benefit describes how your brand or product benefits customers in a way that is unique to you. Your competitors shouldn’t be able to say the same thing. The reason to believe is your brand promise. This should describe why they should choose your product or service. The key differentiator provides compelling evidence and reasons why they can have confidence in your statement.

When sold books exclusively, this is the positioning statement they used:

  • For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.

The wrap up

You might think that position is a concept only for the big brands like Coke and Nike, but positioning and strategy are powerful steps in every brand’s development. Every business can benefit from clear direction and taking a high level view of their brand. Positioning will help customers perceive your products the way you want them to be perceived. By paying close attention to your customers, you can align what you provide with what they want. As the needs of your customers shift, you may also need to shift your position in order relevant and meaningful in their minds.

If you’re not getting much engagement from your marketing, your brand positioning and strategy may be the reasons why. Are your relevant to your customers today? Positioning statements will ensure that your marketing makes an emotional connection with audiences. Consider re-evaluating your position using the steps listed here, and if you would like help with your positioning statements, please contact us.