Brand positioning is strategic. Positioning helps you to distinguish and differentiate your brand from others. Positioning is what allows you to communicate your offer to the right audience. In essence, positioning should be the starting point for any brand or offering.
Personally, I take the stance that positioning still matters a great deal. Without understanding our audience and how they perceive is, it is hard to justify moving forward. Building marketing strategies and tactics does not bode well if we do not understand where we fall in the positioning map in people’s minds. We certainly cannot build branding initiatives and marketing communications programs without understanding positioning. Positioning essentially adds relevance to your organization.
Positioning is a reflection of who you are, why that matters, and what audience you appeal to. Competitors are certainly a critical factor and often elements of the marketing mix will play here, but without an understanding of the first three, it is hard to execute a brand strategy that makes sense because you really do not know who you are.
As well-known positioning strategist Andy Cunningham indicates, it is your DNA. No more than a scorpion can change its nature, an organization cannot work outside of its preferred mode of operating. Andy speaks to “Mothers”, “Mechanics” and “Missionaries” and these are very valid starting points. If you are a “Mechanic” (Walmart), it is hard for you to be a “Mother” (Zappos) and it is unlikely you will be a “Missionary” (FedEx). You should go here to read more
The value provided and why that matters to specific groups of target audiences matters a great deal. If you provide no value, you likely have no position…or at least no valid position. That is one of the hard truths of business today. If the emperor has no clothes, it is much more obvious with the Internet being available than it was just even 10 years ago.
Positioning is essentially logical (in most ways) but there is a heavy dose of qualitative that goes with it. So primary and secondary research matter a great deal for getting started. At times, big data will help. But the reality is that to do this well, you need insights more than you need information. Information is crucial, but that information should be used to point you in the right direction.
What I have found is that sometimes you just need to ask. This matters a great deal. If you have a target audience, go talk to them. Find out if they do in fact like your product or service and what is it about your offer specifically that they do like. If you are not sure about your audience, again, you likely will need to go out and ask questions.
The key is that context really does matter and asking questions provides that context. April Dunford, another serious expert on positioning, talks about positioning as context-setting and I think this is very true. Context is the starting point, and everything else comes from the context of the audience, the offer and the organization. Whether a product is established, and especially if it is new, context is needed.
While I have done positioning for new and existing products throughout my life, I will categorically state that women understand this concept much, much better than most men ever will. There is both a quantitative and qualitative aspect to positioning and women just tend to get the value-to-audience tradeoffs that matter while most men do not.
I worked with an amazing woman at one time (who I cannot name, unfortunately) and she really got it. She had worked (at that point) in several different industries and had been successful in all of them because she understood positioning. She understood how a hard goods retailer might be different than a clothing marketer or an e-commerce company. This is someone that understands positioning is all about the target audience and how the organization and offering mesh with that audience.
Over time, positions do and will change. Here is where competitors often matter a great deal, but also changing tastes come into play as does the changing technology. This is also where you should be looking for audiences that have something in common with your existing audience but may not currently view your offer as significant.
There have been some notable position shifts that have taken place (Old Spice as an example) but many are not as dramatic and often mean finding additional markets where the offer works (as Old Spice did). Old Spice was unique. Not many brands have the ability to reposition themselves AND maintain their old audience. Generally, this happens because the market has left you in the dust.
So, that is it in a nutshell: Positioning still matters, perhaps, even more, today than in the past. Your audience wants to know what you stand for and what you represent. Your positioning tells them that and where you sit in relation to the rest of the market. Today, your position must be relevant and meaningful and understood and transparent. Certainly not a small order.
I hope you will think about this and tell me what you think in the comments. For more information, look at the links below:
- Andy Cunningham: https://www.cunninghamcollective.com/andy-cunningham
- April Dunford: https://aprildunford.com/
- Photo credit: https://www.goodfreephotos.com/albums/united-states/florida/tampa/clearwater-beach-and-pier-in-tampa-florida.jpg