How to Position a Brand

Learn how to position a brand with a powerful positioning strategy to differentiate your business, gain a competitive advantage, and win more sales.

POST UPDATED:

May 20, 2024

How to Position a Brand

Businesses that communicate their unique value best win the sale. The goal isn't to be the best. It's to position your product as the best solution in the consumer’s mind.

In this post, you'll learn how to position a brand to gain a competitive advantage and attract more profitable customers.

Table of Contents

    Why is brand positioning important?

    Strong brand positioning helps a business or product stand out and attract customers. It allows consumers to see what makes a brand unique and the value it offers. Effective positioning can enhance brand awareness, consumer preference, and customer loyalty.

    Components of effective brand positioning

    Brand positioning establishes a place for a company or a product in the minds of consumers. A brand position refers to how potential customers see a company or product compared to its competitors.

    Many businesses try to position a brand by focusing on the perception they want to create. But making a lasting impression begins with customers’ preferences. These provide a blueprint for positioning and developing effective marketing strategies.

    As a simple example, people who buy premium products expect them to have the qualities of a high-end brand. To use this strategy, you must create an authentic brand identity that meets the audience's expectations of 'premium.'

    How to position a brand with the four Ps of marketing

    The "four Ps" also play a crucial role in positioning:

    • Product: This is what the brand offers (i.e., goods or services) and reflects its values and uniqueness. Examples are innovative features or superior quality.
    • Price: The pricing strategy also has a profound influence on market positioning. A higher prices (premium pricing) can enhance a product's prestige value. Competitive pricing can position a product as having excellent value for the cost.
    • Place (distribution): Place represents where and how customers can buy the product. A brand could be everywhere, easy to find, or more exclusive, available only in select places. Place affects accessibility and can influence how exclusive or common a product appears.
    • Promotion: This involves how a business communicates with its audience. Ads, social media, or public relations are examples. A consistent message across all channels can reinforce brand positioning.

    A positioning strategy doesn't guarantee customers will see your business the way you want them to. It takes a while. To be successful, companies must have a long-term perspective and remain consistent. Over time, building a unique brand can help a business improve ROI on marketing efforts.

    Ninety percent of consumers say brand reputation is important when making purchase decisions.

    Source: Nielsen

    Successful brand positioning examples

    In this section, I’ll use two popular car manufacturers and a global financial company to illustrate how to position a brand.

    First, Mercedes-Benz:

    Mercedes-Benz brand positioning
    IMAGE: Mercedes-Benz Website

    Immediately, we can observe the following:

    • The word “dream” appears in the headlines on the landing page. This word taps into the buyer’s emotions.
    • We don't see any car images, only headlights and reflections. This adds an element of mystique.
    • Mercedes-Benz uses a minimalist color palette (i.e., blue, black, and white). Minimalism is a design style often associated with a high-end brand image.

    Premium and luxury brands focus on quality and value over product features—that's what Mercedes does here.

    Now, here is a screenshot of Honda’s website:

    Honda brand positioning
    Honda brand positioning

    Notice the headline focuses on fuel efficiency and that Honda's cars are American-made. We also see a few cars on display. Honda is positioning the product using its features to attract customers.

    Mercedes and Honda use these elements to position their products and attract buyers:

    • Brand identity
    • Key benefits of each car
    • Target audience segments

    These components work together to support each product’s unique position. But the strategies target a different type of customer.

    American Express: Redefining perception

    To survive the pandemic and grow, American Express thrived by focusing on people.

    Competitors slashed budgets. But Amex invested in employees and focused on loyalty, translating to customer wins. In the process, they became popular among the Millennial generation. American Express customized offerings to cater to a diverse audience. As a result, they attracted a younger crowd (70 percent of new cardholders).

    American Express revitalized its image. The company shed the "old-fashioned" label by balancing quality and quantity. Their strategy attracted new loyal customers who drove profits.

    How to position a brand: A framework

    There are two approaches to positioning:

    1. Market-to-brand alignment.
    2. Brand-to-market alignment.

    The first involves developing a market around an existing brand or product. The second is the opposite: creating a brand to fit a market.

    Most companies fall into the first category. But sometimes, businesses want to match their value to a specific target audience. A company that rebrands is the most common example.

    Pillars of brand positioning
    Pillars of brand positioning

    The brand, target market, and competition

    Effective positioning hinges on three pillars: the brand, customers, and competitors.

    The brand itself is the cornerstone of positioning. To make a lasting impression, you must go beyond the logo, name, and tagline. A positioning strategy includes the brand's purpose, values, and promise to customers.

    A unique value proposition (UVP) is also helpful for positioning a brand. This is a brief statement that clarifies the benefits you offer. Companies should develop their UVP around customers' needs and desires.

    Knowing your competition allows you to differentiate. Competitor analysis provides insights into their strategies, strengths, and weaknesses. You'll also discover how consumers make comparisons between your business and competitors.

    How to position your brand using market segmentation

    Successful positioning hinges on your ideal target audience. These customers are the most profitable for your business.

    Once you have identified target segments, create buyer personas for each. Personas are fictional representations of your best customers based on accurate data. They're not mere sketches or outlines but living, breathing characters. The more lifelike they are, the easier it is to position your brand with the best target audience.

    Buyer personas should include characteristics such as:

    • Demographic factors (age, gender, or occupation)
    • Geographic factors (location)
    • Factors related to income levels and consumption habits (socio-economic)
    • Psychographic factors (lifestyle or values)
    • Behavioral patterns, such as loyalty or shopping frequency

    But don’t stop there. Dig deeper. What are their hobbies? Fears? What motivates them? What are their long-term goals?

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    How to position a company in the market by analyzing competitors

    The next step is to analyze competitors selling similar products. You may already know who your main competitors are. To be sure, ask your sales team or use product-related keywords to perform an online search.

    Study competitors' marketing campaigns and mission statements. Examine their promotions, discounts, and sponsorships on media platforms. Anything you find that helps you understand their current positioning is valuable.

    Online reviews are another fantastic resource. Pay attention to patterns in customer feedback. For example, people may have a similar request or complaint that can help you improve customer service.

    Several tools are available to help with this analysis. Examples are competitive intelligence platforms, market research, employee feedback, and customer surveys.

    How to position a brand with benefit claims

    Customers are looking for the product or service that best meets their requirements. When positioning a brand in the market, you must link your product’s benefits to their desires and expectations.

    We can separate benefit claims into two types.

    • Functional benefits describe the product’s features and tangible advantages.
    • Emotional benefits relate to how customers feel when using a product. These benefits are more powerful because they create stronger ties with consumers.

    The power of positioning relies on a combination of both.

    For example, a car gets someone from point A to point B. That is the function of a vehicle. But a car can also make people feel safer when they travel. Safety is an emotional benefit.

    Case study: Dollar Shave Club

    Dollar Shave Club burst onto the scene and flipped the men's razor market upside down. Their strategy? Focusing on the high prices and inconvenience of the traditional razor-buying routine. DSC leveraged that frustration and offered an affordable subscription service. To make the offer even more enticing, they delivered razors to customers' doors.

    DSC's viral launch video and humorous marketing sealed the deal. The company created a brand personality that attracted its best audience. As a result, they disrupted an established industry and prompted a billion-dollar buyout.

    Think about similar brands you love—what makes their positioning so successful?

    The brand positioning statement

    A brand positioning statement communicates why it is ideal for a specific group of customers. It's like saying, "Here's where we stand in the crowd and why we matter to you."

    A unique value proposition (UVP) zeros in on the unique promise the brand makes to customers. It answers the question, "What makes our product or service beneficial?"

    So, the positioning statement clarify a brand's relevance to customers. The UVP pinpoints the distinct benefits that make it the preferred choice.

    To create a positioning statement, consider the brand’s:

    • Differentiators
    • Target audience
    • Market sector

    A brand positioning statement example

    To illustrate, here is how to create a statement for a new eco-friendly beauty product:

    1. Identify the essential elements of a positioning statement. A good positioning statement should identify the target audience and make a brand relevant.
    2. The UVP should address target customers. In this case, conscious consumers who value sustainable products. These people are more likely to pay a premium for them, which makes them more profitable targets.
    3. Conduct market research to uncover customer preferences. Eco-friendly consumers value companies that use natural ingredients and ethical production methods.
    4. Communicate the brand promise. Offer high-quality products that are produced without compromising performance or luxury.
    5. Be sure to include compelling reasons to believe. Emphasize a strict “Earth First” policy and ethically sourced ingredients. A part of every sale supports environmental conservation efforts.

    With these elements, an example of our positioning statement could be:

    "Brand A is a market leader for consumers who value eco-friendly beauty products. We will deliver high-quality, sustainable products that balance performance and luxury. You can trust our commitment because we adhere to a strict 'Earth First' policy. Every ingredient is ethically sourced, and all packaging uses recycled materials. A portion of every sale directly supports environmental conservation efforts."

    Keep your statement simple, clear, and concise. Avoid complex sentences or jargon that could confuse people. Don’t forget to review it for accuracy before making it public.

    Value proposition canvas

    How to position a brand with an identity and messaging

    Imagine a company's brand identity as its personality and its messaging as the way it talks. So, if a brand positions itself as the most affordable option, it should have an approachable identity. Messaging should communicate value to clarify why it's the go-to for budget-friendly shoppers.

    If another brand positions itself as a luxury choice, its identity should exude elegance and exclusivity. Its messaging should focus on status and exceptional experience to reassure customers the brand is worth the higher price.

    A company's identity and messaging must reflect its market position to attract the right target audience.

    Consistent brand messaging can increase revenue by over 23 percent.

    Source: Forbes

    Types of brand positioning strategies

    In this section, we’ll explore how to position a brand using the four most common strategies.

    Convenience-based positioning strategy

    Research shows that over 70 percent of customers will pay more if products are easy to access.

    The convenience-based positioning strategy leverages accessibility and user-friendliness in marketing and service. For example, your return policy could be simple, without complicated forms or restrictions. You may also offer free shipping and local delivery options. These options make it easy for customers to find, order, and receive your products.

    If you choose this strategy, you must stay up-to-date on competitor convenience policies.

    Price-based positioning

    This approach focuses on offering products at prices below those of competitors. Businesses use this strategy to attract cost-conscious shoppers in price-sensitive markets. Walmart and Dollar Tree are examples of companies that use this strategy.

    To use this strategy, companies must streamline operations and cut costs. They must also emphasize value for money to differentiate. Standard methods for attracting customers include offering special promotions or discounts.

    A price-based strategy can lead to thin profit margins and make it difficult to maintain quality. Most consumers are skeptical of low-priced products, even if they don’t admit it. Studies show that the average consumer believes a higher price indicates better quality.

    4 Types of Positioning (Click to expand)

    Niche strategy

    A niche strategy targets small customer segments based on specific needs and interests. For example, an accounting firm might "niche-down" by working only with manufacturing clients.

    Customer personas make it easier to target segments and create marketing messages for each. As an example, you might make customer success stories relatable by using someone the target audience can relate to.

    Some businesses hesitate to use this strategy because they don't want to limit market opportunities. But companies can actually better meet customers' needs by catering to smaller groups.

    Premium

    Premium brand positioning aims to create an emotional connection with customers instead of focusing on product features. Yet, the connection must be strong enough to offset the product's higher price point.

    To create premium positioning, businesses must find the most compelling reasons their customers buy and develop a strategy that aligns with their buying triggers.

    The challenge of this strategy is to avoid the generic nature of most offers. Many companies claim to offer superior quality or an exceptional customer experience. But these claims won't impact the audience unless you can back them up. For example, you could use customer testimonials to show how your product improved their lives. This strategy would illustrate your product's emotional benefit. Thus, your products would have more value in the customer's mind.

    Businesses that want to reposition themselves as a premium brand should plan carefully before doing so.

    Do you need help creating a brand positioning strategy?

    Building a competitive advantage in the can be complex. Without strong positioning, you'll lose valuable market share to your competitors. The Brand Auditors can give you the strategic guidance you need to prevent that from happening.

    Click the button to start a conversation with a strategist.

    Chris Fulmer PCM-Brand Auditors

    Chris Fulmer, PCM®

    Brand Strategist | Managing Director

    Chris has over 15 years of experience in brand development and marketing. He has designed strategies across various industries, such as technology, B2B services, and healthcare. His expertise includes brand positioning, competitive analysis, content marketing, and web development.

    Click to learn more about Chris

    Frequently Asked Questions About Brand Positioning Strategy

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