Ella, a precocious 3 year old, loves to dress up, have ‘tea-parties’ with her friends and will not go to kindergarten alone. She insists on taking her Barbie along.
Sean is a curious teenager, smart, not-so-sporty, loves World of Warcraft and would not be caught without a more than generous splash of Axe when he heads out to ‘hang with his buddies’.
Samantha is a hyper-achieving 20-something who went to Yale, works with Intel and swears by her L’Oreal lipstick on Friday evenings out with her special someone.
Ella, Sean and Samantha have their loyalties very clear in their minds. They have a hands-down favorite when it comes to things that really matter to them and no reasonable means can make them change their preferences. Is this because Barbie, Axe or L’Oreal are the best products in their respective categories? Is it because they are cheaper than everything else out there? No and no. It’s because, they have managed to occupy a place in Ella, Sean and Samantha’s minds and made them identify with the subtle positioning that each offers.
A Barbie makes Ella feel pretty like a princess. It feeds into her active imagination and tells her “With Barbie, Anything is Possible”
Axe makes Sean feel manly; he hopes it will make him irresistible to girls. After all, the “Axe Effect” is every teenage boy’s dream.
L’Oreal justifies its premium pricing and makes Samantha feel glamorous – a must have when she’s on that all-important date. It tells her “She’s worth it”.
Each of these brands, in their own way make them believe “This brand is so ME!” What these brands are essentially doing is, creating crystal clear brand positioning by offering a very clear emotional benefit to the customer and thereby breaking down the barrier between a sales pitch and an actual sale.
Positioning is not a statement of facts like “the world’s largest computer brand” or “America’s favorite coffee”. It’s not a tagline either, though taglines give you an idea of what positioning the brand aims at. Positioning is creating your own space in the mind of your customer – something that no other brand can fill. Look at Nike. Its iconic ‘Just Do It’ tagline suggests movement, activity, getting off your backside. It paints a picture of a Nike wearer as a risk taker, someone who’s not afraid, and someone who is open to experimentation. That is the space that Nike owns in the customer’s mind. Who wouldn’t want to consider themselves as brave and adventurous?
All this is good, but why extol the brand positioning virtues of mega brands that used millions of dollars to create these images in our heads. The answer is simple. Nobody was born big. Each of these brands started small and painstakingly built the brand positions that they enjoy today. Small businesses that compete with big brands owe it to themselves to create a clear brand position for themselves … for their future.
1. YOUR BRAND POSITIONING SETS YOU APART FROM COMPETITION
What is so special about your product that your customer should buy from you instead of a million other comparable sellers? Everybody needs a USP. What’s yours?
Is it quality? Is it service? Is it delivery? Maintenance? Patented technology? Safety? How you make your customers feel when they consume your product?
Spell it out loud and clear and that will make your brand stand out. Mind you, your brand positioning needs to be based in reality. A premium winery can’t promise to offer customers rock bottom prices.
2. GIVES THEM A REASON TO BUY, SETS EXPECTATIONS FROM YOUR BRAND
Go back to Sean in our earlier example. He could have opted for Old Spice or Davidoff or any other body spray. He chooses Axe, because he believes in the brand promise – that he’ll be irresistible to women. There’s your reason to buy.
The New Brand Formula
However, brand positioning is in the consumer’s mind. It’s not about tall claims made by brands. If there is no sufficient proof that backs up your claims, your positioning falls flat on its face. Set your expectations, but make sure your brand can deliver on those expectations.
For example, if you run a tax consulting practice and your positioning is “Zero effort taxation”, you could probably offer to pick up and drop the documentation from your clients’ home or workplace.
3. YOUR BRAND POSITIONING ACTS AS A FOUNDATION FOR CRAFTING YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Many business owners go horribly wrong in marrying their brand positioning and the actual customer experience. This is a surefire recipe to losing whatever credibility you may have built up.
Once you decide what you want to stand for, from a customer’s perspective, you need to build all other aspects of your brand and it’s communication around it. The various areas that will need to sync with your brand positioning are:
- Product design
- Communication design
- User experience
- Service levels
For example, imagine yourself as the brand manager of Dominos when they still adhered to their “delivery in 30 minutes or free” formula. You would have to ensure that the product (pizzas) were made, packed and delivered within those 30 minutes. That’s some massive co-ordination between production, inventory, customer service and shipping. When done right, you end up with a brand like Dominos!
Your brand personality, brand recall and eventually brand loyalty will all fit in like pieces of a jigsaw, once you get the factors mentioned above in sync with your brand positioning.
4. CUSTOMERS BECOME LESS PRICE DRIVEN
Do you try and grab business by undercutting your competition? Do you do it all the time? Does it make your business bleed? You can be sure it does.
No business can compete in today’s world on price alone. There will always be someone else – online, in some other country, your customer’s relative – who can offer a lower price. Don’t devalue your product into a commodity. It deserves the price that you ask for it.
By setting up a clear brand position for yourself, customers actively choose your brand over competition. What are a few dollars here and there, when they actually believe in your product and love it for what it does?
Now that you know how vital brand positioning is, get to it right away. How can you position your brand effectively, you ask?
Well, though that question merits a separate post on its own, here is a quick 4-step formula (no complicated graphs and charts) to arrive at a brand positioning that will work for you.
1. Define who you want to sell to – create a typical customer profile – age, sex, education, location, industry
2. Dig deep and try to understand what drives your typical customer. What will make them happy, how do they like to imagine themselves (Remember Sean and the Axe example?)
3. Identify how your product fulfills these needs and desires. Check if you can realistically deliver on what you find to be your customer’s prime motivators.
4. Double check whether your competition has not already taken that position or is not able to fulfill that need.
Voila, you have figured out what your brand position will be!