A brand positioning strategy is a marketing strategy that helps a business to set its brand apart from competitors and to establish a unique place in the minds of target customers. It determines how a brand is perceived relative to competitors and establishes the identity and value proposition that makes the brand unique.
Brand positioning involves the following steps:
- Defining the Market: This involves identifying the business’s target consumers’ demographic, geographic, and psychographic characteristics.
- Identifying the Competition: This involves identifying the other businesses or products that compete directly or indirectly with the brand.
- Understanding How Your Brand Is Different: This step involves identifying the unique selling propositions (USPs) that set the brand apart from its competition. These could be in terms of product features, customer service, pricing, or other aspects.
- Defining the Brand’s Value Proposition: This involves stating the functional and emotional benefits the consumers would derive from the brand. It is about the perceived value the brand promises to deliver so that a consumer would choose one brand over another.
- Communicating the Brand Positioning: Once the brand positioning is defined, it must be communicated to the target market through various marketing channels. This can be done through advertising, public relations, social media, content marketing, etc.
- Re-evaluating the Brand Positioning: The brand positioning is not a one-time activity but needs to be reviewed and possibly adjusted over time as market conditions change, new competitors enter the market, customer preferences evolve, etc.
A strong brand positioning strategy will help a business to build a loyal customer base and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. It guides the business’s marketing efforts and helps to ensure that all branding, advertising, product development, and other business activities are aligned with the brand’s identity and value proposition.
Types of brand positioning strategies
Businesses can adopt several different types of brand positioning strategies depending on their unique circumstances, offerings, target audiences, and market competition. Here are some of the most common types:
- Value-Based Brand Positioning: This strategy focuses on the value for money that the brand offers. It’s about offering competitive pricing or high quality for a lower price than competitors.
- Quality-Based Brand Positioning: This strategy focuses on the superior quality or premium nature of a brand’s products or services. Luxury brands often adopt this type of positioning.
- Benefit-Based Brand Positioning: This type of positioning focuses on the unique benefits or advantages that a product or service provides to the customer. For example, a brand might focus on its product’s health benefits, convenience, or effectiveness.
- Problem-Solution Brand Positioning: This type of positioning focuses on a problem the target audience faces and presents the brand’s product or service as the solution.
- Competitor-Based Brand Positioning: In this case, a brand positions itself in direct opposition to a competitor, highlighting its differences to make itself more attractive.
- User-Based Brand Positioning: This strategy focuses on a specific user group or demographic. The brand presents itself as the best choice for this particular group of people.
- Celebrity-Based Brand Positioning: This strategy involves associating the brand with a celebrity to increase brand recognition and appeal. It leverages the celebrity’s popularity and image to shape consumers’ perceptions of the brand.
- Cultural Symbol-Based Positioning: This strategy involves associating the brand with a powerful cultural symbol or set of values. It can be a powerful way to connect emotionally with consumers.
It’s important to note that these strategies aren’t mutually exclusive. Many successful brands use a combination of different positioning strategies to create a unique and compelling brand identity. The most effective strategy will depend on many factors, including the nature of the market, the brand’s target audience, and the brand’s unique strengths and capabilities.
Examples of brand positioning strategies
Let’s look at a few examples of brand positioning strategies from notable companies:
- Value-Based Brand Positioning – Walmart: Walmart positions itself as a brand that provides everyday low prices for a wide range of goods. Their slogan, “Save Money. Live Better,” directly communicates this value-based positioning to consumers. How does Walmart make money: Business Model & Supply Chain Strategy
- Quality-Based Brand Positioning – Apple: Apple is known for its high-quality, innovative technology products. They position themselves as a premium brand that provides a superior user experience, and their high price points reflect this positioning. Marketing & Advertising Strategy of Apple: A critical lens
- Benefit-Based Brand Positioning – Dove: Dove positions itself around the unique benefit of moisturizing and improving skin health rather than just cleaning. Their “Real Beauty” campaign further solidified their position as a brand that promotes real, diverse women and body positivity. Dove: The Rise of a Purpose Led Brand
- Problem-Solution Brand Positioning – Slack: Slack, the communication platform, positions itself as a solution to messy, disjointed workplace communication. It presents itself as a hub that brings together all communication and collaboration in one place. How does Slack make money | Slack’s Freemium business model
- Competitor-Based Brand Positioning – Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola: In the cola wars, Pepsi positioned itself as the choice of the “New Generation,” setting itself apart from Coca-Cola, which was seen as the traditional or classic choice. Coca Cola vs Pepsi – The Legendary Marketing Rivalry
- User-Based Brand Positioning – LinkedIn LinkedIn targets professionals and businesses looking for networking, recruiting, and industry discussion opportunities. It positions itself as the go-to platform for professional networking, distinctly different from social-oriented platforms like Facebook or Instagram. LinkedIn: From a career portal to the world’s biggest professional network
- Celebrity-Based Brand Positioning – Nike: Nike has a history of associating itself with high-profile athletes, such as Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, and LeBron James, which helps them position its brand as top-tier athletic gear. Nike doesn’t sell shoes. It sells an idea with its marketing strategy!!
- Cultural Symbol-Based Positioning – Harley-Davidson: Harley-Davidson has successfully positioned its motorcycles as a symbol of American freedom and individualism. It appeals to consumers’ emotions and lifestyles rather than focusing solely on product features. How did Harley Davidson become an “iconic” Brand?
These examples demonstrate how brands leverage different positioning strategies to distinguish themselves in the marketplace and build meaningful connections with their target audience.
Case Study of a brand positioning strategy
Positioning Strategy: Quality-Based and Experience-Based Positioning
Overview: Starbucks, a Seattle-based coffee chain, is a prime example of a company that has effectively positioned its brand by offering premium products and creating a unique, consistent customer experience.
- Quality: Starbucks has positioned itself as a provider of high-quality, handcrafted beverages. It sources premium beans from across the globe and strongly emphasizes the skill and artistry of its baristas. This commitment to quality justifies the higher price point of its products compared to other coffee chains.
- Experience: Starbucks also sets itself apart by focusing on creating a unique and comfortable in-store experience. It has positioned its stores as a “third place” – a relaxing environment that is neither home nor work where customers can enjoy a cup of coffee, study, meet with friends, or even hold business meetings. Its store design, music selection, and customer service approach consistently reflect this positioning.
Result: This positioning strategy has helped Starbucks establish itself as a premium lifestyle brand rather than just a coffee shop. Its commitment to quality and the unique Starbucks experience has fostered high customer loyalty and expanded the brand globally.
Challenges and Adjustments: Starbucks is not immune to market changes and competition despite its successful positioning. It has had to continue innovating in its product offerings (with additions like the Reserve Roastery and the introduction of cold brews and nitro coffee) and its digital strategy (with its mobile app and rewards program). The company’s ability to maintain its core brand positioning while adapting to changing consumer preferences and behaviors demonstrates the ongoing nature of brand positioning.
This case study illustrates how a strong brand positioning strategy can help a brand differentiate itself from competitors, foster customer loyalty, and drive growth. It also demonstrates the importance of continually refining and adjusting the strategy in response to changing market conditions and customer needs.