What is brand positioning? How to build your authority

What is brand positioning

What is brand positioning? Successfully achieving the best brand position is not a goal in itself. Proper branding is the true aim, which encompasses brand positioning as a part of the whole. It all impacts the consumer and their likelihood of giving you their money.

Brand positioning is the place within a customer’s mind where your brand resides compared to competitors. For example, if you and another company sell the same product, but the customer thinks of you first, you have reached top brand positioning. 

That is the simplest explanation, but it means so much more. This article will explore more about what brand positioning is and how to use it to reach your goals. 

What does brand positioning mean?

We will start with a simple definition of the concept: 

Brand positioning is the relative position of your brand in a customer’s mind compared to other companies that offer similar or alternative products or services to yours.

Someone thinks of the problem, and your product comes to mind as the solution. For example, they think, “I need shoes,” and the first brand that pops into their head is “Nike.” 

The complex part comes not just from achieving that position but how it leads to a conversion. Just because you think “shoes = Nike” doesn’t mean you will buy those Nikes. Maybe you will go with ADIDAS, or Vans, or New Balance. These are all high positioned brands as well, and so they become viable options for the consumer. 

Based on that widened explanation, let’s also broaden the description: Proper brand position establishes your placement in the consumer’s mind and their likelihood of following that hierarchy. You want to be at the forefront of their mind, whether in the first position or the third and have them still choose your product.

We will get more into the why and how of conversion through brand position in the next section. 

However, all of this falls under the general idea of branding and its importance. Your placement in a customer’s mind is fluid. It will ebb and flow with whatever is triggering them to think about you. For instance, “fast food” might immediately make them think of McDonald’s. But “burgers” could bring Wimpy to the forefront of their brain. 

What is brand positioning - McDonald’s vs Wimpy

This is often due to a combination of factors, including preference. The point is to establish a brand image before doing anything else. Further strategy, as we are about to discuss, will do the rest. 

What is a brand positioning strategy?

Brand positioning strategy is your blueprint for setting your place in the customer’s thoughts. It determines what you want customers to think of your product and how you plan to achieve that goal. 

Your name comes up within the first few seconds of considering a product is the first step in establishing a long term relationship. You want to make a sale, but you also want to nail retention. 

Establishing this strategy can be difficult. It starts by understanding not only who your target audience is but who your competition genuinely are. Let’s use the McDonald’s example above.

The customer thinks “fast food” and mentally goes to the golden arches. But chances are, in a moment when they are hungry, they aren’t actually thinking of something as abstract as general fast food. Instead, they will be more likely to picture something based on what sounds good at the moment. 

We will break it down and say they want a burger and chips. 

We have a more direct line to competition. The hungry patron doesn’t specifically want fast food, which could encompass a number of other names that could wander into their line of thoughts. What they want is a burger and chips. Anywhere that sells those two foods is now a competitor.

But now they have brought in a new mitigating factor: preference. This is where we narrow down our audience. 

This theoretical person: 

  • Likes burgers and chips
  • Is a young professional 
  • Has busy schedules
  • Prefers sustainable fare that is locally sourced 
  • Likes a menu with creative options that they can try 

Say what you like about McDonald’s, but they aren’t known for much of the above. So are they a competitor? A bit, but other eateries in the same area that match more of the above preferences will be bigger ones. Even if they don’t sell burgers and chips, these restaurants are good choices for your audience as they appeal in similar ways. 

Knowing that these are the essential factors in choosing where to eat is crucial information. It changes how you are going to strategise your positioning and your branding altogether. 

Why is brand positioning important?

You may be wondering why brand positioning is important if it is a consequence of branding itself rather than its own goal. 

Brand positioning is a critical element of your overall plan because it helps with retention and engagement. When your brand is the first to pop up in a consumer’s mind, they are more likely to come to you regularly for that product.

According to Bynder, two of the biggest reasons companies are investing in new tech are brand awareness and development. It is no wonder. A study by G2 found that 72% of customers make purchases almost entirely on brand name alone. 

Simply put, you are what you show you are. If you present an identity, your customer base will make decisions based on that image. Their experience will dictate their lasting impression (the same study by G2 found that 48% of consumers say this happens from the first purchase). That lasting impression will be the deciding factor on where in the brand hierarchy yours falls. 

A lot is riding on how people perceive you right out of the gate. Once you have made an impression, it dictates whether they think of you the next time. It takes 5 – 7 interactions before you stick in a customer’s mind. You need them to enjoy the first experience, engage with you in different ways (social media, ads, etc.), and return. 

One great example of guiding your branding strategy for targeted positioning is Tesla. They aren’t competing with other brands in the world of automated or even eco-friendly cars. Instead, they have worked their image and audience around the broader idea of luxury vehicles. 

What is brand positioning - Mercedes

This makes their job harder. Many other manufacturers provide high-end cars already synonymous with luxury (think Mercedes or Ferrari). 

Why did they choose a brand position that would be harder to attain? There were several reasons, but one huge element is the idea of exclusivity. Their entire selling structure started based on being a limited product that was only accessible to those willing to pay between £29,000 and £58,000 for the privilege. 

Tesla’s branding strategy has reflected this idea even as they have adapted to promote their less expensive Y model. You may not have the money for the X Series, but it is a luxury car “for the rest of us”. It comes with all this top of the line technology, and it certainly looks like an opulent vehicle.

We can feel proud to have one without forking over the hundreds of thousands of pounds that some of its competitors charge.

Despite not offering the same style of features as the other manufacturers in their luxury lines, it used branding and brand positioning alone to enter into the same arena some of the wealthiest car manufacturers on the road today. While it might not be a one to one comparison, you are more likely to consider Tesla in the category of the Ferrari’s rather than the Mitsubishi’s. 

What is a brand statement?

A brand statement defines what your brand is, what it aims to do, and who it aims to do it for. It should be presented as straightforward and concise, a sort of elevator pitch that explains what you are all about. 

What sets a brand statement apart from customer-facing descriptions of your company is that it isn’t actually meant for the customer. It could be presented to them. It will inherently apply to any communications or marketing related to them. But a brand statement is really for you and the people who work for you. 

Think back to what we were talking about before, with Tesla. Their product could fit into a few different categories; hybrid and electric vehicles for a more eco-friendly class, state-of-the-art technology for another. Ultimately, they chose to promote an image of luxury. They were all those things, but their identity was a luxurious, high class, high-performance car. 

What is brand positioning - Tesla

Why did they select that? Because it put them in a unique position to target a particular audience that wasn’t being catered to. They wanted to provide a product for people who were environmentally conscious, successful, and interested in the features of a luxury vehicle who may not have been capable of affording some of the competing brands. 

Already, that is a narrow niche. All the better because their brand statement was one of exclusivity. The idea becomes driving a Tesla makes you part of an exclusive club of people helping the environment by using top tier tech and doing so in the lap of luxury. Simple, concise and informative. 

What are the differences between brand marketing and positioning?

Brand marketing is all branding; it is logos, colour palettes, themes, typography, or anything that uses consistent visuals to build an image or identity across all platforms. Positioning, however, is the placement in the customer’s brain where your brand lives compared to the competition. 

We touched on this before. Successful positioning is a natural consequence of proper brand marketing or branding altogether. If you have created that image of your brand that has longevity and visibility, your positioning will fall into place. You aim to start by building that brand, which will lead to people thinking of it when the product comes up. 

It isn’t so much that there is a difference between brand marketing and positioning. One is just a piece of the whole branding pie. 

Colour palettes

How do I build brand positioning for a small business?

Small businesses are not necessarily facing a battle against large ones when it comes to brand positioning. Being a small business is already a card in their winning hand. By targeting the right audience – a customer base that prefers buying from smaller companies – you already have a leg up. 

Plenty of studies have shown that smaller companies can develop robust and sustained growth by using creative strategies. Some are adamant that overcoming the challenges small businesses face in branding has a critical role in their success.

By going for the right group with your marketing strategy, brand positioning will be against other equivalent brands more than corporate giants. 

Breaking it down into steps: 

  1. Ask yourself what makes up the heart and mission of your brand
  2. Discover who your target audience truly is
  3. Ascertain your competition through knowledge of your brand and audience
  4. Create your brand statement
  5. Begin building your branding strategy
  6. Apply your newly formed brand image to your marketing and advertising strategies

Each step flows into the next. As you establish yourself as an authority in your niche, you will increase your visibility. This will lead to the first of your customer’s buying experiences. These customers will come back and become loyal followers of your brand. When they think of your product, they will think of you ahead of the competition.

Brand positioning for small business

There you have it, a basic guideline on building to and implementing brand positioning for your small business. You might notice that it follows a very basic formula. That is by design; it isn’t fancy tricks or a massive budget that leads to success. Knowing your brand and audience and a consistent image leads to a strong brand with staying power.

Final thoughts

All of this may seem a little overwhelming, despite being simple at its core. Hiring a firm to handle your branding strategy for you can be beneficial. They can take your ideas and form them into something more cohesive that matches the data available for both the industry and the audience.

That being said, it isn’t so complicated that you can’t manage it on your own if you choose. Remember that no one knows your brand the way that you do. Promoting it in a way that attracts the right audience can be as easy as showing them how valuable you already know your product is. From there, they won’t be able to help but think of you.