Many factors influence the purchase decision, including the image of your company or product in the eyes of consumers. Therefore, salespeople use various means to distinguish their offers from their competitors’. One of them is positioning.
What is positioning and why you should care
Positioning is a marketing strategy that aims to make a brand stand out from the competition and be memorable. Positioning is all about differentiation from competitors. Ultimately, it is about answering the question “Why should people buy a product or service from you?” It’s not so much why they should buy it, but why from you.
Positioning is important because it affects the recognition of your products and audience objections. A solid positioning helps to:
- raise brand awareness;
- form profit-generating opinions about the company;
- get ahead of competitors;
- outline the main principles and values of the company (which should be the same as customers’);
- form triggers that would make the company come to people’s minds at any time;
- justify the pricing.
Marketers use several ways of positioning, which differ on the basis of the brand’s uniqueness. Although there is often one central strategy, you can combine a few of them for a greater market reach. Some of these strategies are:
- By competitor
The strategy is based on the contrast with your competitors. A brand can be presented as an antipode to others or superior in quality.
For example, IBM’s slogan is “Think.” This helped Apple contrast itself with IBM by using the phrase “Think different” and positioning computers as something designed to be fun.
- By audience
The basis of this strategy is a distinctive consumer group that has special preferences and requirements for the products or services. Such a group often has a different model of behavior when it comes to purchasing and using goods. The strategy is recommended when working with narrow, niche markets. It is ideal for small companies and goods with specific properties.
You can see how Lacoste subtly senses its audience in their ad. Leisure, lightness, emotion, a warm beach, and belonging to the “aristocracy” come across through the clothes and the croquet mallets.
Photo by Ellen von Unwerth for Lacoste.
- By use or application
The product is associated with a particular situation of consumption. Thus, the consumer will buy the product in certain circumstances. The more unique the situation, the narrower the market, which allows you to take the lead quickly. This strategy requires constant monitoring of the consumers’ hobbies and behaviors because if their habits change, the positioning strategy will quickly become obsolete.
To illustrate, let’s think about the drink we associate with the winter holidays.
Photo from Coca‑Cola Great Britain website.
Coca-Cola, good-natured Santa, and branded trucks with lights are literally embedded in people’s subconscious, all due to competent marketing.
- By pricing
There are three main ways to use this method:
- Buy the same product for less. Such slogan is appropriate when it comes to simple products, like cotton pads or wet wipes. Buyers will not doubt the quality of the products, and therefore will not overpay.
- Pay more for more benefits. If the target audience has above-average income, they may be ready to pay more for special treatment and prestige. Pretty much any airline has business class as an example.
- Get less for a lower price. This is justified: the price is lower because there are fewer services. For instance, low-cost airlines offer tickets at a low price at the expense of limited luggage and onboard services.
- By consumer benefits
Here, the company clearly communicates the advantage the customer will get by using particular services or choosing a particular product of theirs. The benefit might not be about money. The customer may receive a safer product, or nicer to the touch, or more eco-friendly — the options are numerous.
The downside to this strategy is that competing companies are constantly copying others’ offers. Uniqueness is out of the question in such cases.
One example of this behavior is banks and their cards. As soon as a bank issues a credit card with zero interest or high cash back, others will likely follow.
How do I do it? A 7-step guide
Step 1: Set the goal
What do you want to achieve? To enter the market with a new product? Increase sales? Attract a new segment of the target audience? Having a goal is crucial for evaluating the effectiveness of positioning.
Step 2: Do customer research
Now you need to analyze the audience’s habits and behavior in your market segment. How is the market segmented? What role does the product have in the customers’ lifestyle? What gives them motivation?
Step 3: Analyze the status quo
How are you communicating brand values in your promotion? How are your values aligned with those of your target audience? Does your language make sense to the consumer? Do you understand their problems? If not, take a closer look at the pains and needs of the target audience, their life priorities, and expectations from the brand.
Step 4: Analyze your competitors
Once you understand your current positioning, find out how your competitors are doing.
Some services you can use for that are Semrush, SE Ranking, and Ahrefs. Study your competitors’ accounts on social media and analyze their subscribers’ behavior — you have the same target audience, after all.
Find out how your competitors position their brands. Analyze information about:
- strengths and weaknesses,
- marketing tools and techniques.
Step 5: Define the statement
Analyze data obtained during the research and highlight the key information. This is when you select the positioning strategies, hypothesize the final formulations, test them, and select the best ones.
The result is a positioning statement that conveys the position to the consumer in a simple, clear, and brief manner.
Step 6: Implement
Once the positioning is defined, the brand must broadcast it at every point of contact with the customer. The implementation phase normally takes 6–12 months. During this time, the positioning statement becomes the main message used in advertising. When customer communication has been developed, the positioning remains at its core.
Step 7: Monitor
Just like the advertising goal, the image goal should be measurable. It is necessary to monitor the position over time. Use audience surveys and research on social media to check the dynamics of consumers’ perception of the brand, so that you can adjust or improve your strategy in time.
How to check whether it’s working
A solid positioning should meet several criteria:
- Desired position. This means the positioning reflects the place in the market that the company seeks to occupy. If consumers really think of the brand the way it was planned, then the positioning is correct.
- Unambiguity. If a brand broadcasts the same values through various communication channels and uses the same tone of voice, the consumers will have the right perception of the company.
- Relevance to the consumer. Positioning should reflect the real benefits the client will get if they use the brand’s product.
- Competitiveness. The brand and its products should not be 100% the same as the competition. If the company has no strong advantage, it won’t be able to position itself and win the trust of consumers.
- Longevity. Positioning can change over time. The thing is, it should not happen too often, otherwise, consumers will stop distinguishing the brand from competitors.
Oleg Braginsky, an international expert on positioning, gives 5 simple tips on what marketers usually get wrong:
- Only relying on shock and sensation effects;
- Too few communication channels;
- Not monitoring competitors;
- Not staying on top of the news;
- The “Once I start, I’ll figure it out” mindset.
In order for customers to choose you over your competitors, something must set you apart from them, certainly in a good way. And surely that something must be important to the consumer.
Positioning is at the heart of all marketing communications. When a company enters the market or plans to expand, its owners or marketers often mistakenly start promotion by choosing the channels or thinking about what to write in posts and slogans.
Instead, a company has to first answer the question “Who are we?” and figure out how to get that message across to the consumer. Only when this is established, come the channel selection, content planning, and any other communication aspects.
Being that important, positioning cannot be done once and forever. Just as any marketing activity, it needs persistence and consistency in monitoring your customers, competitors, the industry’s news, and the relevance of your message to all of those.