Standing out in a crowded marketplace

Challenge — Brand Positioning

Information overload is everywhere. It has never been more critical to find a unique and compelling space in a customer’s mind. Owning this space is the holy grail of brand positioning.

Typical Indicators

  • Customers see no difference between brands
  • The inability to command a premium price
  • Increasing marketing spend just to stay visible
  • Consistently losing business to competitors
  • Failure to communicate the brand’s value proposition
  • Poor sales performance or revenue growth

Brand positioning becomes ineffectual when a brand is weak in both differentiation and distinctiveness. Without exclusive qualities and attributes, there can be no perceived value in the minds of customers. They do not know what you stand for.

The indicators of poor brand positioning are numerous; poor customer retention, declining market share, decreasing margins and no clear proposition. Consumers become price-driven and may opt for cheaper or more convenient alternatives. They often mistake one brand for another or are uncertain about what makes the chosen brand different.

A lack of visual distinctiveness can make it difficult for a brand to stand out from competitors, leading to low brand awareness or recognition. Moreover, a brand devoid of personality or character can struggle to connect with customers emotionally, leading to low engagement or loyalty. Inconsistent messaging and branding can also create confusion, leading to a weak brand reputation or negative perception in the market.

Brands create differentiated products and services that are highly desired and for which there is no substitute, this allows them to set the price. But if you are not a brand, you are a commodity; the market sets the price.

Six strategies for successful brand positioning

In today's increasingly crowded marketplace, it's more important than ever to find the unique space that your brand occupies in the thoughts of your target audience. Brand positioning pioneers Ries and Trout, termed it as 'a battle for the mind'.

How will you differentiate yourself from the competition? Will you innovate incrementally to stay ahead, or will you be a market disrupter that creates a new category altogether? Monitor emerging trends and market changes and adjust your brand positioning strategy accordingly.

1

Choose an evocative brand name

A name can be a powerful tool for positioning a brand in the minds of its target audience. It can evoke emotions, convey personality, and differentiate you from competitors. A name that aligns with your purpose or values can conjure up a mental picture in a second, acting as a shortcut to your positioning.

It’s hard not to be enthralled by the rugged, pristine landscapes that are evoked by the name ‘Patagonia‘. In an instant you understand that their products can cope with extreme conditions and yet support their environmental credentials. How can you not be seduced by the audacious, risqué imagery conjured up by a lingerie brand called ‘Agent Provocateur‘? And, you can have full confidence in the accuracy of your financial data when your accounting is managed by the software known as ‘Sage‘.

2

Establish yourself as a thought leader

Sharing knowledge via blogs, articles, and social media is the first step in positioning yourself as your industry’s ‘go-to’ expert. The web is overloaded with generic waffle and fluff, so high-quality, in-depth content will get you noticed, plus Google ranks authority very highly. 

Be generous with what you give away regarding insight – giving knowledge before you receive anything back builds trust. Don’t try to be an encyclopaedia; your brand positioning is established by taking a unique perspective on everything you write. By the end of this year, there will only be a couple of pieces of writing your audience will remember or bookmark – make sure yours is one of them.

3

Create distinctive brand signals

Employ distinctive brand signals to stand out in the marketplace. A ‘signal’ could be a logo, a tagline, a colour, a sound, a word, a character or piece of product packaging. By creating a unique and recognisable visual identity or brand experience, you can help your brand make a lasting impression in the minds of your audience. Think of the iconic brown uniforms and liveries of UPS… or the sleek minimalist interiors of Apple Stores… or Tiffany & Co.’s signature blue box.

In the congested arena of price-comparison websites, competitors struggle to differentiate their offerings. So, to stay front-of-mind, they attempt to ‘own’ words, phrases or jingles. You may recall the irritating opera singer reminding you to “Go Compare” – whether you want to or not. Or perhaps you’ll think of Money Supermarket whenever you hear the word “Epic!”. And who can forget the cute meerkat family of Compare The Market for whom everything is “Simples!”.

To start, focus your branding effort on one, two or, at the most, three brand signals to increase their impact. Then, incorporate an element of surprise or delight to grab attention and improve the customer experience. Simples!

4

Use archetypes to build a distinctive personality

Brand archetypes can be a powerful tool for humanising your brand by providing a clear and consistent framework for defining and communicating your brand’s identity, values, and personality. At the simplest level they are divided into 12 universal character types, each designed to tap into the collective unconscious and evoke powerful emotions. 

Archetypes provide a narrative structure that can be used in storytelling. This allows you to craft compelling brand stories that engage and captivate your audience, making your brand more memorable and relatable.

The archetype characteristics are most easily compared in automotive brands. For example, Land Rover is characterised by the ‘Explorer’ archetype, ambitious and adventurous. Citroen is the ‘Creator’ archetype, portrayed as creative, quirky and individual. And if you see yourself as passionate and romantic, the ‘Lover’ Alfa Romeo could be for you.

By aligning your brand with an archetype, you create a powerful bond with your customers, setting yourself apart from your competitors and leaving a lasting impression.

5

Continuously innovate to stay ahead

Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Building a ‘Culture of Innovation’ into your business ensures you continuously develop products, services, and experiences that stand out from competing brands. 

The solution is to integrate ‘design thinking’ principles into problem-solving. 

  1. Adopt user-centred design to ensure solutions are effectively tailored to real-world needs. 
  2. Define and frame the problem or opportunity to guide the design process. 
  3. Ideate and brainstorm – form interdisciplinary teams of design-minded individuals to break down silos and find holistic solutions. 
  4. Identify promising ideas and create low-fidelity prototypes.
  5. Test, iterate and repeat until a viable solution is developed. 
  6. Implement and scale if appropriate. Share your processes and learnings with colleagues.

By embracing design thinking and fostering a design-centric mindset, companies can create a work environment rich with winning ideas and innovation — to better position themselves for success in an ever-evolving business landscape.

6

Explore the many ways to be different

A single point of difference may be enough to attract sales for a short while. However, building layer-upon-layer of differentiation into your brand creates an unassailable position in the marketplace and a barrier to competition. 

What is it that makes Harrods a ‘must-shop’ for overseas visitors? It is more than simply the Knightsbridge postcode. It is the irresistible combination of the location, celebrity patronage, luxury products, opulent premises and a unique customer experience, summarised in iconic green and gold shopping bags.

Differentiation does not need to be limited to exclusive product and service features. It’s invariably a blend of tangible and intangible attributes that attract customers. Method soap products are distinguished by their environmental ideology. Yorkshire Tea is differentiated by territory, Harley-Davidson by tribe and Uber by convenience. Provided your unique attributes are true, provable, and matter to your customers, they will contribute to a strong position.

If you need help with brand positioning, let's talk.

Start your journey with a brand positioning workshop

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