Posted by Ryann Malone - August, 15 2014
Posted by Ryann Malone - August, 15 2014
Across the world in businesses of all shapes and sizes, a very common argument still continues today. Does brand positioning really matter? Does it exist? Or is it just some illusion that marketers made up to sell more shoes during the Great Depression?
The issue with this debate is that “brand positioning,” like a lot of marketing buzz words, is an intangible concept with fluid evidence of success. Generally speaking, good business tactics have a measurable ROI and are easy enough to gauge in their reach. It is not unreasonable for any executive to be hesitant in determining their company’s brand positioning strategy if there is no real concrete evidence of its effect.
Despite these foundational insecurities with brand positioning, there is some really convincing logic as to why this concept is not just important, but the root of major growth and sustainable success. Positioning your brand helps to understand the entire gamut of the marketing spread: target audience, competitive assessment, brand definition, and more. It is essential in driving strategy and developing the brand identity that you want and not the brand image that you have no control over.
Jim Joseph, president of Cohn & Wolfe North America, defines brand positioning as “the mental space that we want to occupy in the customer’s mind about the brand. It’s how we want our customers to picture the brand, and it’s the first thing that we want people to think about when they hear the brand name.”
Furthermore, this “mental space” goes deeper than the surface into an “emotional” level with consumers. It is not only what they “think” but how they “feel” when the brand is brought up. This totally encompasses both sides of the brain in how a brand is positioned: the left side delving into logical reasons as to where the brand stands with them personally, and the right side harnessing emotional reasons.
In the early history of some of today’s best known brands, everything was much easier. Many companies had either a monopoly, or there were at least not nearly as many competitors. The biggest deciding factor in consumers’ minds was of functional merit. Will this product work? Will it do what it says it can do on the box? In most cases, the more elite product would stand out due to its functional superiority.
Fast forward to today where the average consumer sees hundreds of brands a day. Functionality of a product and dependability of a service have become the bare minimum quality for any brand. It better work!
There are thousands of brands to choose from today, many of which have identical functions with indiscernible features. That is why positioning your brand to be unique and differentiated from the clutter is essential for sustainable success. There has to be a different story about your brand that others aren’t saying. Period. If there isn’t, than there needs to be one. The four P’s of marketing can only get you so far.
What matters now, more than ever, is a relevant connection. What resonates with the target audience on a mental, emotional, and even philosophical or spiritual level? There must be an obvious connection between your brand and a consumer’s day-to-day life if you have any chance of selling your product or service. It must make sense to them and shift from “that product” to “my product” in their minds.
Another important factor is that your offer comes from a genuine place. Consumers are smart and know the marketing game to a certain extent. You must align yourselves internally with your external message in order to garner trust from the masses. Brands don’t always recover when trust is breached. Consistency between your external message and you internal values can also be a point of difference from your competition.
Brand positioning also helps to make your message concise, if done correctly. As our attention span gets shorter, our indifference to brand messaging increases. Your product or service could be the best thing out there, but without a clear, brief and focused message, it could be all for nothing. It can be tedious getting your brand’s message down to a short snippet, but it’ll be well worth it in the long run.
Taking that idea even further, it is not just consumers that this all matters to, but the employees of the company as well. People are more likely to work hard for a cause that they believe in, even if it’s not a social or political cause. Employees must feel inspired and empowered in the company’s mission and vision (also part of brand positioning) in order to deliver the best potential results. A customer’s bad experience with an employee who does not align with the company’s positioning can completely sway their opinion the wrong way. This is a team effort.
It may not seem as important as accounting, finance, or IT to some, but defining how your brand is positioned is crucial for sustainable growth. Whether it’s intended or not, your brand has a message out there and people are hearing it. In the race to finish first in consumer’s mind, remember that it’s not what you’re selling, but how you sell it.
Remember, it’s about a clear vision, a concise message, and a relevant connection. With these elements in place, you’ll see firsthand why brand positioning really does matter.
Jonathan Armstead is the Account Executive at Alchemy at AMS. He enjoys candlelit beaches and long dinners while he walks.