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Brand Positioning: Crafting an Unforgettable Identity

Brand Positioning: Crafting an Unforgettable Identity

Let’s start by getting to the heart of the matter – brand positioning is about carving out a unique space in your customer’s mind. It’s about defining how your brand differs from the competition and why people should choose you.

Think of it like this: the market is crowded, and every brand is trying to catch the attention of the same potential customers. Brand positioning is finding that perfect spot on the dance floor to show off your best moves and attract all the right people.

But don’t worry; it’s about more than just standing out visually. It goes deeper than having a catchy logo or flashy advertising campaign. Brand positioning shapes every aspect of how the outside world perceives your company.

Why Brand Positioning Matters

why is positioning your brand important

Imagine staring at a wall of seemingly identical cereal boxes at the grocery store. Which one are you going to grab? It will likely be the brand you recognize and trust – that has established a strong position in your mind.

That’s the power of effective brand positioning. It helps customers quickly understand what makes your offering unique and decide if it’s right for them. In our overcrowded markets, gaining that mental real estate is more crucial than ever.

Building Lasting Brand Loyalty

But brand positioning isn’t just a gimmick to get attention. When done right, it forges deep emotional connections with your audience. People don’t just buy what you sell; they buy into the more significant meaning and values your brand represents.

Just look at brands like Apple, Harley-Davidson, or Whole Foods. Their customers aren’t just choosing a product; they’re joining a tribe that shares certain beliefs and lifestyle choices. That’s some powerful brand loyalty that keeps people coming back repeatedly.

Commanding Premium Pricing

A strong brand position also gives you the freedom to demand higher prices than commodity competitors. If customers see you as the premier, luxury, or innovative option, they’ll be willing to pay more for that distinction.

Think of a high-end kitchen appliance brand like Viking or Thermador. You could get similar functionality from a generic brand for much less. But people willingly fork over the premium because of the prestige and quality those positioned brands evoke.

Discovering Your Optimal Brand Position

Brand positioning is critical for standing out, building loyalty, and commanding higher prices. The million-dollar question is – how do you find the perfect brand position for your company?

Understanding Your Audience

The first step is to understand who your ideal customers are – what motivates them, their pain points, and what desires they’re trying to fulfil. You need to get inside their heads and hearts.

This is where techniques like customer interviews, surveys, focus groups, and ethnographic research can provide deep insights. Look at more than demographic data; dig into the psychographic factors that shape customers’ identities and purchase decisions.

For example, let’s say you sell outdoor adventure gear. Your target consumer isn’t defined by age and income level but by personality traits like risk-taking, love of travel, passion for nature, etc. Knowing what makes them tick will shape your entire brand approach.

Evaluating the Competition

Next, you need to analyze the competitive landscape thoroughly. What brand positions have already been carved out in your particular market? Where are the potential gaps or opportunities to differentiate?

Go beyond just looking at direct competitors. Also, consider alternative products, indirect competitors, and potential substitutes that consumers could choose instead of your offering. The goal is to identify an untapped brand positioning territory you can claim.

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For instance, most brands are positioned around scientific effectiveness and dermatological credentials in the skincare market. But you notice an opening to be positioned as the sustainable, ethically sourced, natural option that environmentally-conscious consumers would appreciate.

Defining Your Brand Essence

With a firm grasp of your audience and the current market, it’s time to define your brand’s essence and meaning that will guide all positioning efforts. I’m talking about nailing down:

  • Your brand purpose and the higher ideal or change you want to drive
  • Your brand personality and the human-like traits it would embody
  • Your brand’s tonal qualities around its voice, language, and expression
  • The eternal values, beliefs, and emotions your brand uphold

This central brand essence ensures positioning remains consistent and authentic across all customer touchpoints. It keeps you from slapping on empty taglines that don’t ring true.

Authentic Brands, an insights consultancy, worked with Seventh Generation to define their brand essence as “Nurturing Nature” – a respectful protector that empowers people to care for the next generations through everyday choices. This higher-level positioning guides everything from their eco-friendly product formulations to their earthy, gentle brand voice and identity.

Key Brand Positioning Concepts

brand guidelines explained positioning

Now that we understand how to uncover the proper brand position let’s look at some core concepts and frameworks used to articulate that positioning:

Defining Your Frame of Reference

Your frame of reference defines the specific category of your brand that consumers want to be considered a part of. Are you an athletic apparel brand or a stylish fashion label that happens to make athletic wear?

Getting this piece right determines your competitive set, how you’re evaluated, and what’s considered table stakes. Lululemon has succeeded by positioning itself as a technical athletic brand – meaning quality, performance, and fit are paramount. At the same time, Anthropologie’s athletic wear is positioned more as fashion-forward, style-focused casualwear.

Establishing Points of Parity

These are the core competencies, features, services, or baselines your brand must deliver to play in your defined category credibly. They’re not differentiators but simply the price of entry.

If you tried positioning Domino’s as a premium, authentic Italian pizza option, no one would take you seriously since quick, efficient delivery is their established point of parity as a national pizza chain.

Determining True Differentiators

This is where the real positioning work happens. Your unique brand differentiators communicate the distinct benefits and advantages only your brand can claim over competitors.

These points of difference need to be:

  • Valuable and relevant to your target audience
  • Credible and something you can own and deliver authentically
  • Distinctive from other brand positions in the market

Red Bull’s brand differentiator isn’t just about describing product attributes but staking out a unique territory around “Vitalizing Mind and Body” through the blend of ingredients and edgy, intense brand experience.

Creating a Compelling Brand Mantra

With these positioning pieces in place, many companies will distil them into a concise internal mantra or slogan that captures their positioning essence. This becomes a rallying cry that ensures everyone stays focused on delivering that distinct brand meaning.

Some examples:

  • “Fun Family Entertainment” – Disney
  • Digital Marketing Software for the Brave” – HubSpot
  • “Performance Footwear for Elite Athletes” – Nike
  • “The Passionate Pursuit of Terrible Beauty” – Jack Daniel’s

Well-crafted mantras tick all the boxes – differentiating, motivating, focusing, and aligning an entire organization around a common positioning ideal.

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Bringing Your Brand Position to Life

Of course, defining your positioning is just the first step. The real work lies in activating and reinforcing that intended positioning across every single brand encounter. This allows you to own that positioning in your customer’s minds.

Identity and Design Execution

This relates to all your brand’s visual and tangible expressions – logos, naming, packaging, environments, advertising, and more. These must consistently reinforce your brand’s core attributes and harness buyer’s heuristics to trigger desired positioning associations.

For example, Audi’s blend of German design precision with luxurious material cues like wood, aluminum, and leather aim to position the brand at the intersection of performance and luxury.

Product and Service Delivery

Your positioning must be backed up by the experiences you deliver to customers. This means your product features, quality, customer service philosophy, etc., must be designed accordingly.

Volvo has spent decades building a brand positioning around automobile safety through engineering practices, standard feature sets, and the marketing tagline “For Life.” Delivering anything short of industry-leading safety would erode that positioning.

Culture and Employee Ambassadors

Even your internal culture and the people within your organization profoundly affect how brand positioning is conveyed. Your employee ambassadors’ attitudes, values, and behaviors must embody your positioning.

Southwest Airlines has carefully cultivated a fun, casual, irreverent culture that shines through in their employees’ lively attitudes and witty banter. It reinforces its positioning as an affordable airline that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Community and Lifestyle Connections

Many brands now activate their positioning by creating immersive lifestyle communities around their brands. This allows fans to experience the brand in multi-dimensional ways beyond just transactions.

Athletic brands like Nike and Lululemon excel at this, with Nike+ Run Clubs, training apps, sponsored elite athletes, and global events like racism, all reinforcing their positioning around premium athletic performance and healthy lifestyles.

The Pitfalls of Poor Positioning

write a brand positioning statement

At this point, we’ve covered all the strategic thinking and execution efforts required for owning a powerful brand position. But we’d be remiss not to look at common pitfalls that can derail even the best plans.

First, brands often struggle with being too broad or messy in a positioning that fails to stake out a distinct claim. You don’t want just to be another “quality” brand or “friendly” service provider. Those kinds of vague, commoditised positionings are the kiss of death.

Next, brands frequently fall into the trap of being inauthentic – where their positioning makes promises or associations they can’t back up in the genuine product or customer experiences they deliver. Talk is cheap if you can’t consistently walk the walk.

Brands also risk straying from their intended positioning over time, making scattered, uncoordinated moves that dilute that singular meaning. Consistent, prolonged messaging and stakeholder commitment is crucial.

Finally, some brands stubbornly cling to archaic or culturally irrelevant positioning long after customer mindsets and markets have shifted. Isuzu’s long-standing brand position of “Go Farther” for their trucks and SUVs made sense decades ago but feels hollow in today’s hyper-connected world where transportation has evolved.

The brands that can avoid these pitfalls and continuously reinvent and deliver on a truly unique and resonant brand position are the ones that withstand the test of time and earn enduring customer devotion.

Conclusion: The Never-Ending Positioning Journey

Does all this have your head spinning yet? The strategic rigor and organizational commitment required to develop and activate an influential brand position is no joke.

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But it’s a crucial exercise that can’t be shortcutted in today’s hyper-competitive environment. The most outstanding value is created for brands by crafting that singularly unique meaning and earning a memorable spot in consumer consciousness.

That said, it’s not a one-and-done process either. Effective brand positioning requires constantly monitoring cultural shifts, revalidating your target’s evolving needs and perceptions, and proactively adapting to stay distinctly relevant.

Just look at how brands like Old Spice and Domino’s had to dramatically reposition themselves to reconnect with changing customer mindsets.

So, get comfortable with the fact that the journey of owning an unshakeable brand position is a never-ending one. Those ready to bring genuine customer insight, creativity, and persistent effort to that aim are the brands poised to win the perpetual battle for mental real estate.


Isn’t brand positioning just about creative advertising and taglines?

Not at all! While taglines and campaigns are essential for communicating positioning, accurate brand positioning is much more holistic and far-reaching. It defines the essence and associations you want to be ingrained in customers’ minds and shapes everything from product strategy and service experiences to company cultures and partnerships.

Can a brand have multiple positions in the market?

While some large, diversified corporations can establish distinct brand positions for different product lines or sub-brands, it is generally inadvisable for a single core brand to pursue multiple conflicting positions. This will only breed confusion and hinder your ability to own a powerfully focused brand meaning. The strongest brands maintain a steady, unified positioning over time.

How often should you update or change your brand positioning?

Brand positioning is not something you want to shift frequently, as establishing brand associations takes consistency over many years. However, brands occasionally need to evolve or reposition themselves in light of significant market, societal, or competitive shifts that render an existing position obsolete or undesirable. This should only be done after extensive customer research and careful strategic consideration.

How do you measure if your brand positioning is working?

The ultimate measure of success is whether customers genuinely perceive your brand in the intended way. This requires metrics like brand awareness, associations, purchase intent, relative brand strengths, etc. In-depth ethnographic studies and focus groups can also uncover the resonance and mental availability of your positioning. Less direct measures like pricing power, loyalty, and advocacy can also indicate strong positioning.

Is brand positioning just for significant consumer brands?

While brand positioning is especially crucial for big, national consumer brands, it applies to companies of all sizes across B2B and B2C markets. Even small local service providers can benefit from disciplined brand positioning work to differentiate themselves and avoid becoming commodities in crowded categories. The principles are universally applicable.

As you can see, strategic brand positioning is both an art and a science – seamlessly blending audience insights, creative strategy, and rigorous execution to plant your flag in consumers’ minds. Those brands that can master this critical capability gain the power to own an undisputed position that competitors simply cannot replicate.

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