As we always say, your brand lives in the minds of those who experience it, most importantly your customers. But where your brand lives in customers’ minds is critically important. That’s the job of brand positioning.

Most business leaders have a vague sense of what brand positioning is, but many wouldn’t be able to define the concept if you pushed them on it.

Seeing as how your brand is arguably your business’s most valuable asset, it’s important to understand just what is meant by brand positioning and why it’s so important for your business’s success.

With this in mind, in this article we take a look at the following:

CONTENTS

Better understanding brand positioning will allow you to leverage this important concept for the growth of your business.

What is Brand Positioning?

Ignyte Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is the process of situating your brand in your customer’s mind.

Again, this is because brands live in the mind. They live in the minds of everyone who experiences them: employees, investors, the media, and, perhaps most importantly, customers.

In positioning your brand, you define the unique place it occupies in the minds of those you serve.

How are you different than your competitors? Are you a luxury brand or a budget brand? Are you provocative or conservative? Indulgent or practical?

Each of these qualities exists as a spectrum in your customer’s mind. Where your brand exists on the various spectra that are relevant to your brand category is how it is positioned.

Why Does Brand Positioning Matter?

Ignyte Brand Positioning

As you might imagine, the position your brand occupies in your customer’s mind is incredibly important. Positioning shapes customer preferences, dictates buying behavior, and serves as the basis for brand loyalty.

Effective positioning enables you to:

Create Positive Brand Associations

When your brand is effectively positioned, customers perceive it as favorable, different, and credible. These associations are critical to customer preference and customer loyalty.

Meaningfully Differentiate Your Brand

Positioning is how you differentiate your brand from the competition. Competitive differentiation communicates value and justifies pricing, both of which impact your bottom line.

Boost Brand Awareness

Effectively positioned brands are more memorable to customers. When your brand is front of mind, customers are more likely to select it when comparing their options.

Facilitate Purchase Decisions

Similarly, positioning defines the unique way your product or service benefits your customer, instilling trust and taking the guesswork out of the purchasing process.

Dictate Pricing Power

Strong positioning clearly establishes your brand’s value in your customers’ minds, making them more likely to pay a premium price over a less effectively positioned competitor.

Clarify Messaging

Finally, clearly defined positioning informs your brand’s story at all levels. It enables you to craft a consistent, compelling narrative across your brand’s many touchpoints.

How to Create Strong Brand Positioning

Ignyte Brand Positioning

The world’s strongest brands are positioned in our minds in ways that feel timeless and intrinsic. Creating strong positioning isn’t magic, though. Like all things branding, it starts with good old-fashioned research.

There are three fundamental areas of understanding you need before you can position your brand. You need to understand your customers, your competitors, and your brand’s value proposition.

Understand Your Customers

If positioning is the process of situating your brand in customers’ minds, it stands to reason that you need to understand your customers to effectively position your brand. Specifically, you need to know things like:

  • Who are your most valuable customers?
  • What are those customers’ goals and motivations?
  • What are their needs and challenges?

The only way to get the answers to these questions is with thorough customer research in the form of initiatives like customer interviews and surveys.

Qualitative and quantitative customer research provides the valuable insights you need to create brand positioning that speaks directly to those you serve.

Understand Your Competition

Once you understand your customers, you need to understand the other options they have in the marketplace. Questions you need to answer include:

  • Who are your top competitors?
  • How are they positioned?
  • How do they differentiate themselves from the competition?

A competitive brand audit is the best way to answer these questions. By assessing the visual and verbal identities of your brand’s top competitors, you can understand how each is positioned within the competitive landscape.

More importantly, a competitive brand audit allows you to identity opportunities for differentiation.

Are there positioning opportunities that are not currently owned? What’s missing among the many offerings currently available to your customers?

Gaps within the competitive landscape often represent valuable opportunities for powerful positioning.

Understand Your Value Proposition

The final component of your positioning is an understanding of the unique value your brand offers.

Understanding your value proposition starts with analyzing the data from customer and competitive research. The questions you need to answer include:

  • What do customers value most about your brand?
  • How do customers see you as different from the competition?
  • What is your competitive advantage?

Working with these insights, the goal is to hone the disparate ideas into a singular value proposition that encompasses your brand’s defining benefit.

Once you understand your customers, your competition, and your value proposition, you can use these insights to craft a brand positioning statement.

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How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement

Ignyte Brand Positioning

A brand positioning statement is a one- to two-sentence declaration that communicates your brand’s unique value to your target customers in the context of your competitive landscape.

Specifically, a positioning statement includes the following elements:

  • Competitive context: the business category in which your brand competes
  • Target audience: the type of customer your brand serves
  • Value proposition: the unique benefit your brand delivers
  • Reason to believe: proof you can deliver on what you promise

A typical format for a positioning statement is as follows:

For (target audience), Brand X is the only (competitive context) that (value proposition) because (reason to believe).

For example, back when it only sold books, Amazon’s positioning statement was the following:

“For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.”

Disney World’s positioning statement evokes the magic that is so central to its brand:

“For the young and young-at-heart, Walt Disney World is the theme park that best delivers on an immersive and magical experience because Walt Disney World, and only Walt Disney World, connects you to the characters and worlds you most desire.”

There are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to your positioning statement:

  1. There’s no definitive positioning statement template. The above is just one format that is commonly used and succinctly incorporates all the critical elements a positioning statement should touch on.
  2. Your positioning statement is ultimately internal messaging that should serve to inform more dynamic and compelling external messaging like your brand’s tagline.
  3. Your positioning statement is only a summation of your positioning; it’s not the entirety of the positioning itself.

On this last point, your positioning should be comprehensively outlined in a brand brief or brand framework, a document that thoroughly details important brand components like your target audiences, brand compass, benefits, brand personality, brand archetype, etc.

Finally, while your brand’s positioning should be designed to be enduring, it is likely to change over time, reflecting changes in customer needs, shifts in the marketplace, and technological advances.

Effective brand management and regular brand audits will help to ensure you stay on top of industry changes.

Brand Positioning Examples

The best way to see brand positioning in action is look at how some of the world’s top brands have positioned themselves.

In each of the following examples, brand positioning comes alive in the brand’s tagline, messaging, and visual identity.

Apple

By any measure, Apple is consistently among the world’s strongest brands. How do they maintain this status? With clearly defined and powerfully communicated positioning.

Apple’s products are the result of beautiful brand design. They’re distinct from any other competitor in the category. The brand has has defined itself as different, creative, and innovative.

The power of Apple’s positioning, however, is the brand’s ability to transfer the qualities of its products onto its customers. In subtle, highly resonant messaging, the brand tells its customers that if they align themselves with Apple, they too are different, creative, and innovative.

As a premium brand, Apple does not focus on price as one of its key benefits. It has cultivated such brand loyalty that customers are willing to pay more for its products. For many Apple devotees, you couldn’t pay them to use anything else.

Tesla

Ignyte Brand Positioning

Similar to Apple, Tesla is a premium brand that, in most cases, is more expensive than the competition. Price, therefore, does not factor into its positioning.

Tesla’s positioning instead focuses on the quality and, most importantly, innovation of its products in comparison to its competitors.

Tesla cars are high-performance vehicles that leverage industry-leading innovation to offer all the benefits of an electric vehicle with none of the sacrifices on speed or range.

What makes Tesla’s positioning so powerful is that it is singularly unique. Only Tesla owns this position of unrivaled innovation in customers’ minds. What started off as an automotive company has evolved into meaningful brand extensions for its target audience.

A customer may buy Tesla car, then decide to install Tesla solar panels on their roof to charge the car, then buy a Powerwall battery storage system to power the rest of their house throughout the year.

The uniqueness of Tesla’s positioning is only reinforced by the eccentricities of its CEO. When customers buy a Tesla, they are in part associating themselves with the madcap visionary genius of Elon Musk, as evidenced in quirky features like the cars’ “Ludicrous Mode.”

Hubspot

Ignyte Brand Positioning

As Tesla and Apple have proved, the best positioning redefines the industry in which the brand operates.

Similarly, by coining the term “inbound marketing,” Hubspot positioned itself at the center of a fundamental shift in the way businesses acquire sales leads.

Hubspot’s positioning is centered on efficiency and user friendliness, putting customers at the center of its offerings. Other marketing automation tools offer similar features, but none are as easy to use.

In evolving from a marketing automation tool to an all-in-one platform including CRM and sales, Hubspot has proven its positioning at every turn, growing to meet user needs in a customer-centric approach that inspires everything from the brand’s messaging to its interface.

The Takeaway

The process of situating your brand in customers’ minds, brand positioning is critical to communicating your brand’s unique value to those you serve.

Positioning shapes customer preferences, dictates buying behavior, and serves as the basis for customer loyalty. The world’s strongest brands are positioned in ways that feel timeless and intrinsic, but brand positioning isn’t magic.

By understanding your customers, your competition, and your brand’s value proposition, you can ensure your brand is positioned as unique, valuable, and impossible to forget.

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A prolific blogger, speaker, and columnist, Brian has more than a decade of experience in design and branding. He’s written for publications including Forbes, Huffington Post, and Brand Quarterly.