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Brand positioning is one of the most important strategic decisions you have to make for your company. Clear positioning helps you to stand out from the competition and build a strong connection with your target group.

The challenges of brand positioning

Companies often find it difficult to make tough decisions, which leads to diluted and generic positioning. When it comes to strategy, you always have to ask yourself:

  • What are you NOT going to do?
  • Who are you NOT going to talk to?
  • Which advantages will you NOT emphasize?

These decisions are difficult because you see your product or service in its entirety. You want everyone to know about the amazing things your brand offers.

But as the great Steve Jobs once said: “It’s a complicated and noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance for people to remember much about us.”

In other words: be picky.

Differentiation vs. differentiation

Distinction describes how your brand looks and feels. This is where differentiating elements come into play – your logo, color palette, typography and other visuals.

Differentiation, on the other hand, describes how you position your brand in the market. This requires difficult decisions about what really makes you different compared to your alternatives.

Note the emphasis on the word “relative”. Uniqueness is often a myth, but not always. Brands such as Apple and Tesla have managed to establish unique positioning that is difficult to copy. Nevertheless, relative differentiation is usually more practical and sustainable.

That’s why you need to lean on something that’s important to your customers, relatively different from your competitors and that you can actually deliver.

The 3C model

The 3C model helps you to clearly define your brand positioning:

  • Consumer: What do your customers want more than anything else?
  • Competitors: What do your competitors offer and how can you be relatively better?
  • Company: Can you implement these relative differentiations as core competencies?

Practical example of the 3C analysis: Suppose you introduce a new health app.

  • Consumer: Your target group wants a user-friendly app that manages their health data securely.
  • Competitors: Competitor apps offer similar functions, but are complicated and have security gaps.
  • Company: Your app is easy to use and attaches great importance to data protection.

If you can now answer the questions of the 3C model, you have the basis for your positioning.

Formulate an effective positioning statement

A positioning statement should be short and concise.

Here is a simple format:

At [target audience], [brand] is the brand for [frame of reference], the [point of difference], because [reason to believe].

Examples

  • Among snack lovers, Snickers is the brand of chocolate bar that satisfies your hunger because it’s filled with peanuts.
  • Among fitness enthusiasts, Nike is the brand for sports shoes that boost your performance because they are equipped with innovative cushioning technology.
  • Among creative professionals, the MacBook Pro is the brand for laptops that maximize your productivity because it’s equipped with powerful processors and a high-resolution Retina display.

Simple, coherent and easy to remember. Be careful not to pack too much information into the statement.

How you use your brand positioning

Once you have defined your brand positioning, you have a clear idea of what you want your customers to think when they think of you. It is important to regularly review and adapt this positioning in order to keep pace with market changes.

It’s perfectly fine to have different positioning for different target groups as long as they pass the 3C test.

Apple’s Brand Tenets

Apple usually keeps their strategies to themselves, but these were submitted to the Effies and we got a glimpse of their magic.

Everything Apple does must pass this test: It must convey simplicity, it must be creative and it must be human. Let’s look at some tactical implementations of this simple but brilliant brand position.

  • iPod campaign: When the iPod was launched, Apple went to market with this iconic campaign showing people dancing with the outlines of their distinctive headphones. Creative, human, simple.
  • Think Different campaign: In 1997, Apple launched their “Think Different” campaign in which they showed images of “game changers” throughout history and how Apple understood them. Human, creative, simple.

Everything you do should reinforce your brand position. Everything.

Norbert Kathriner

Positioning is strategy, not tactics

Companies often write a slogan in the belief that this is a positioning statement. Let’s be clear: Apple’s “Think Different” is not their positioning statement – it’s a manifestation of it.

Slogans, as well as media channels, creativity, innovation, product names, packaging, price, etc., are all informed by brand positioning – but are not the positioning itself.

So before you jump into tactics, remember that your strategy needs to be in order, otherwise you risk having an inappropriate product name, inconsistent messaging and confusing executions in the marketplace that don’t reinforce your positioning.

Regular review and updating

Your brand positioning should be dynamic and flexible. Regularly review your positioning and adjust it to ensure it is in line with current market and customer requirements.

Customers won’t think of your brand as often as you think they will, so be selective about what you want them to know about you, resist boredom and keep saying it with bigger budgets and new creative ways.

Only after years of disciplined implementation will you have the chance to “claim” a position in the memory of your customers.

Markenstrategie Brand Strategy
Markenidentität Brand Identity
Markenkommunikation Brand Communication
Designsysteme Design Systems

Conclusion

A clear brand positioning is crucial for your business success. By specifically addressing your target group and clearly differentiating yourself from the competition, you create a strong connection with your customers. Use the 3C model (Consumer, Competitors, Company) and regularly review your strategy to stay relevant. This will help you achieve a sustainable and memorable position in the market.