Brand positioning: a great shortcut

If you market for a living, you understand brand positioning is a complex process where you read the tea leaves on your brand, your competitors’ brands, and (most important) consumer preferences… then bring everything together in a form that gives you a competitive advantage.

New to brand positioning?

If you don’t market for a living, brand positioning probably just feels like dealing with taxes or plumbing: confusing at best.

I wrote this piece for the latter audience. Pro brand builders, feel free to turn the page.

Alright, now that the pro marketers have moved on, let’s get down to business, shall we?

The more brands I build, the more I find myself relying on a few simple tools that cut to the truth without excess fuss or muss.

One of those tools – the brand positioning power score – is what I’m talking about today. Check out this video for a quick synopsis.

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The origin of the brand positioning power score

The brand positioning power score is something I adapted from my days working at Maddock Douglas, an innovation agency. At MD, we used a tool called the innovation power score to assess client products. Specifically:

  • What did our client’s product do better than competitor products?
  • What did it do worse?
  • What did all products appear to do well?
  • What did all products appear to do poorly?
Want insights into your product's power? Use the Innovation Power Score. Click To Tweet

The innovation power score gave us insights into product attributes the client could win with and guided us away from areas that competitors already ‘owned’. It also provided assurance that particular areas of innovation were worth (or not worth) developing further.

It was a wonderful tool. But even better, it was versatile. I discovered, for example, that the innovation power score could bring clarity to the world of brands, just as it did to products.

Your how-to

Brands are like people. Your brand does some things well, and some things not so well. Same goes for your competitors’ brands. Then, there are areas where every brand in the category excels. And areas where every brand underperforms.

By the way, I’ve broken down how to use creative dissonance to build a surprising brand. I think you’ll find it useful – check it out here

Just getting comfortable with this concept is step 1. Again,

  • Where does your brand outperform?
  • Where does your brand underperform?
  • Where do all the brands in your category outperform?
  • Where do all the brands in your category underperform?

Let’s illustrate with an example. The category is SUV’s and your brand is the Mercedes M Class SUV.

  • Outperforms in:
    • Prestige
    • Luxury
    • Reputation
    • ‘Chunk’ sound door makes when you shut it (hey, humor me)
  • Underperforms in:
    • Perception of outrageous price
    • Perception of outrageous post-warranty costs
    • Resale value
  • Similarly high performance (vs, say the Toyota Highlander) in:
    • Reliability
    • Features
    • Aura of obsessive engineering
  • Similarly low performance (again, vs the Highlander) in:
    • Perception of terrible gas mileage

Now, step 2.

Drawing conclusions

If this was my brand to build, I would lean in toward the magic Mercedes built over the past century. Truth is, nobody else even comes close. And a solid track record is something every consumer respects.

I would also infuse a healthy dose of German engineering. Heck, these folks invented this stuff – so much so that the German scientist has become a cliche. That sort of built-in audience acceptance of a powerful attribute is something most brands just dream of.

I might go toe-to-toe with Toyota on brand attributes we shared. But probably not. Comparing yourself with another brand isn’t something Mercedes would do. It feels a bit lowbrow for a purveyor of luxury.

Now the wrinkle. Let’s say our Mercedes got insanely good gas mileage because it was a diesel or hybrid. Would I lead my brand charge with ‘high-ish mileage’?

No. Saying you’re all about high mileage puts you in the category of a Prius or Smart Car. It isn’t what consumers expect from an SUV. And I’d bet my bottom dollar it will confuse them.

So there you have it. Two easy steps to improved clarity on your brand positioning. But…

Speaking of consumers

This handy little how-to hasn’t gone into depth on the most important part of the equation: your consumers.

Don't know what your brand is best at? Start by asking consumers! Click To Tweet

Brands exist in consumers’ minds. So any conversation about what your brand excels at, or falls short at, needs to informed by insights from consumers.

Remember: consumers are human. Do you want to sell to them? Then you need to get to know them. Here’s how and why. 

Of course, that shouldn’t stop you from going through the brand positioning power score. In fact, it might inspire you to make consumers part of the exercise.

Ask them where you think you’re doing well, and where you do not-so-well. The results will be informative, if not downright surprising.

Best of all, you can do it without engaging in a process as complex as plumbing or taxes.

Enjoyed this story? Want more? Check out these:


And don’t forget to download my new book Stop Busting Your Brand.

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This post is an updated version of a story I originally published October 22, 2018.

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