Everything you want to know about brand positioning.

Some brand issues never lose relevance, never go out of fashion, never get ‘solved’ – brand positioning is at the top of that heap.

No matter how shiny your technology, lack of proper positioning can still sewer your brand. It’s a blend of art and science, only somewhat quantifiable, and it has befuddled businesspeople since the dawn of commoditized products.

In the spirit of public service (and good natured fun) I went on the air to talk about positioning, and how everyone – butcher, baker, candlestick maker – can build a better business with it.

What is brand positioning?

Consumers, like all humans, have limited bandwidth in their brains. They can only remember things that are recent or remarkable.

Consumers are just human. Asking them to remember anything beyond what's recent or remarkable is a stretch. Share on X

Barring your ability to have your product in front of consumers all the time, you need to make yourself remarkable.

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Happily, you don’t need to be remarkable to everyone. Just to consumers you believe have the greatest propensity to buy what you’re selling.

Positioning is how you stand out to them.

Positioning starts with priorities

You may be the best opera singing potter in the world, but if nobody wants pottery done by opera singers, you won’t sell.

The first trick to positioning is to align your product strengths with the priorities (or needs, or pain points, or whatever you want to call them) of your target consumers.

This is easier said than done, because, well, you’re biased. That is, you want to believe your product does just what your consumer wants better than anyone. It’s a bit like thinking your kid plays violin or soccer better than the next kid.

For that reason, I highly recommend doing this exercise with qualified outside help. Or heck, even unqualified outside help. Anyone who can see your product as it really is, vs how you wish it to be, is beneficial.

Don’t be all things to all people

Coca Cola’s audience may be anyone with a mouth, but you aren’t Coke. You need to focus. And that, by necessity, means you’ll be eliminating a large swath of the population from your list of target consumers.

This is a good thing. Because trying to appeal to all people is the surest way to appeal to none of them.

Instead, listen hard to the story I tell in my radio interview about the tire manufacturer. Be that guy.

Looking for a quick brand positioning shortcut? This is for you.

Positioning should be anchored in strength

Not just any strength, either. A strength that, arguably, you’re stronger at than anyone else.

Where things get interesting is when your product has more than one strength. Which is almost always the case.

Which strength do you go with?

The logical answer is to play to your core audience. Which brings us back to the point above – make sure your position aligns with the priorities of your audience.

Another component of brand positioning you can’t forget? Common sense. See what I mean in this post. 

Positioning isn’t always about the tangible

Nikes are like Adidas are like Reeboks. Coke is like Pepsi. McFlurrys are like Blizzards. But that doesn’t stop smart marketers from positioning these products brilliantly.

Take Nike’s latest foray with the paradigm-shifting Colin Kaepernick ad. It further cemented Nike’s reputation as a forward-thinking company with integrity and morals.

Whaaaaaat? Don’t they make shoes?

Perhaps. But people don’t buy shoes. They buy companies that align with their priorities.

Brand positioning isn’t forever

Like a mother’s job, positioning is never done. That’s because the marketplace is a constantly evolving organism. The moment you position your product and succeed, one of your arch rivals will counterposition theirs to try to eat your cake.

The good news is, staying nimble keeps your brain from atrophying. And positioning (unlike a mother’s job) is pretty darn fun.

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

Of course, I write about more than brand positioning. If you want to dive deeper into other factors that make a brand great, check these out:

Of course, the ultimate gift you can give me is to share this story on social media. The more readers, the better!

This post was first published in 2018, and was in updated in 2021 just for you. 

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