The Art of Positioning Your Brand and Why You Can't Afford to Screw It Up

The following is the eighth in the series "Marketing Like the Big Brands," running every other week in which marketing expert Jim Joseph shows entrepreneurs on a small-business budget how to apply marketing strategies used by big brands.

Many people have different interpretations about what brand positioning means. It's one of those concepts that is hard to pin down, yet at the same time is so important to the success of your brand. Positioning is at the heart of your brand. It's essentially the summation of everything your brand is about.

So let's break it down.

Positioning is built from what you know to be true about your customer. It takes the benefits you've outlined and makes them meaningful to customers. In its simplest of forms, positioning is the mental space you want to occupy in your customer's mind. It's the first thing you want your customer to think about when they hear your brand name.

In my column, "Connecting With Customers: How to Market to Their Emotions", I discuss how an emotional connection with your customer is the key to being a brand. But that emotional bond should be reflected in the positioning statement for the business. Positioning is more about emotions and less about the facts.

That's why marketers who think a claim about their product or service is a positioning statement, really miss the boat. The same goes for a description of your type of business. There's no emotion in that and it's emotions that differentiate a brand.

I remember when I opened my own agency several years ago. As a team we were working on how we wanted to position the agency, looking for the emotional benefit that we could offer to our clients. We finally landed on "We'll get you promoted" as our positioning. We never used it as a tagline, but more as a positioning statement for how we would serve up what we offered clients.

Many of our clients were mid-level marketing managers at Fortune 500 companies, working their way up the corporate ladder. The idea of helping them get promoted was engaging. Our work would get them results and they would be recognized for that. The fact that we were a brand promotion agency gave the positioning statement double meaning.

Once it's nailed, your brand's positioning becomes the basis for building the brand experience across the entire marketing plan. The key is to make sure the actual brand experience delivers on what was intended in the positioning.

In my agency at the time, we made sure we helped our clients showcase their work to get the recognition they needed in order to be put in line for promotion. We made a big deal when one of our clients got promoted by celebrating every success. It became part of our personality and part of the experience of working with us. This came directly out of our positioning statement: "We'll get you promoted."

Let's take a look at a few big brands and what they've done for positioning. As I mentioned, the tagline can often be a big hint:

  • BMW: "The ultimate driving machine."
  • State Farm: "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there."
  • L'Oreal: "Because you're worth it."

Notice the level of emotion in each of these taglines, which essentially highlights each brand's positioning. Here's how I might translate those taglines into positioning statements:

  • BMW: Makes you feel powerful.
  • State Farm: Makes you feel secure and safe in times of need.
  • L'Oreal: Makes you feel valued and good about yourself.

These are obviously big blockbuster brands, but there's no reason why you couldn't do the same for your small business.

You need to dig deep into the emotional benefit that you offer your customer. Think about how you want your customer to feel about you, every time they think about you. Try to capture that in a brief statement that best describes what you can offer, and jot down a few options. Run them by your team and do a little brainstorming. It's a lot of fun and you'll be amazed at how quickly you start generating ideas.

How have you positioned your brand? Tell us in the comments below.

 

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