If a brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer, then brand positioning is “creating, maintaining and developing a unique perception (or speciality) about a brand in the mind of the consumer.” In the modern world (where supply and choice far outweighs demand) positioning is the crux of the branding process. Successful (or unsuccessful) positioning can make (or break) a brand. For example, Mercedes stands for “luxury and class”, while BMW stands for “power and performance” reflected in their slogan “the ultimate driving machine.” Coca Cola is positioned as “the real cola” or the “classic cola” while Pepsi positioned itself as a cola for “the generation next” to create differentiation with Coke. While 7 Up, which was a late entrant to the market, and couldn’t really compete with the other two, positioned itself as the “uncola” providing an alternative to people who don’t like cola.

In each of the above cases, the brands “own” a speciality they have carefully chosen for themselves, through heavy advertising and other awareness campaigns. The three most critical elements for successful positioning are:

  1. The speciality should be different/unique
  2. It should be credible.
  3. It should be relevant/important

In each of the above examples, the specialities the brands own are unique, credible and relevant.  Fedex changed the logistics services industry in US because it promised “overnight delivery” (a very important decision making criteria for their customers) and successfully fulfilled their promise every time (“when it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight”).

You will find lot of ways to determine successful brand positioning in various books including lot of matrices and graphs and charts. But here is a simple and very effective way to do it.

Step 1: Identify the key specialities in the industry you are operating in.

Step2: Narrow down the specialities into those that are unique, credible and relevant.

Step 3: Identify which others companies in your industry own these specialities.

Step 4: If there is any speciality left, you own it. If not, then you create a new sub category in your industry and become the number one in that sub category.

Step 5: Once you have decided a speciality for yourself, go hammer and tongs, promoting your speciality and associating your brand to it, by every possible means. Don’t lose your focus and try to target other specialities.

It is far better to own a lesser important speciality (resulting in smaller audience size) no one owns, than to focus on a very important speciality, which is owned by a strong competitor. And your product may have many benefits, but stick to only the attribute you have chosen for yourself, to communicate in your advertising. No one remembers more than one idea. If you say too much, you say nothing, you are just making noise.


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