Brand Positioning: 12 traps, mistakes and way outs

The Brand Positioning statement is considered by most people a strategic output that must be included in the Brand Strategy.

Although many companies manage to identify great positionings for their brands, sometimes Brand Positionings statements can be misleading or simply wrong. When such a statement reaches creative agencies in a Client Brief, parties get their lines crossed, which affects negatively the following Creative Brief and creative proposals.

Not-so-great Brand Positioning Statements have usually classic causes. These causes are easily acknowledged but very difficult to accept, especially by the brand owners or by their authors.

What are the four main Traps of a Brand Positioning Statement?

  1. Being too generic (too theoretical)
  2. Too complicated (when the project manager decides to keep too many ideas)
  3. Lacking differentiation (vs. competitors)
  4. Being irrelevant (which verifies via consumer research)

Brand Positioning

From my experience on the strategic planning side, Brand Positioning is a critical variable that modulates Creative Briefing sessions in probably every type of agency (creative, branding, media, digital, and so on).

Sometimes, the Brand Positioning is developed by agencies because client companies cannot decide internally on a Brand Positioning Statement, so they organize pitches looking not only for creative proposals but also for Brand Strategy solutions.

Both internal and external processes can lead to great final statements, but I should also mention the third variant when brand positioning is developed by a brand consultant or branding agency.

What is a Brand Positioning Statement?

The term “positioning” refers mainly to a brand’s synthetic projection in its main audience’s mind and how the members of this group perceive it functionally or emotionally and which can be expressed via opinions (consciously) or through behavior (unconsciously). The Brand Positioning Statement is a sentence used in brand strategy presentations and diagrams that comprises the respective desired perception.

Determining a Brand Positioning Statement

Common mistakes in determining a brand’s positioning

Sometimes agency and marketing staff rush into deducing competition’s brand positionings by analyzing four categories of information:

  1. Brand slogans
  2. Feedback from qualitative research
  3. Online reviews and social media comments
  4. Their own perception about the brand 

Don’t be surprised if these types of deductions are very popular and also very misleading. For example, a brand slogan cand be an indicator of a Branded House’s positioning (e.g. Apple’s “Think different”), but the products or sub-brands, in general, have their own brand strategy.

Therefore, relying on these four categories of information is a nice imagination exercise, but nothing more.

Apple Brand Positioning: can we determine it from this video?

The way-outs

Although it looks tough, a dedicated or experienced brand professional should invest time and effort every year to determine competitive brands’ perception.

1. How to determine correctly a brand’s positioning

If we get back at my definition above, we should determine first the Intended Brand Positioning or IBP (what the brand owner aims to project), but also the Actual Brand Positioning or ABP (what is the real projection in audience’s mind or behavior).

IPB should be deduced via an extensive analysis which should include:

  • Competitive communication review (as many channels and creative work as possible)
  • Retail research (pricing, trade marketing activities, merchandising)
  • Corporate materials (press releases, interviews that cover the brand)

On the other hand, ABP should be determined from my point of view only by interacting with consumers or users of the brand (aka research):

  • Extensive qualitative research (online is cheapest)
  • Brand tracking studies (including brand positioning section)
  • Usage & attitudes (U&A) research studies (which include lifestyle + brand usage measurement)

2. How to create better Brand Positioning statements

We learned in universities and via pieces of training that brand strategy is a structured process that requires going through several steps.

I’m ok with this, but it needs a twist. The truth is that if the process is stiff, so will be the brand positioning.

But what about creative brands? Or what about target audiences that expect more charisma from their brands of choice?

For these cases, I think that the journey to determine a Brand Positioning should be also creative, inspiring, fun, and brave, even if you are supposed to create a strategy for a serious product or service.

For example, use unconventional workshops or ideation sessions instead of creating long Powerpoint presentations.

When we try to talk to the hearts and minds of potential consumers, spectacular things need to be discovered. These spectacular things are called Consumer Insights and in many cases, they can determine a brand’s strategy and positioning.

3. Search for Consumer Insights if you want a stronger brand positioning

Consumer insights are extremely valuable but very hard to unveil. Some techniques, however, can be very helpful in identifying one:

  1. Putting consumers in unexpected consumption situations. Do you remember Got Milk? campaign from “Truth, Lies and Advertising”? If not, enjoy it below.
  2. Look into behavioral data (try micro-segmenting, cross-tabulations), because many times data can point towards new consumer insights.

Got milk? campaign: Positioning milk as an essential item for other foods

Stefan Stroe - RoBloggers tennis cup

International eCommerce Manager at Medicover

I am currently in charge of eCommerce, digital marketing, and SEO performance for 10 markets where Medicover operates diagnostic services (medical laboratories): Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine.

All opinions published on this website are personal.

Find out more about Stefan Stroe here.

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