Brand positioning is a vital aspect of your brand's wider image, and a core part of establishing your future marketing strategies. Described by marketing guru Philip Kotler as "the act of designing the company's offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market", it is intended to convey how your brand stands out from your competitors, and how your target consumers see it.
Some brands are better at this process than others. Indeed, when faced with the prospect of positioning your own brand, it can be highly useful to look at the actions taken by these companies, and identify the key drivers of success that you can then implement in your own positioning strategy.
Examples of Brand Positioning
With this in mind, we've compiled a list of companies that have secured key market real estate through their brand positioning strategies, and looked at what you – as a business owner – can learn from them.
Here are our picks:
Given the strong competition and – according to many experts – inferior product technology, Apple's unparalleled success is not necessarily down to what is inside the iPhone. Indeed, the core component of what makes the company so successful is its ability to market itself as a lifestyle brand, supplemented by its associated ecosystem of entwined products.
This is because Apple has embedded the subconscious idea in consumer mindsets that the brand offers societal superiority. It has positioned itself as a brand that reflects attainable luxury and, through its ecosystem, has been able to grow significant customer loyalty. Apple focuses on the needs and style of individuals, and appeals to human emotions and product experiences through its advertising and promotional channels. At the same time, their products offer simplicity through a strong design and user interface, cementing Apple as a luxury brand that is accessible to anyone.
What we can learn: Fermenting a sense of exclusivity can give your brand a competitive edge – but it needs to be backed up by accessibility and usability.
Like Apple, Nike aims to connect to a wide range of potential consumers, from elite athletes to everyday people. The brand heavily focuses its advertising efforts on the emotion of its audience, aiming to make every single person feel that they are an athlete, regardless of their background or level of physical fitness. Ultimately, through its famous slogan, 'Just Do It', the brand motivates consumers to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Being one of the largest sportswear manufacturers in the world, Nike utilises professional athletes as brand influencers that "ordinary" people can aspire to and, while the company manufactures high-quality, durable, and sports-oriented products, the brand also pays attention to fashion. Nike's products are priced at an above-average level compared to its competitors, yet are still a consumer preference; through careful brand positioning, Nike has managed to justify these pricing strategies, to which consumers respond favourably.
What we can learn: Consumers appreciate quality and will pay above market price for the right product. Emotional advertising can also be a hugely effective marketing tool when implemented well.
Coca-Cola is often viewed as the "founding father" of present-day marketing models; while the brand itself is classic, its advertising campaigns are always fresh, modern, and up to date. The brand's identity focuses on being fun and refreshing, with campaigns often oriented around positive activities while enjoying the beverage. As a result, Coca-Cola's target market is vast, although the company generally focuses its efforts on two main groups: children and youth.
Its iconic Christmas campaigns are a great example of this. Since children have strong emotional ties to Christmas, Coca-Cola has tied its product to the iconic red Santa outfit, making heartfelt commercials during the winter period. Another important Coca-Cola campaign is its summer edition that features young people having fun and asking them to 'share a Coke with a friend'. Through these associations, the company's positioning is always about being happy, as though the product has elixir-like capabilities. It also regularly references the exclusivity of its recipe, particularly in context to its great rival, Pepsi, positioning itself in the market as 'the real thing'.
What we can learn: Referring to your organisation's core values, such as 'fun', 'joy' and 'sharing happy moments' can create powerful associations that are timeless and applicable to many potential consumer segments.
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Starbucks has chosen an unconventional marketing strategy to establish itself on the market. It offers pricey but high-quality caffeine beverages that are so popular, "grabbing a Starbucks" has become synonymous with grabbing a coffee.
Unlike other brands on this list, however, the brand's appeal is rooted in the customer experience rather than the taste of the coffee itself – it offers consumers a place where they get to enjoy a personalised coffee (complete with their name written on the cup) in an ambient and desirable setting. This has become a distinctive staple in the brand image of Starbucks and generated a lot of social media engagement along the way.
What we can learn: Personalisation and experience are hugely important to modern consumers, and can be leveraged regardless of your industry.
Defining Your Own Brand Position
The above examples can serve as inspiration, but they are huge multinationals with significant branding and marketing resources. When defining your brand position, you should look at the below criteria:
- Who is your target consumer, and what are is their buying habits?
- What market does your brand belong to, and who is it competing against?
- What is your brand's promise?
- What is the most compelling thing about your brand?
Remember, too, that positioning statements can be confused with slogans or taglines. A slogan is a statement that is used in your external marketing efforts and is something your clients will remember your brand by. Conversely, brand positioning statements are internal and are for your marketing team and other employees.
Why Is It Important?
Some of the key attributes of brand positioning are relevance, differentiation, and credibility, with relevance being the most critical. Unless your brand is appealing to your target consumer, urging them to use or buy it, the other two factors do not matter. That said, it is still important that the other two components are thoroughly implemented as well; for example, if a business' offering is not attainable, then no matter how relevant or unique it is, no consumer will purchase it.
Does It Actually Work?
Brand position occurs whether or not your company is actively pursuing to develop a brand positioning strategy or statement. It occurs somewhat naturally but heavily depends on marketing strategies related to the business, such as your pricing, promotions, distribution, packaging and, of course, your competition.
Ultimately, though, it's not 100% possible to position anything in your client's mind. After all, positioning relies heavily on how your client interprets your product or service, what they experience when they use it, and what comes to their mind when they see its logo or tagline. Behind every great brand positioning strategy lies your intentions – how you wish your brand to be interpreted by others – and is about manifesting the passion you have for your brand in the mind of your clientele. This is not always easy – or even possible – to do, but as the companies on this list have shown, it can be hugely valuable to the ongoing success of your organisation.
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