Plus, Pro Tips from Positioning Experts
Developing an effective brand positioning strategy is essential for both business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) brands. The four requirements for a powerful brand positioning strategy include:
- frame of reference
- frame of reference
The classic brand positioning strategy statement framework follows this approach:
- To target [specific audience],
- For [defined] frame of reference,
- Brand X is/has the point of differentiation
- Because [attributes] reasons to believe
We will review two examples of the completed brand positioning strategy, and also provide pro tips from our experience to make this more successful.
For purposes of illustration, we’ve included a B2C case example of Quaker Tropicana Breakfast Positioning that is referenced in the visual below. We will also explore a B2B automotive leather case study as a second example.
From experience, we’ve found that some “Pro Tips” practices make it easier to successfully complete the requirements for the brand positioning strategy. These are noted as Pro Tips in the visual below.
Brand Positioning Strategy Requirement #1: Target Customer
The first requirement to resolve is the target customer. Selecting a target is often harder in practice, as many brands want to cast a wide net to as many targets as possible. There are many approaches to defining the target and segmenting the market. For example, there may be current heavy users (or heavy needers) of the brand’s product or service. Alternatively, the brand may target the competition’s heavy users or needers. And, there may be other targets.
In the Quaker Tropicana Breakfast Positioning example, the team segmented the market to understand consumer motivations around breakfast. The motivational segments that emerged included Breakfast Skippers (not a target), Morning Sustainers, Hectic Nutrition Minders, Healthy Breakfast Believers and Permissive Variety Seekers.
After exploring these targets through quantitative segmentation followed by primary qualitative in-depth-interviews, the team selected two target segments to work with for brand positioning strategy: Permissive Variety Seekers and Healthy Breakfast Believers. Together, these two segments made up 25% of consumers and 40% of breakfast spending. With the targets clearly understood and agreed to, we are able to complete the first requirement in the brand positioning strategy as shown below:
- To Healthy Breakfast Believers and Permissive Variety Seekers
In the B2B automotive leather positioning example, the primary target are decision makers at major automotive manufacturers. The product that we were positioning is a recycled leather. It is leather, but recycled. It is not a vinyl product or “imitation” leather.
The target customers include color and trim designers and product planners. The specific vehicle targets are in the eco sector: electric vehicles and hybrids. The qualitative research included primary interviews with decision makers at Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Ford, Hyundai and General Motors. We are able to complete the first requirement in the brand positioning strategy:
- To color and trim designers and product planners for hybrid and electric vehicles
Brand Positioning Strategy Requirement #2: Frame of Reference
Frame of reference, sometimes called category frame of reference, is the second requirement in the brand positioning strategy. Selecting the correct frame of reference is important, as there can be a tendency to either go too narrow (e.g., if the Velveeta brand uses cheese loaf as it’s frame of reference rather than cooking cheese) or too broad (e.g., all foods used in cooking for Velveeta).
For the Quaker Tropicana breakfast positioning, the frame of reference was breakfast. We learned about “good,” “not so good,” and “great” breakfasts. “Not so good” breakfasts are part of a day that is out of control. Typically it is rushed and not very enjoyable. These breakfasts are made up of just one or two components that can be eaten quickly and on the go. A donut or cereal bar and coffee is an example. By contrast, “great” breakfasts typically happen on weekends or vacations and include more foods that take more time to prepare and enjoy such as pancakes, waffles or bacon. Often, these great breakfasts include time spent to savor the food and connect with others. The “good” breakfast is more of a weekday breakfast that suggests the day will be off to a strong start. Quaker Tropicana’s role is more in the “good” breakfast that has a good balance of nutrition and taste.
- For breakfast
For the automotive leather example, the frame of reference is upholstery materials. This includes other imitation leathers and fabric.
- For upholstery materials
Brand Positioning Strategy Requirement #3: Point of Differentiation
In order to be effective, the brand positioning strategy should be both relevant and differentiated, along with delivering both rational benefits and emotional benefits. We recommend exploring a range of rational benefit areas, e.g., hunger satisfaction, performance, nutritional delivery or healthfulness, taste, durability, etc. along with emotional benefit areas. Within each benefit area, we suggest exploring different dimensions to test the limits. An understanding of the brand’s current perceptions compared with competitor’s current perceptions provides a valuable starting point.
In a disciplined and well-run approach, finding the point of differentiation can still be the most difficult part of the work. There can be a tendency on the part of some to gloss over the target customer and frame of reference points. If the earlier parts are shortcut, differentiation may prove elusive or fail altogether.
The point of differentiation also needs to be relevant to the target customers. Technical differentiation that the customer does not know or care about serves no purpose. Many years ago, I was told that one mainstream automotive brand’s headlights cast superior lighting compared with competitors. Unfortunately, very few automotive customers shop at night, so awareness of this technical benefit was nonexistent, and it was not sufficient to drive the overall brand positioning strategy. The superior lights were an added cost with no customer benefit (though, of course, it may have been safer. The point is customers did not know to value it nor choose the brand because of it).
For Quaker Tropicana breakfast positioning, we explored five primary benefit areas: taste/taste experience, health plus, satisfaction, preparation for the day/empowerment and caring/breakfast experience. The outcome was summarized as:
- Power starts your day with healthy breakfast choices
For the automotive leather from Eagle Ottawa, the winning benefit areas were eco-friendly, real leather durability, and comfort with less weight.
- Genuine leather comfort and durability that’s innovated for the green generation
Brand Positioning Strategy Requirement #4: Reasons to Believe
The reason to believe is the support behind the benefit statement, typically a product or service attribute. It’s helpful to identify as many as possible reasons to believe at the beginning of the process, and learn how compelling each of them are through target customer feedback. The team needs to recognize that certain reasons to believe will work in supporting certain benefits, and not others. We don’t recommend simply selecting the most compelling reason to believe, if it doesn’t connect to a powerful benefit. Overall, the requirements of the brand positioning strategy need to work together in an integrated fashion. Not all combinations are meaningful or believable to customers.
For Quaker Tropicana breakfast positioning, there were two primary reasons to believe: (1) taste variety – a wide range of healthy breakfast choices from brands I trust and (2) power-packed nutrition of whole oats, fresh fruit, and vitamins and minerals like calcium.
- Because it’s power packed with whole grain oats, fresh fruit and vitamins and minerals like calcium, and it delivers taste variety with a wide range of breakfast choices from brands I trust
For Eagle Ottawa automotive leather, the reasons to believe were:
- Because it’s made from 70% recycled leather and weighs 30% less. Made with an innovative, patented manufacturing process called hydroentanglement, with no adhesives or binders.
Brand Positioning Strategy Statement Summaries
The summary of the Quaker Tropicana breakfast positioning strategy:
- To (target): Healthy Breakfast Believers and Permissive Variety Seekers,
- (brand) Quaker/Tropicana is the
- (frame of reference) breakfast that
- (point of difference) power starts your day with healthy breakfast choices
- because (reason to believe): it’s power packed with whole grain oats, fresh fruit and vitamins and minerals like calcium, and it delivers taste variety with a wide range of breakfast choices from brands I trust
The customer language that expressed this positioning strategy:
“QUAKER AND TROPICANA TOGETHER…. MORE HEALTHY WAYS TO POWER START YOUR DAY
You need energy in the morning. And the few minutes it takes to get a wholesome Quaker/Tropicana breakfast in you pays off.
Quaker and Tropicana give you a breakfast that’s power-packed with the nutrition of whole grain oats, fresh fruit, and vitamins and minerals, like calcium. Together, fresh-tasting Tropicana fruit juices and satisfying Quaker oats can provide the quick energy to get you going. And the lasting energy to keep you going.
And you have your choice of everything from classic Tropicana Orange juice and a warm bowl of Quaker Peaches and Cream oatmeal…to Ruby Red Grapefruit juice and crispy Life Cereal…to a Tropicana Smoothie and a Quaker Breakfast Square. So whatever combination you choose, it’s sure to taste great.
Quaker and Tropicana give you a powerful start to your day.”
The summary of the Eagle Ottawa brand positioning strategy for its recycled automotive leather, called Novella at the time.
- To (target): To color and trim designers and product planners for hybrid and electric vehicles
- (brand) Natalle from Eagle Ottawa
- (frame of reference) upholstery material
- that delivers (point of difference) genuine leather comfort and durability that’s innovated for the green generation
- because (reason to believe): it’s made from 70% recycled leather and weighs 30% less. Made with an innovative, patented manufacturing process called hydroentanglement, with no adhesives or binders
“Innovative Material for the Green Generation
For more and more drivers, ecological considerations are a significant factor in choosing a new car. They’re the green generation. Now you can give them a completely new alternative to vinyl, fabric, and leather for the interior.
Natalle isn’t based on petrochemicals. In fact, the two major things that go into the manufacture of Natalle are leather and water. Through Natalle’s innovative patented process, leather pieces are broken down into fibers and physically interlinked without adhesives or binders. So Natalle is made from 70% recycled leather. Eagle Ottawa’s proprietary finishing process meets demanding design & performance requirements and is water based, not petrochemicals.
As an upholstery material, Natalle offers the beauty, durability and comfort every driver wants. And it’s only slightly more than high-end imitation leathers, so it’s affordable.
Natalle Composition Leather. There is no better choice for the rapidly growing group of eco-conscious car buyers.”
These two case examples were implemented and drove in-market success for PepsiCo and Eagle Ottawa. They are now historical, as Quaker Tropicana is no longer marketing breakfast together, and Eagle Ottawa was sold to Lear.