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How to Develop Positioning Strategy That’s Effective for Any Brand

Positioning Strategy Development Process

We’ve developed positioning strategies for a wide variety of B2B and B2C brands, typically in instances where the initial approach was not successful.  One B2B assignment required bridging multiple B2B decision makers and multiple IT service categories. Another CPG positioning strategy example focused on the target customer as the hero, and the product as the humble helper (despite the brand’s technical superiority). In both cases, the end goal of the positioning was for communications, branding and marketing. It was not meant to be the complete business strategy or value proposition.  Regardless of the situation, we believe there are four critical elements to be integrated for a sound positioning.

Positioning Strategy Step 1: Who’s it For?

Which customer segment is the positioning developed for?  There may be many customers, and customer segments, who purchase the brand, but it’s important as a first step to consider which segment(s) are the primary focus. 

Pro tip: In our experience, during the development stage, it’s best to limit this to no more than two customer segments who share some (not all) common characteristics. That’s because it will be very difficult to develop a positioning if the segments have nothing in common. At all costs, avoid the watered-down approach of developing a positioning intended to appeal a little to all segments, which generally means it’s not compelling to any segment.

Positioning Strategy Step 2: What’s the Frame of Reference?

How broad, or narrow, is the territory or category that your brand’s services and products address?  What’s the relevant frame of reference for the customer?  Who else competes within that frame of reference? 

For instance, in financial services, the frame of reference could be as specific as a debit or credit card or broader to encompass managing day-to-day payments.  Payments provide a good example, with Apple Pay, Venmo, Google Pay, Square, Alipay, bitcoin and many more.

Pro tip: Explore several frames of reference in the early stages to find the best fit for the customers and the brand’s situation. 

How to Develop Positioning Strategy That’s Effective for Any Brand

Positioning Strategy Step 3: What’s the Differentiation?

Specify how your brand’s benefits are differentiated from the competition. What are the emotional benefits in addition to rational benefits?  Finding those points of differentiation can be the hardest part of the project. For some brands, the starting customer perception will provide some constraints and opportunities. Alternatively, other brands face an embarrassment of riches with many points of differentiation.

Pro Tip: Our recommended approach explores four to six benefit areas and multiple approaches within to cast a broad and deep net.  The focus customer segments provide feedback to optimize and hone down to the most compelling solution.

Positioning Strategy Step 4: What’s the Reason to Believe or Payoff?

The “reason to believe” is a product or service attribute that supports the brand’s differentiation. 

Pro Tip: In developing positionings, an early step is to capture the reasons to believe to use in supporting the positioning. Often, the R&D team is the best resource for this information.

Example Positioning Strategy Statement Framework

The classical framework for a positioning strategy looks something like this:

  • To target [specific audience],
  • For [defined] frame of reference,
  • Brand X is the [functional/emotional] point of differentiation
  • Because [attributes] reasons to believe

Pro Tip: Positioning strategy is an iterative process, so it’s helpful to draft an early positioning statement(s) using the framework, and then keep modifying it as you optimize with customers.

From B2B to B2C, from Fortune 500 companies to sole proprietorships, effective positioning strategy drives communication, branding and marketing to deliver impressive results.

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