11 Top Brands Consistently Identified: Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, HubSpot, Tesla and More
Most popular positioning strategy examples focus on the situation where a company needs to position one brand in a market space. At times, the brand is positioned in a single product category. For example, Coca-Cola and Pepsi in carbonated soft drinks, Tesla in electric vehicles, JetBlue in air travel, Chipotle in fast food.
Other popular positioning examples are for brands that have extended across several categories, for example Nike in athletic performance apparel and shoes or Disney in movies, TV, and theme parks. Still other popular examples are for retailers that span multiple categories, such as Amazon.
What’s not often reviewed in positioning strategy examples is how a company that has several brands can position each within a similar market category or space.
In searching for positioning strategy examples, seven sources identify leading examples. These included:
From the 37 brands that these sources cumulatively identified as having strong positioning strategy examples, 11 brands rose to the top for consistent performance.
Top-Tier Positioning Strategy Example: Apple
At the top tier, Apple is most consistently identified by 100% of these sources as a great positioning strategy example. These reviews cited Apple for innovation, premium positioning, and unique end-to-end experience. Specific taglines noted are “Think Different” and “Everything is easier on a Mac.” Despite being relatively newer, Apple earns the top spot for positioning strategy (i.e., it was created in 1977), a few years after Nike and many years after Coca-Cola.
Apple is an example of a brand that has extended across several categories.
Second-Tier Positioning Strategy Examples: Nike and Coca-Cola
For the second tier, Nike and Coca-Cola are regularly considered to have great positioning strategies. These brands are listed among the top positionings in more than half of the reviews.
In the case of Nike, the brand (first marketed as Nike in 1971) is extended across several product categories, including athletic apparel, footwear and accessories. There is even a Nike Apple Watch, combining these two powerful brand equities.
The Nike brand positioning strategy is identified by these sources as focused on serious athletes to give a performance edge, while also providing comfort. Despite its controversial origin, the famous “Just Do It” tagline has endured.
While the Coca-Cola company offers apparel and accessories under the Coca-Cola, the brand first created in 1886 still dominantly competes in the carbonated soft drink (CSD) category. There is no evidence of a Coca-Cola Apple watch, though there is a Coca-Cola app.
Coca-Cola’s positioning strategy focuses on positivity and positive experiences while drinking Coca-Cola. According to these reviews, over time, Coca-Cola has consistently focused on happiness, quality, the joy of sharing and friendship. These sources cited the current “Taste the Feeling” and historical “Always” taglines.
The Coca-Cola company also produces a number of other soft drink brands including Sprite, Fanta, Barq’s, Fresca, and more. Each of these brands has its own positioning strategy. We will explore an example of a company with two similar sun care brands in the same category after reviewing the other consistently performing brands.
Third-Tier Positioning Strategy Examples: HubSpot, Tesla, Disney, Pepsi, Starbucks, Amazon, Chipotle and JetBlue
These third-tier positioning strategy examples are also recognized by several sources as among the top brands.
The first three names on this list are each recognized by three sources: Pepsi, Disney and Chipotle.
Like Coca-Cola, Pepsi is primarily recognized as a carbonated soft drink brand. The Pepsi brand (first created in 1886 as Pepsi-Cola) is noted for focusing on youth, as well as being forward-looking (i.e., “Choice of the New Generation”), and tasting better than the competition (e.g., with “Take the Pepsi Challenge”). Pepsi’s 2020 “That’s What I Like” tagline was not noted among these sources.
Similar to Coca-Cola, the PepsiCo’s brand portfolio includes several other carbonated soft drink brands such as 7Up, Mountain Dew, and Sierra Mist. PepsiCo has 23 billion-dollar-brands including Gatorade, Lay’s, Starbucks RTD Beverages, Lipton, Aquafina, Tropicana, Soda Stream, Doritos, Cheetos, Quaker, and more.
Initially created in 1923, the Disney brand is recognized for its magical experience brand positioning strategy. The brand was noted for family entertainment, making dreams come true and making memories. The brand is extended across:
- theme parks and cruise lines
- consumer products, including character merchandise, books, magazines, Disney Store and Disney Catalog
- studio entertainment
- and more
The Chipotle brand competes in the fast food industry and was created in 1993. Chipotle is recognized by sources for a brand positioning strategy of offering higher quality, and better ingredients (e.g., non GMO), along with customization. The tagline noted is its founding motto of “Food with Integrity.” Chipotle reported that digital made up 46% of sales in 2020, and that they opened 161 restaurants and closed nine. According to analysts, the brand is positioned for continued growth.
The next set of brands are identified by two sources as top positioning strategy examples.
HubSpot is identified as a brand that “just works” and is “integrated out of the box,” offering technology that helps its customers “Grow better.” With offerings in marketing, sales and service, HubSpot competes across several service categories. The brand was created in 2006.
Tesla is recognized for moving the electric vehicle industry forward, and changing the future for drivers and for energy use. Tesla was created in 2003, and competes primarily in one product category, electric vehicles.
Starbucks is identified as a brand that focuses on delivering premium quality and a customized experience for each individual. The brand offers a wide variety of beverages in its retail stores, and through Pepsi, in ready-to-drink products in supermarkets. It has also offered entertainment services and was first created in 1971, the same year as Nike.
The Starbucks brand is so well known for offering a premium experience that one large-scale, mixed-use development planner opined that having the Starbucks logo in the illustrations was helpful to getting investors interested.
In 2020 to 2021, Starbucks announced it was closing 500 stores (400 in a first wave, plus an additional 100), primarily café locations with dining rooms, to shift to more pickup and delivery. The brand has plans to open approximately 50 net new stores.
Starting in 1995 as an online bookseller, Amazon has expanded across multiple product and service categories. Amazon is now recognized by sources for a brand positioning strategy of offering everything you need in one place, quick delivery, the perception of low prices, efficiency (“One Click”), customer ratings and customization. Today, many product searches start on Amazon. Consumers also check prices on Amazon. Amazon’s dominance in online spending in the United States is well recognized.
Fourth-Tier Positioning Strategy Examples
Other brands that were identified as top positioning strategy examples by only one source included the following:
- American Express
- Burger King
- Dollar Shave Club
- Rice Krispies
- Virgin Airways
- Whole Foods
Positioning Strategy Examples: Portfolio Case Study in Sun Care
As we’ve seen, many of these examples explore a brand’s positioning in a specific product category or an overarching brand positioning across multiple product and services categories.
Brand positioning in a situation where a company has more than one brand in the same product category is less frequently explored.
This portfolio case study for brand positioning comes from Insight to Action’s experience working with the Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic brands, both of which compete in the $1B sunscreen category.
At the time we were working with these brands, they were both owned by Energizer Personal Care (now Edgewell Personal Care). The Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat brands share a few common equity attributes from their history:
- “Tropical” / island heritage
- For sun protection
By comparison, one of the leading competitor brands in the category is Neutrogena, which comes from a more clinical, medical heritage and Coppertone, which comes from an all-family heritage. In 2019, Neutrogena had two of the top 10 sun protection brands (Neutrogena Ultra Sheer and Neutrogena Beach Defense), while Coppertone had Coppertone Sport and Coppertone in the top 10. Banana Boat had Banana Boat Ultra Mist Sport Performance, Banana Boat Sport Performance and Banana Boat Ultra Sports, while Hawaiian Tropic had Hawaiian Tropic.
We’ve provided specifics on the Banana Boat positioning strategy example, including the positioning framework and an advertising execution example. Let’s compare how the Hawaiian Tropic brand, which is owned by the same company, developed a separate positioning strategy with distinct consumer targets.
We’ll compare the classic brand positioning framework as follows:
- To target [specific audience],
- For [defined] frame of reference,
- Brand X is the [functional/emotional] point of differentiation
- Because [attributes] reasons to believe
|Banana Boat||Hawaiian Tropic|
|To target||Adult women and men with active outdoor lifestyles and a commitment to prevent sunburns and sun damage “Alicia” and “Alex” Includes family households||Indulgent sun and beauty seeker (women) “Angelique” Focus on single women|
|For frame of reference||sunscreen||sunscreen|
|___ is the (functional/emotional) point of differentiation||Banana Boat gives you unbeatable protection that fits your active lifestyle||Hawaiian Tropic makes your sun care more indulgent with natural conditioning and light, warm tropical scent|
|Because (attributes) reasons to believe||Three-way protection with patented AVO-Triplex and products tested in the sun||Unique botanical formula is tested in the sun (instead of just in the lab like other products)|
The positioning strategy statements were translated into advertising execution that reflected the different targets and brand positioning as shown below.
For more perspective on positioning strategy, visit Insight to Action’s brand positioning and messaging agency page.