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What’s Your Company’s Position on Positioning?

Positioning statements are more than just taglines. They explain—succinctly and elegantly—the reason why customers should buy one product instead of another. When your brand lives up to its claims in the eyes of the customer, effective positioning has been accomplished.

This post will walk through three questions a company needs to answer to effectively position itself and its products.

What are we discussing with our target market?

Establishing a frame of reference is the first step in engaging in a dialogue about what your brand does. It signals to the consumer what job she is “hiring” you to do, and it directly impacts the points of parity and differentiation with which she will evaluate you on later in the process.

Frame of reference is especially important with new product launches. This is particularly true for new products with no previous frame of reference.

Finally, a frame of reference can (and should) evolve over time, like FedEx and its strategic positioning plan.

What qualifies us to compete?

What can a frame of reference tell a customer about a product? These points of parity may not be unique to your brand, but they confirm that your brand is a credible player in the product category. Often these points of parity depend on where the product rests in its life cycle.

  • New brands will have the most difficulty defining frame of reference and points of parity, since consumers are unfamiliar with their products.
  • Brand extensions can introduce the temptation to reinforce the characteristics of the base brand. Instead, focus on the points of parity first to make sure consumers know the product can actually do what it’s supposed to do, unlike what Dove did with its dishwashing liquid.
  • Established brands, as mentioned earlier in the FedEx example, need to occasionally revisit their points of parity; it’s possible for differentiators to become points of parity over time.

Why should they choose us?

Finally, you can talk about what makes you, you!

Not so fast, though.

Before spouting off all of your brand’s points of differentiation (PODs), use the following framework to make sure you cover all the bases and maximize the effectiveness of your message. According to Harvard Business Review article “Three Questions You Need To Ask About Your Brand,” there are three dimensions of differentiation.

Brand performance associations deal with meeting functional needs. Similarly, brand imagery associations consider depictions of who uses the product and why. Finally, consumer insight associations are used when the brand’s performance and imagery aren’t noticeably different from those of the competitors. The idea here is that when a consumer is faced with a multitude of similar choices, they will select the one that demonstrates an understanding of their problems or goals.

Once you’ve got your list of PODs, use this quick litmus test:

  1. Are these PODs desirable to the target market? Don’t follow in Bic’s footsteps and differentiate a product in a way that doesn’t matter to them (or, worse, offend them).
  2. Can you deliver on the PODs? You’re a brand, not a politician; don’t make promises you can’t keep.

The most important thing to remember is that once you complete this process, you will inevitably have to repeat it again and again. The questions will remain the same—Have we established a frame? Are our points of parity clear? Are our points of differentiation convincing?—but the environment surrounding them will always be changing.

How has your positioning statement helped (or hurt) you in effectively communicating your brand’s message?

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