Don’t mix brand with position. What does branding have to do with the realities of today’s market? Why did a recent study…

Don’t Confuse Brand Position with Positioning

By Tom Dougherty From BRANDWEEK

Don't confuse a brand positionWhat does branding have to do with the realities of today’s market? Why did a recent study by the North American Advertising Agency Network indicate that a majority of blue chip businesses in the U.S. consider brand building as a major priority? Why did the same survey indicate that almost to a fault, most of us are uncertain as to what brand building is?

The answer is profits. But what is a brand? A powerful brand always answers the question — “Who am I” — It is the tone of voice that is spoken. The consumer has ownership of it. We are looking for any means to reinforce who we believe we are. Marketers of high fashion have known this for years and the idea also has not been lost on Nike. Brand is the personality we project.

Our goal as marketers and advertisers should be to define our brand position so cearly that our precise target audience says to themselves, “Yes, that’s me. I want to be that.” Short-term sales may provide a product with the fuel to stay alive for a day, but brand equity is the engine that will keep a brand alive, profitable and vital for a lifetime.

Look at brand position differently

I have always found it helpful when defining a brand to speak in short phrases that are formatted in the “I am” phrase, like “I am smart, I am helpful)) and so on. Never over-promise. It is important that your brand description be completely believable and supported. Nothing ensures failure more certainly then a boastful brand that cannot live up to the hype. (Read about brand audits here)

a meaningful brand position is central to a brand's success
Brand position needs to be exact

Today’s consumer is cynical and rightfully so. Few experiences live up to their expectations. Disappoint them once and they will never forget. Often you will find it helpful to be aspirational in tone when defining your brand because all of us are in the process of “becoming.” Our desire to define ourselves by our actions (purchases) is a desire to be who we would like to be, rather than who we currently are. While a brand answers the question “Who am I, positioning answers the question “Why am I?

It is our reason for being. It’s what the brand owns. Think about positioning as the space the brand occupies in the market. It is the perspective through which the target audience receives the brand. It both serves and directs the brand. It is the point of focus on the horizon that keeps everyone on track.

It’s the mission statement and marketing plan distilled down to a simple phrase. It is impossible to develop brand position in a vacuum. In defining a brand, you need to look at the product or service you are providing, study its attributes and benefits, look closely at the psychological as well as the physical benefits, and then stand in the “Who am I?” shoes of the consumer. Positioning also requires a greater knowledge of the target market.

Conclusions

In order for a position to be effective, it must be both relevant to the target market and differentiated from the competitive position to such a degree that it seems to stand apart. This means we must know and fully understand the “Who am I?” of our competition. In the mind of the consumer, what needs are being fulfilled by their brand? A brand need not be as unique in the market as the brand position.

Brands arise from and work in concert with positioning. Brands and positioning are not so complex, once you start looking at them in human terms. Defining them that way helps us relate to them. But like all things, true genius resides in the spaces in between.

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