Leaders often wonder how brand positioning can help them make better business decisions.
Say as a leader you are trying to head north. Having a North Star is useful, because if you follow it faithfully, you will get farther north more efficiently than if you were merely feeling your way there.
A clear brand positioning is the North Star for your business.
What is brand positioning?
Determining your brand positioning involves identifying the following:
- Target: a careful choice of your specific target customer
- Frame of reference: recognition of your customer’s other options
- Point of difference: what sets your business apart within that set of options
Once you’ve identified these elements, they combine into the traditional brand positioning framework, which is:
To [your target], [your brand] is the one [frame of reference] that [point of difference].
Some examples include:
- For upscale American families, Volvo is the family automobile that offers maximum safety. (Source)
- To urban-dwelling, educated techno-savvy consumers, when you use Zipcar car-sharing service instead of owning a car, you save money while reducing your carbon footprint. (Source)
- For cold sufferers, Contac offers 12 hours of continuous relief from congestion and sinus pressure thanks to its time-release technology. (Source)
As a leader with a clear and thorough brand positioning – your own North Star – you have rich, reliable data you can draw from as you make decisions. Not only do you know exactly what you do and who you do it better than, you also know precisely who you do it for. You will bring this data to bear as opportunities arise.
Your North Star helps you mitigate the risk inherent in C-level decision-making.
How does the North Star work?
Imagine you manage Brita, a business that makes water filtration systems. You go through an exercise to articulate your most impactful brand positioning, and let’s say the positioning you select to own is:
“To health-conscious, environment-focused young adults, Brita is the one way to drink water from the tap that is tasty.”
Not “to coupon-clipping retirees.” Not “the one fizzy water.” Not “that is safe to drink.” The positioning you chose is about the tastiness of tap water, for a well-defined target customer. With this positioning as your North Star, you know that every decision you make as a leader must enhance your ability to deliver and message tasty tap water to health-conscious young adults.
Make Better Decisions
The clear direction you get from your brand positioning informs all manner of key decisions, including:
- Innovation decisions: If the innovation would reduce unpleasant-tasting impurities, then it is worthy of considering as an investment. Any other type of investment is deprioritized. You’re not going into bottled water, you’re not going into water flavoring systems – or electrolyte replacement, or carbonating water, or other types of beverages. You own tastier tap water, and you put every effort into that niche.
- Messaging decisions: The message must create drama around the tastiness of the water. Not the convenience of it, the safety of it, or the economic value of it. All messaging and creative should convey taste. And it should be crafted to appeal to a select set of customers that you’ve identified as health-conscious, environment-focused young adults.
- Partnership decisions: If a bottled water brand approached you to license the Brita name, you wouldn’t have to give it a second thought. The answer would clearly be “no” because bottled water is not tap water. Conversely, if Nalgene or Camelbak approaches you about putting filtration into their tap water containers, you would seriously consider that, because it would better enable you to own and deliver tastier drinking water from the tap.
Clarity = Sustainability
As a leader with a clear brand positioning, you drive your business in a clear direction. You avoid common traps such as:
- Spreading yourself too thin by trying to be everything to everyone.
- Wasting effort and budget exploring paths that lead nowhere or muddy your brand.
- Rushing to respond to competitors’ tactics.
- Agonizing over every decision for lack of supporting data.
When your decision-making is consistently in sync with your brand positioning, you can grow your business sustainably.