The Basics of Brand Positioning

Why does your company need positioning and where do you start?

Rick Mess       |       June 22, 2020

Some believe brand positioning to be a prerogative of large companies. But in fact, it’s an essential task for any business, however small. Even if you make no effort to position your company, the consumers will still form an image of your brand, whether you like it or not. Your action or inaction speaks for itself.

An image in the mind, a place in the heart

Brand positioning is basically your influencing the consumers’ attitude toward your brand. Similarly to how your product fills a niche in the marketplace, its image fills up space in consumers’ minds and hearts (or doesn’t). Obviously, to you, your company is unique and special because it’s yours. Unfortunately, other people might not agree. If your product is similar to thousands of others, consumers never even think about it; it gets lost in the crowd and arouses no interest. Only a really strong impulse can turn the situation in your favor. And this impulse can only be generated through positioning.

There are a lot of positioning methods, but starting with choosing a method is akin to erecting walls without a foundation. This article describes the necessary preparations, lacking which any company or product positioning will invariably fail.

The point of positioning

Amid fierce competition, positioning your company enables you to find a foothold in the marketplace and leave the others behind. It’s an amazing marketing tool if used consistently and smartly. The difficulty lies not in the methods themselves but rather in determining which ones will suit you and where you should put in the most effort.

The hardest thing is maintaining the sustainability and stability of positioning. If you open a window and yell across the street, you will certainly be noticed. But yelling all day long is a bad idea: both you and the people around you will quickly get tired. You could hang a banner outside your window, but people will soon stop noticing it. You could change the banner’s colors every day, but this will also become predictable. People will simply pass you by without raising their heads. (The show on the next street is much more fun!)

So what can you do to make your metaphorical window attractive day in and day out?

The answer is obvious. The window should display something people need, something attractive that they can’t do without. Then they will gather en masse outside your house, hurrying to get a place at the window and mentally picturing the desired thing. What’s important is that they be greeted by a Trusted Friend — your brand’s image.

Many people misunderstand the point of positioning. Standing out against the competition does not mean being better in all the ways. Your objective is standing out in the mind of the consumer. It doesn’t require a large gap between your virtual and real image. If you pledge, don’t hedge.

Becoming a Trusted Friend

Spending a huge budget on advertising is the same as hanging a colorful banner outside your window. Holding random promotions is like yelling across the street. What you need to do is become a trustworthy Friend who has something Necessary and Interesting to offer. And we do mean “become,” not just pretend to be one. If you don’t live up to expectations, you will lose both your reputation and any claims you may have staked in the market. “Pretending” in this case can mean a poor-quality product or any one-off promotion stunt (anyone can surprise others and call themselves a friend).

Positioning is a long-term strategy which requires consistency and sustainability. If you can’t afford a team of employees to work exclusively on positioning, appoint at least one person to the job. If your company is too small for that, make an effort to study this issue yourself as deeply as possible. Positioning is the apex in any quality brand’s star and ignoring it is equivalent to creating a negative image in the public eye.

Company vs. product positioning

What should you position: the company as a whole or an individual product? Or maybe both? This is a question of viable investments. Company positioning requires one advertising budget while positioning each individual product requires a budget for every one. If your budget is limited, it makes sense to promote one particular product. There’s no readymade solution suitable for all occasions. Only through testing and analysis can you understand what will work best for you.

Small and medium-sized businesses normally prefer product positioning. However, it would be a mistake to start positioning a product before you have a brand platform. It’s a common reason why businesses fail. A proper company image breeds positive consumer attitudes, making its products and services stand out among the competition. First, you have to sell the Idea, to create trust and build an image in people’s minds; afterward, you can start promoting the product. If a homeless person offers you a gold chain, you’re unlikely to buy it off them.

Where do you start?

Let’s start by looking at the tools we have at our disposal. Internal positioning tools include positioning analysis and strategy; external positioning tool comprise the brand name, brand design, and advertising campaigns.

First and foremost, you should get an objective view of where you stand, what resources you have, and where you intend to go from here. This includes analyzing market trends, compiling a profile of your customers, and evaluating your product’s positions. Do a survey to find out how your product is perceived and what makes it distinct from similar ones.

The positioning strategy includes three main stages:

  1. Determining the current position.
  2. Choosing the desired position.
  3. Developing a strategy to achieve the desired position.

1. Your conceptual platform

A brand’s position is primarily based on the motivation of consumers. A brand exists to fulfill people’s needs. It is founded on an idea or a concept. The concept is what defines your product, its identity, and means of promotion.

To become a Trusted Friend, you must have a clear idea of who you are motivating and how you want to achieve your goals. So the first thing you should do is make a statement of brand positioning. This statement should reflect what your business is offering, which consumer needs it fulfills, what its advantages are, who your target audience is.

A statement of brand positioning is not a corporate slogan. It’s meant for internal use only and should determine the marketing and operational solutions of your business. A statement of brand positioning helps you make key decisions that will affect how your brand is perceived by consumers. To prepare the statement, answer these four questions:

  1. Who is your target audience?
  2. In which category is your brand competing? (market position)
  3. What makes you better than your competitors? (brand promise)
  4. What’s the most convincing proof of your brand promise? (reasons to trust you)

2. Determining the current position

A brand’s position is determined by the overlap of three categories: pricing, functional features of the product, and image.

Determining the current position includes:

There’s a useful graph for determining your competitors’ and your own position. You can evaluate them using various paired parameters, such as reliability vs. unreliability, popularity vs. obscurity, innovation vs. traditionality, wide range vs. limited range, and so on. Choose the parameters that matter most in your own business.

Which section does your company currently fit into and which one do you intend to move into? Assess the potential feasibility of your chosen position.

3. Establishing your distinctions

You should do an analysis to see what makes your brand different from the competition, what you’re doing better and worse than others. What is that special something you can offer to the consumer that no one else does? Consider both tangible and intangible gains for your target audience. The distinction must be significant enough to affect your consumers’ choice.

To work out your own distinctive features you should get a good understanding of what your customers need. What do they want? What are they getting from you?

Here are the major needs:

Now choose the ones you can meet with your offer. This is a great basis for building your distinctive principles.

4. Making customers aware of your distinctions

It’s not enough to work out what makes you distinct — you must also make sure your target audience knows it. The distinction must clearly express your position, engaging people emotionally and rationally.

It’s not at the planning and thinking stage that positioning begins in earnest, but only when your customer encounters your company: by visiting your website, seeing your logo and advertisements, buying your product, apprizing your service, product packaging, and quality. Often, a first impression is strong enough to deter potential buyer.

Do not underestimate your brand’s look, website design, and other visuals. The maxim about always dressing for success applies here, too. People view a brand as they would another person. It’s in your power to make it a fun, worthy, and attractive vehicle for your idea or to let it get lost in the crowd. The same applies to promoting your product.

5. Choosing the method of positioning

Once you have established the conceptual platform and analyzed the situation, you can start thinking about suitable ways of positioning. You can surpass someone in something, replace them or supplement them. Let’s take a brief look at the main methods:

1. Positioning by attribute. This is based on the company’s primary advantage.

2. Positioning by user. Focused toward a specific target audience or audience segment. For example, caring for mothers, enhancing children’s education, convenient sports apps. Not to be confused with positioning products or services (running shoes, garden furniture, wedding hairdos, etc.).

3. Positioning by quality. Presenting the brand as a maker of high-quality products.

4. Positioning by price. Emphasizing care for the consumer’s wallet and reasonable economy. Setting an affordable price for the same quality.

5. Positioning against competition. A clear comparison against competitors and a demonstration of advantages for your customer.

6. Positioning by prestige. Same as positioning by quality, except this emphasizes prestigiousness and image. Your company’s status translates into your customer’s status.

7. Repositioning. Promoting and developing an existing business often involves a shift of focus to change how the brand is perceived. Repositioning is to positioning what branding is to rebranding. The modern market requires flexibility and the ability to swiftly respond to changes.

6. Testing

Testing helps you gauge your target audience’s possible response to various brand positioning options. You can choose the best option based on test results. It’s worth the expense since it’s a great way of minimizing risks in case you make a mistake. The information gleaned at the testing stage is useful not only to marketing managers but also to developers and designers, because it will help them to choose the best approach for working on your brand.


Company positioning should be done on the basis of information, including market analysis and an assessment of your current position, and comprehensive research of the customers’ needs. The foundation of positioning is the idea that you broadcast. This research enables you to choose the relevant positioning method and develop the proper strategy. Your brand is the vehicle for your idea. Its proper presentation — mental, emotional, and visual — guarantees your taking up the desired position in the marketplace. It’s a prerequisite for success and the advancement of your business.