In July 1969, three men wrote history, taking humanity to the moon for the first time. Neil Armstrong was the first human being to set foot on the moon. Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin followed only minutes later. But… who was the third man on that mission? Most of us know of Neil Armstrong. Few remember Buzz Aldrin. And I’ll bet nobody remembers Michael Collins: crucial to the mission, without him Neil and Buzz would not have set foot on the moon in the first place; and there would have been no one to pick them up again. Michael piloted Apollo 11 while his colleagues completed the first moonwalk and wrote human history forever.
It’s no different with your company and your brand: if you can’t be first, it’s time to rethink your positioning and brand strategy. So let’s look at how this works starting with brands we all know.
Brand positioning is a simple concept, but hard to get right
Your brand position is all about occupying a very specific space in someone else’s heart and mind that resonates in a relevant and compelling way – to the point where someone expresses interest, purchases your product/service, and becomes an advocate of yours. Powerful brands like Harley-Davidson have successfully positioned their products, and their products have become brands themselves. Just think of Kleenex. What used to be a simple tissue is now a line of products using the Kleenex brand. And if you can position away from the rationality, then all the better. No one buys a Harley to get from A to B. What matters is the journey – and everyone and everything in between. That’s worth a lot and translates into higher-margin, organic advocacy tattoo-like loyalty.
Brand Positioning for Success: 7 Ways to Get it Right
Luxury brands are extremely good at positioning. Partly, because they are not for everyone. Deliberate eliminators such as price or access create scarcity and exclude many people. Think of luxury watches. A watch that is priced at $10,000 or above deliberately attracts only a select group of watch collectors, status-seeking consumers, or the 1% of the population for whom the price tag doesn’t matter as much. Within such a tight, yet competitive market space, brand positioning is everything. The Hublot “Big Bang $5 million” is a perfect example of highly exclusive brand positioning. The “$5 million” is not only a watch adorned with 1200 stunning diamonds (and, as the name indicates, costs five million), it’s also a watch that clearly makes a very bold statement. The Hublot brand is assertive and bold in its positioning, clearly stating this is not a watch for everybody – even if you have the money. But for the Hublot clientele who loves the extreme, this is a perfect match. Brand positioning drives your direction; it tells your customers and your employees who you are for – or not. It also helps you allocate your precious budget more effectively, so you target the right audience, with the right message, at the right time.
How do you position for success?
Positioning Brands is both an art and a science. Insights drive clarity, and creativity helps to express distinction. Before you start investing in brand colors or new advertising, use this 7-point checklist to guide your branding decisions.
1. Know who you are
Start with a simple SWOT analysis for your businesses as a healthy reality check. List your Strengths and Opportunities and contrast these with your Weaknesses and Threats. You can find a quick overview here.
2. Know your customers
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business and getting under their skin is the only way to engage, inspire, and connect in a way that is both meaningful and valuable. Use Analytics and tech/digital, but most of all, speak to them: on all channels, social media platforms, events, or on Zoom. Learn who they are, where they are, and why they buy (or not). Asking the right questions is key here. Your website and social media analytics will help you understand your customers, and how you can better serve them.
3. Don’t compete head-on
If you are up against a well-established brand, avoid a head-on battle. It’s guaranteed to be a bloodbath (probably for you). And it’s likely to be expensive (cost, advertising, agency costs, etc. and likely to become a battle over pricing and loss of margin.) So steer clear of this and look for clear blue water.
4. Don’t try to be someone else
You can’t be the second Facebook or the next Google—copying them will not take you anywhere new. Instead, be unique. Be yourself. Think about market-darlings like Lululemon, Tesla, Shopify, Slack, and Zoom. Don’t start fiddling with logos, marketing materials, websites, or brand colors before you have your brand positioning clear.
5. Niche down
Being different also means saying no to what doesn’t move the needle. Remember: brand positioning is about focus. If your target audience is “pets” – think “dogs”; even better “puppies” – and become totally relevant to their owners. If your target audience is near-retirement employees, think government employees, business owners, or empty nesters.
6. Dare to be different
Airbnb dared to take on the travel industry, starting by renting out pump-up one air mattresses. They stayed true to their vision of daring to be different and it revolutionized travel. Seeing a strong positioning through takes guts. Sometimes crazy is the best direction.
7. Go long-term on brand positioning
This is probably the most important branding task: position for the future. Think five or 10 years out – and stick to it. Be consistent in everything you do – especially in how you communicate. Root your positioning in your motivation, your passion points – no on whims or “maybe this could work”. Clarity of Purpose is key to success.
Of course these are pointers only – there’s a lot more to getting your positioning right. But remember that your brand is your face to the world. Getting it right is a process that, done over time, can make you and your company the ONE being remembered and bought from repeatedly. My upcoming webinar and related e-book on the topic program offers a great way to understand these concepts in more detail, and also goes through how to go about putting the building blocks together for a great positioning that works for you. Learn more here.