What is brand positioning & what are the components?

A key component of a company’s brand strategy, brand positioning is the articulation of your brand through concepts that define, clarify, and seek to align your organization. In modern organizations, brand strategy takes on two levels, both of which are needed to realize the benefits of brand today:
• Level 1: Critical to market success, it is the customer-centric meaningful differentiation of your products and brands.
• Level 2: Necessary for resonance today, this is the creation and operationalization of a purpose that serves your stakeholders (employees and customers).

Brand positioning fulfills Level 1 of your brand strategy. The process to get to a brand positioning that is resonant, distinct, and sustainable involves distilling factual inputs and insights into supporting concepts that inform the strategic decisions that become the salient and instructional core concepts. Below we provide a high-level explanation of the supporting and core concepts that make up brand positioning.

Supporting concepts - laying the groundwork

These are the concepts you must define and align around before you can arrive at any of your core concepts. These concepts are less about choices, and more about what is. Also known as the 3 C’s of brand positioning, they include:
• Company, brand, and products
• Category
• Customer

Company, brand, and products
Here, we’re looking to understand the business situation and goals. From the company’s current position in the market and its health to the goals of the business, both short- and long-term. In addition, we seek to define product value propositions, where applicable, in relation to specific target audiences. The reasons to believe (RTBs) are the claims that a business can factually state it does, and how its customers benefit from its products, company, or brand. And finally, the tensions a business resolves, which are two ideals that your brand seeks to resolve to arrive at your brand purpose (more on this later).

The category a company does business within and who your competitors are defines its frame of reference for customers. Identifying points of parity helps focus the frame of reference while points of differentiation set you a part from your category competitors.

These supporting concepts include both the demographic, behavioral, psychographic, attitudinal, and the ideals/aspirations of your target audience. Customer journey mapping during this stage can also reveal the opportunities and insights for your brand and help illuminate new ways of seeing the needs and desires of your customers.

Once the supporting concepts are finalized, we can begin drafting the core concepts.

Core concepts – defining the brand

Brand positioning is built on three core concepts derived from the supporting concepts:
• Your aspirational target audience mindset
• What business you are in
• Why you matter to customers

All decisions should align to these concepts, or they may not be in line with your brand. They guide your decisions as a brand on what you make next, where you expand your business, and to whom you most matter. They influence hiring, communication, and decision-making. When your operations and communications aren’t aligned with these core concepts, then you cannot realize or reap the benefits of brand as a business multiplier or as a means of sustainability for your business.

Three core concepts defined

These concepts are not facts but are based on factual inputs and insights on your audience, market, opportunity, competitors, and more. The three core concepts are more strategic and subjective in nature – they are intentional choices you are making as a brand based on the facts on the ground.

Who: Your aspirational target audience mindset. Your primary audience is more than just a demographic. We want to understand the ideals and values of your core customers that overlap with what your business can deliver. This is not a demographic or psychographic or single segment.
• What: What business are you in?
This is how you choose to frame up what you do for customers. The business we’re in that sets us apart either because it’s more relevant or different from alternatives; how we want to be thought of categorically by our customers and prospects. This is more than a magic quadrant or grocery store aisle name.
Why: Why do you matter to your customers? This is your highest, overarching benefit that you can credibly deliver. It ladders up from where your unique differentiators overlap with your customer’s deepest needs and desires. It’s not the obvious choice or the overall benefit of your category. For example, all business software creates efficiency and greater productivity, so this cannot be the WHY for any business software, because it’s the WHY for ALL business software companies. This is not a functional benefit nor a “better” or “more” claim.

The fourth core concept: purpose

In addition to the 3 core concepts of brand positioning, a successful brand strategy includes identifying your brand purpose — an expression of what you deliver to the world that solves a problem or resolves a tension for your customers, or for the world. It’s inspirational for your target audience, your category, and beyond. The brand purpose, when operationalized to govern everything they say, make, and do is what we call Brand Integrity and fulfills Level 2 of your brand strategy.

Embracing brand positioning & purpose

Brand positioning serves as the cornerstone of a company's brand strategy. Through the delineation of supporting concepts that lay the groundwork for the formulation of core concepts a brand can identify the customer-centric meaningful differentiation of its products and brands.

However, a truly enduring and sustainable brand strategy transcends mere positioning and embraces a resonant purpose. And by aligning every facet of the business with this purpose, from product development to communication strategies, companies can achieve Brand Integrity and elevate their impact beyond mere market differentiation.

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