Brand Positioning

This month, we focus on the topic of brand positioning - what it means, how to obtain it and how to retain it. Whether you use these articles as food for thought or for action items, we hope you find them valuable for the future of your business.

What does Brand Positioning means?
In general terms, brand positioning is the creation of an image for a product or service in the minds of customers, both specific to that item and in relation to competitive offerings. But aside from this cryptic definition, positioning is a perceptual location more than anything else. It's where your product or service fits into the marketplace.

Even as individuals, growing up and as adults, we position ourselves. The responsible older sibling, the class clown, the intellectual and the natural athlete are all examples of positioning. These identifiers help us define ourselves and distinguish our abilities as unique and different from other people.

I know, I know.....that's all fine and good, but what can positioning do for your business? Positioning is a powerful tool that allows your business to create an image. And image is the outward representation of who you want to be, doing what you want to do, and having what you want to have.

Like when discussing target marketing, you must realize that your product or service cannot be all things to all people. But positioning, when used effectively, can help you be first in the mind. Being first in mind equals ownership. If your product or service is properly positioned, prospective purchasers or users should immediately recognize its unique benefits or advantages and be better able to assess it in comparison to what your competition is offering.

But be cautious and more importantly, be quick about it. If you don't define your product or service, a competitor will be more than happy to do it for you. Your position in the market place evolves from the defining characteristics of your product. Being positioned by someone else restricts your choices and limits your opportunities.

How to Obtain and Retain Positionting?
While there are many possible marketing positions, most would fit into one of the following categories:

Specific features and benefits - Generally, this is the most widely used and effective because you can communicate to your customers about what your product or service can do for them. The features may be nice, but unless customers can be made to understand why the product will benefit them, you may not get the sale.

Specific use - Related to benefit positioning. Consider Nyquil™ became "the night time, coughing, sniffling, sneezing so you can rest" medicine. This works best when you can teach your customers how to use your product or when you use a promotional medium that allows a demonstration.

User category - A few examples of these are: "You've Come a Long Way Baby," "The Pepsi Generation" and "Breakfast of Champions." Be sure you show your product being used by models with whom your customers can identify.

Pricing - Is your product a luxury item, somewhere in the middle, or cheap, cheap, cheap.

Quality - Total quality is a much used and abused phrase. But is your product well produced? What controls are in place to assure consistency? Do you back your quality claim with customer-friendly guarantees, warranties, and return policies?

Competition - A strategy that ranges from implicit to explicit comparison. Implicit comparisons can be quite pointed; for example, Avis never mentions Hertz, but the message is clear. Explicit comparisons can take two major forms. The first form makes a comparison with a direct competitor and is aimed at attracting customers from the compared brand, which is usually the category leader. The second type does not attempt to attract the customers of the compared product, but rather uses the comparison as a reference point. This usually works to the advantage of the smaller business if you can capitalize on the American tradition of cheering for the underdog. You can gain stature by comparing yourself to a larger competitor just as long as your customers remain convinced that you are trying harder.

Never forget the power of perception. The heart of any campaign is the product, service and the position it holds in people's minds.

Remember that your marketing position can, and should, change to meet the current conditions of the market for your product. The ability of your company to adjust will be enhanced greatly by an up-to-date knowledge of the marketplace gained through continual monitoring. By having good data about your customers, the segments they fit into and the buying motives of those segments, you can select the position that makes the most sense.


Brands We Love
Article from

Love, loyalty, passion. When people have those feelings for your product or service, how do you manage that? Nurture it? We spoke with the brand advocates for five products we love to find out their secrets.

Guinness: Brew a Connection
Chris Parsons - Marketing director of beer
Diageo North America - Stamford, Connecticut

Years ago, when I first started drinking Guinness, I think I was a little intimidated by it. A lot of people are. It's black when other beers are yellow. It's got a creamy head when other beers have a fizzy head. When it pours, you see it surge and settle in the glass. When you first see that, you think, "That's not what I'm used to drinking." And the tendency is to sip, but it doesn't really taste as good as when you have a proper mouthful of Guinness. A brewmaster once told me, "Guinness awakens the taste buds in your mouth. It's alive."

Those qualities of the beer -- distinct, proud, individualistic -- are the same qualities that our drinkers associate with themselves. It comes right through the heart of the product and creates an emotional connection. We try to strengthen that by being as close as we can to the consumer. A couple of years ago, we were holding an event for our most ardent Guinness fans, something we do four times a year, two or three weeks at a time. We discovered that many of them thought Guinness would make them fat. Guinness has only 125 calories, about 15 more than Bud Light. But we realized we had never communicated that. Now we're running an ad campaign saying, "Guinness only has 125 calories, but not on purpose." We didn't change the product, we just listened. Customers loved this, and our volume has since gone through the roof.

We don't lose customers. Once or twice you hear about someone who had a bad experience. They'll write a letter, but then at the end they'll write, "I'll still drink it, I just wanted to tell you." You never hear, "I used to be a Guinness drinker."

Chris Parsons recently added a refrigerated Guinness keg system to his deck.

Netflix: Project a New Experience
Leslie Kilgore - Chief marketing officer
Netflix Inc. - Los Gatos, California

What people want in a movie is an escape into this different world without everyday hassles. With Netflix, I don't have to go to the video store, I can keep movies as long as I want, and I get them at home with a prepaid return envelope. If you go into a large traditional store, they're only going to have 4,000 titles. We have 20,000 titles that span 250 genres. Customer service, convenience, and selection are the essence of our brand.

More than 90% of our customers tell us they evangelize the service to friends and family. The biggest impact we've seen is people spending a lot of time talking about what's in their queue of movies they want shipped to them next. Some even use Netflix as a verb, as in, "Whale Rider ? I Netflixed it."

Customers have that level of enthusiasm because we have a great experience, and that's why constantly improving the quality of the service is an obsessive part of our culture. A few years ago, we had one distribution center located here in the San Francisco Bay area, and folks in the area absolutely loved receiving their movies in one day. We had a very healthy subscriber base on the East Coast, but we knew those customers would be happier if they got their movies as quickly as customers in San Francisco. So we've opened up 24 distribution centers all around the country, and now more than 80% of our subscribers can receive their movies in about a day. To know that ultimately Netflix makes people's weekends better is incredibly rewarding.

Harley-Davidson: Ride Your Heritage
Joanne Bischmann -Vice president, marketing
Harley-Davidson Inc. - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I am still awed by the lengths our customers will go to show their commitment. Recently, I saw a man who had tattooed a portrait of our four founding fathers and our 100th anniversary logo on his back. When Harley hired me 14 years ago, they told me, "This will be the best job you're ever going to have because it isn't just about working at a company that makes motorcycles. The founding fathers actually seep out of the walls here." Back then I thought they were totally nuts. Now I know that that sense of freedom, individuality, independence, and irreverence has always been part of Harley.

We have a lot of people call us who want the manual on how to keep customers passionate. There's no manual. And there are so many ways to screw this up. In the '90s, we couldn't satisfy demand, so people had to wait up to two years for a bike. When we would place ads, I'd personally get letters saying, "Tell me where this product is. I've been looking at 10 dealers, and they don't have it." That was really frustrating. We tried to bottle demand and show customers other opportunities to experience Harley -- through the clothing, through events we hold. Don't give up the dream. Just give us a little time. Everyone's thinking we've got the best job because the product was basically sold out, but what marketing really had to do was keep relationships going.

We never forget that this is a brand that none of us can individually own. We are a tribe that carries on its traditions so it's here for future generations.

It took Joanne Bischmann only 10 months after starting work at Harley to "get the itch" and apply for her motorcycle license.