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Senior marketer and brand enthusiast This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. leverages years of experience in....more

Positioning Your Brand

When flipping through the pages of a magazine on another long flight from DC to LAX, I ran across this magic headline, "To Claim It, You Need To Name It." It was a self-help article written by Dr. Phil about finding true happiness, but of course my mind went immediately to brand positioning!

To claim the market position for your company, products, or services, you need to be able to name (with one word) the specific differentiator you represent to the marketplace. It’s challenging to come up with a single most important word your customers would use. Actually, people often struggle to narrow their description down to one because they believe they are many things, “quality, value, delivery, price, etc.” But claiming many attributes is not how you position your brand in a competitive marketplace.

First, take a look at the market leader. You may have various competitors leading different market categories that you serve, so track them accordingly. Brand leadership is a perception, not necessarily the truth. Typically, the category leader is the company that was the first to make inroads in getting their name recognized in the marketplace (usually through sales and advertising). The market Starbucks created for a coffee shop is a good example. They spent the time and money to develop a high-end quality coffee shop category in the late 1980s and have done well to maintain their strong position. Their brand is now so big; they no longer use “quality coffee” in their mission but position themselves as an “experience.” It would be challenging for a competitor to come in and claim the category leadership from Starbucks, but companies keep trying to eat away at their market share!

Second, ask yourself how the market perceives your company as different from the category leader. Do you have better quality? Are your products and services less expensive? Easier to access or use? Do they have a longer product life? Less maintenance? Is the leader like Starbucks and perceived to be “too big and hence provide the opportunity to be a boutique, local player in the market?

Once you define the term that clearly differentiates your organization from the market leader, start to determine the differentiators of other competitors. This way you can find a true differentiator that will set you apart in the market. In the region where I live, Peet’s Coffee & Tea has become a very popular competitor of Starbucks. They expand slowly and offer a similar experience as Starbucks, but have claimed their differentiator of “Superior” quality coffee in positioning themselves to take some of Starbuck’s share of market. McDonald’s is another competitor whom targets Starbuck’s customer directly by claiming the "low-priced" differentiator.

Finally, develop a strong marketing communications plan to reinforce your differentiator to claim your position and grow your market share. When you strongly claim your own differentiator and communicate it properly, you run the chance of reducing the perceived importance your competitor’s differentiators have in the market.

Whether you’re looking at “Brand Positioning” or the secret to “Happiness” that Dr. Phil is talking about, once you can name it (your strong differentiator), then go ahead and publicly claim it and live into it. I’m sure you will find great happiness when you have properly claimed your brand position and experience market growth!

Stephanie Millman

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