Is your brand positioned to win the battle in your marketplace? Perception is especially critical in today’s economy, as brand loyalty wanes and price sensitivity heightens. Think about it like this: Products offer benefits, and winning brands likely offer identical benefits as the competition. It’s the perception of those benefits that differs. Nike and Adidas both offer quality sportswear -- but which one makes you want to Just Do It?
Here are seven steps to help your brand win in today's competitive marketplace.
1. Identify a specific target. Countless people want to exercise but don’t actually do so. Nike recognized that, and rather than trying to talk to those who already exercise, the company honed in those who are looking for the inspiration to do so. With the awareness that it would never be all things to all people, the company went beyond demographics and behavior to become an attitude influencer.
2. Define your market. Does Rice-A-Roni compete against other flavored rice brands, other flavored starches or all convenient side dishes? Don’t just think about the product you’re trying to sell. Position your brand according to what consumers want to buy. Do that through qualitative research, such as focus groups, ethnographies and shop-alongs to get into the psychology of the consumer. Base your message on their frame of reference.
3. Really understand your targets' needs. Are your consumers buying a brand because it truly meets their needs? If not, ask what is missing. For years, diet soda advertising focused on zero calories. Coca-Cola understood that consumers wanted a refreshing soft drink -- not a diet drink -- that tasted good and happened to be calorie-free. Consumers drink Diet Coke Just for the Taste of It.
4. See brands through consumers’ eyes. Find out how consumers think and feel about your brand. Remember when Computer Discount Warehouse used to be positioned around price (Why Pay Retail?). Through qualitative research, the company learned a couple of different things. First, customers saw them and competitors as selling computer “stuff.” Second, IT managers recognized a need for a brand that didn’t just sell computer items, but also acted as a trusted partner for computer advice. They even noted that they would be willing to pay more for such a service. The company became CDW, repositioning itself as a reliable source for products and expertise. No other competitor filled that gap, and three years later CDW sales climbed from $3 billion to $5 billion.
5. Don't be afraid to think big. In the early 1980s, Special K was a declining cereal brand for older adults looking to lose weight. Then the brand repositioned itself to appeal to active women seeking a healthy diet, and grew its line to include crackers, snack bars and even protein shakes. Many cereals can say they are part of a healthy, weight-related diet, but Special K was the first to position itself as such.
6. Imply critical benefits. DiGiorno doesn't simply say its pizza tastes good, it owns its genre: It's not Delivery. It's DiGiorno. Know the benefits your target wants and develop multiple positioning statements accordingly. Consider Contadina canned tomatoes. Say you identify taste as a key benefit and recognition of the chef as an emotional benefit. Will buyers be more responsive to vine-ripened taste, sun-ripened taste or rich, tomato taste? On an emotional level, will they respond to the product being for good cooks, for discriminating moms or for connoisseurs?
7. Expose the brand's benefits to the target audience. Determine a statement’s pros/cons, relevancy, believability, uniqueness and fit. At the end, you should know the positioning that communicates benefits; creates a unique, relevant and motivating image; leverages your brand equity (and not a competitor's); and is sustainable.
Brand positioning is an important step in helping customers and prospects understand why your products and services are valuable to them. So to add real strength to your brand, devote the time and effort in a strong positioning strategy and then start using the numerous communication channels available to you for success.
What does your brand stand for?