Focus on Positioning before Branding

in General Business Marketing

Two interesting observations I’ve found over the years during discussions with companies about Branding and Positioning:

  1. There always seems to be some confusion about what constitutes Branding versus Positioning
  2. Too many seem to want to start with Branding or do a Branding exercise.

A Brand is a visual, emotional or cultural identity in the minds of your buyers. Branding is the promotion of this identity in the market to place the visual, emotional or cultural association of your brand in your target buyers’ minds. However, Branding actually comes from Positioning, which must be developed before you even consider doing Branding.

According to Al Ries and Jack Trout in their seminal book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, “Positioning starts with a product. A piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institution, or even a person. Perhaps yourself. But positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind [and context] of the prospect.”

Both deal with placing something in your buyers’ minds. The key distinction is that Branding is an identity whereas Positioning is the promise of the value you create for your customers.

Here’s an often cited example to illustrate the difference – Volvo set out many years ago to build the safest vehicles on the road – that was an intentional position they wanted to claim in the automobile market. Volvo did not set out to brand the name, they focused on delivering on their positioning promise and proved it was real, not just some marketing eyewash. Today when someone mentions “safe vehicle” they think “Volvo”, or vice versa. The positioning, and delivering on the promise of value created the brand – not the other way round. That’s where the confusion arises, people look at companies like Volvo today and see a brand, but don’t realize how the brand identity actually evolved from the original positioning.

How to use this information to benefit your business

  • Branding takes many years, lots of money and consistent delivery on your positioning. Think about what it took to build great brands like Coke, Nike, Starbucks, etc.
  • Don’t confuse brute-force name recognition with branding.
  • Don’t try to differentiate with pseudo-branding by shouting with nothing special to say.
  • Most businesses and marketers don’t have the resources, time or wherewithal to do a thorough job of branding.
  • Focus your efforts on great positioning and delivering on the promise of that positioning.
  • Positioning is where you should start and spend your time for successful marketing.
  • Branding will come from good positioning and delivering on your promise.

Copyright © 2009 Ingistics LLC and Marketance™ www.marketance.com

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