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Six Steps to Take Control of Your Brand Positioning (Sep 08)

By Rick Thompson of Client Opinons

Most of us have worked at companies where every effort is made to improve, optimize, and perfect the
training products or services that we provide. But how many of us have worked at a company that puts an
equal amount of effort into managing what people think about our company?

Manage what people think? How can we manage what people think? And, even if we could, why would a
bottom-line oriented executive choose to focus on a “soft value” like what people think or feel when they
can focus on “hard values” like revenue, expense, and profit?

Every company, product, service, or brand has a positioning, even if no one is paying attention to it. That
is because customers and prospects are continually touching and interacting with aspects of your
business. They are gathering information, forming impressions and making judgments based on actions
you take, actions you don't take, and actions by your competitors and the market.

Let's take a look at:

ƒ what positioning is
ƒ why it is important, and
ƒ the six steps you can take today to take control of your positioning

What is Brand Positioning?

While there are many definitions, a clear way to think about brand positioning is:

ƒ Positioning is “What people think about you brand, product or service compared to your

A strong positioning must be relevant, unique, and believable.

ƒ Relevant means that it must deliver on an important, unmet customer need.

ƒ Unique means it solves the customer’s need in a new or different way than existing offerings.
ƒ Believable means that people believe that you can deliver on the promise.

The Importance of Strong Brand Positioning

Financial analysis shows that about 50% of a company’s Net Worth is accounted for by “Intangible Assets”
and the most significant component of this is the value of the Brand and the strength of the competitive
positioning. This shows that perceptions are critical in driving hard value.

Managed properly, a well positioned brand:

ƒ Builds shareholder value

ƒ Generates consistent revenues and profits
ƒ Commands higher prices
ƒ Builds customer loyalty
ƒ Opens doors for sales calls and partnerships
ƒ Provides resistance to competitive attack
ƒ Provides a source of pride for employees.

Examples of strong positioning include:

When I think of a Mercedes, not only do I think of high quality and elegant style, but I also think the extra
value Mercedes provides is worth the extra cost in comparison to BMW, Ford, GM, Lexus and all the rest.

Nike vs Target
Likewise, when I go to buy my Nike T-shirt, instead of a Target T-shirt, it means that that I prefer the
design, style, and my association with the world’s top athletes enough to pay $45 instead of $15. Target
also has a strong position, but it is different. If I want a T-shirt that is essentially the same, but for a great
value, then I choose the Target T-shirt.

There is no question about whether or not you will have a brand position. The question is whether you
decide to manage it.

So are you ready to take control?

6 Steps to Take Control of Your Positioning

While it is nice to have an experienced marketing team or advertising agency to help build and strengthen
your positioning, many companies can make progress by following a proven positioning methodology.

1. Determine Your Current Positioning – “Where You Are Today” Conduct research among
employees, partners, customers, prospects, and industry experts about your current positioning.
Ask them questions such as:
ƒ “What word or phrase comes to mind when you think of our company?”
ƒ “What does our company do differently or better than anyone else?”
ƒ “What is the key reason someone should buy from us?”

The strengths that you have today are assets that can be leveraged as potential differentiators
for your new positioning. It is better to build your positioning of an existing asset when possible
because you get a head start.

2. Assess Customer Needs – “Importance to Customer”

Since your positioning needs to be relevant, it’s important to confirm the importance of your
customer’s needs. Often primary needs like high quality, good service, expertise, and low price
are obvious; leading many companies to claim the same capabilities and positioning. A strong,
unique positioning often looks beyond the obvious primary needs and uncovers important needs
that lie beneath the surface. Here are some example questions you can ask to uncover possible
secondary benefits you can use to create a unique position:
ƒ Please rate the importance of the following factors in your decision:
ƒ Keeping risk at a minimum
ƒ Taking risk in order to become an innovator and leader
ƒ Increasing operational efficiency
ƒ Getting the project completed as soon as possible
ƒ Providing measurable results to management
ƒ Turn-key solution that minimizes company involvement
ƒ Customization for unique company needs
ƒ Building organizational capacity for training best practices
ƒ Leveraging existing investments and platforms
ƒ Domain expertise and competence
ƒ Global capabilities for geography and language
ƒ Building human capital for the company
3. Conduct a Competitive Landscape
Look across your competitive landscape and determine the positioning for each competitor.
Assess if you think they are strong or weak. What positioning opportunities are taken and which
are “up for grabs”? Are their any unique ways of looking at the positioning statements so you can
appeal to customers in a different way?
4. Develop a New Brand Positioning – “Where You Want To Be”
Use the work from your first 3 Steps to develop alternatives for your new positioning. Your
current positioning will uncover strengths that can be used as potential differentiators. The needs
assessment will uncover important primary and secondary needs that you can build a proposition
around. The competitive landscape helps identify incumbent leaders and opportunity areas. It is
good to generate a small list of 3 to 5 positioning statements that you can test.

Develop some alternatives by filling in the statements below:

ƒ We’re the best at ____ because of our ability to ____
ƒ If you need ____ choose us because of ____
5. Validate the Positioning – “Excitement & Credibility Test”
The next step is to test the positioning alternatives internally and externally to see if they are
exciting and believable. Recruit a panel of current and potential customers and test the
positioning statements. Ask respondents to rate the statements for favorability, importance, and
ƒ Overall, how do you feel about this statement?
ƒ 5 Point Scale: highly favorable to highly unfavorable
ƒ How important is this statement to you?
ƒ 5 point scale: “not important at all” to “extremely important”
ƒ How well do you believe ABC company can deliver on this statement?
ƒ 5 point scale: “very unlikely” to “very likely”

When evaluating the results, look for strong positive responses combined with a low level of
strong negatives. If you have picked a strong position, you should see some strong scores. If you
are trying to be something that you are not, your believability scores will show customers had
difficulty buying into your promise. Watch out for a large number of responses in the middle
range. This means your positioning statement will not stand out in a crowded, noisy market.

6. Execute the Positioning – “Speak with One Voice”

After you select your positioning, it is critical that the company executes consistently in
everything it does. The new tagline and positioning statements need to be updated in the product
strategy, the logo, the website, the sales training, sales presentation, email signatures,
brochures, business cards, and across every element of the company communications.

About the Author

Rick Thompson is Executive Vice President at Client Opinions, a leader in online market research. Rick has
been Chief Marketing Officer at Global Knowledge, and Ultimus Software and led worldwide marketing for
IBM Direct and IBM Aptiva. He began his marketing and research career at Procter & Gamble, has a B.S.
in Chemistry from the University of Maryland, an MBA from Michigan and holds four U.S. Patents for
innovations in chemistry, personal computing, and peer to peer photo-sharing.

©2008 Training Growth Innovations