Your brand identity is what makes you you, setting your business apart from the rest. If your brand has a more positive image than your competitors, its leads to more business and a stronger connection to your audience. But how does a brand get there? The secret is great brand positioning.
What is brand positioning?
Brand positioning is all about the perception of a brand in the minds of the customers. Think of it this way: if you ask a customer which brand sets the gold standard in smartphones, they’re likely to answer with Apple. When it comes to soda, an easy answer is Coca-Cola. And with athletic footwear, Nike is the most common response. Why? These brands have successfully positioned themselves in the minds of consumers.
Brand positioning is an important step in every brand’s journey, as it helps establish longevity and loyalty. An effective brand positioning strategy results in customers having both a favorable perception of and preference for that brand. The key is understanding your brand’s place in the market and convincing customers to perceive you in the right way. Ideally, you become the gold standard.
When it comes to brand positioning, you want to be the front runner in black and white, avoiding any gray area. This is the time to be an Apple, a Coca-Cola or a Nike.
Here’s how you can make it happen.
Step 1: Understand your customers
Positioning your brand favorably in the mind of the consumer begins with an understanding of your audience. Remember, the best brands relate to customers on an emotional level. A good brand positioning strategy caters to knowing the customers’ wants and needs, then satisfying them at every level.
Ask yourself: who are your customers? What do your customers care about most? What can you do as a brand to satisfy their needs?
A good exercise in understanding your customers is to develop a persona that encapsulates absolutely everything about your typical customers. Give them the basics (name, age, annual income, relationship status) and then try to dive deep (favorite causes, preferred way to shop, other brands they like).
The more you understand the customer’s deepest desires, the easier it is to become their new favorite. Keep your persona in mind every time you ask yourself, “would my customers like this?”
Consider Patagonia. They understand that their customer is an outdoorsy, adventurous, eco-centric consumer who cares about the environment. The Patagonia brand is firmly anchored in environmental activism. That’s why they share information about climate change and public lands on their website, and their 4.3 million Instagram followers are graced with gorgeous imagery of mountains and landscapes. The website even has an entire tab devoted to activism because Patagonia knows who their customers are and what they want to see.
There are many creative ways to get to know your customers. Adding surveys to your website gives customers the opportunity to interact with you and provide feedback. This can clue you in on exactly who they are, and also help you figure out how to improve your brand’s overall perception.
Interaction is essential, and social media provides an easy way to interact with customers through comments, polls, contests, etc. Use it to your advantage.
Step 2: Develop a mission… not just a mission statement
Once you’ve identified your customers and understood their wants and needs, it’s time to develop your brand’s overall purpose. This is your chance to go beyond a snoozy mission statement and give your brand a clear-cut mission.
Start by figuring out what makes your brand different. Create a list of brand-defining adjectives that emphasize who you are, then select the strongest ones for your branding copy, be it a tagline, advertisement, product description or even a simple hashtag.
Review your competition as well. When developing your mission, it’s useful to study the competition so you know who you’re up against and understand how to make yourself stand out. You may not be in the best position now, and that’s okay. Creating a brand mission is about knowing where you currently are, then identifying where you’d like to go next.
Look at the redefined mission of LEGO. Since 1932, the brand has been celebrated for its engaging toys. But by 2003, LEGO was struggling, losing out to the competition in an age where iPads were becoming the superior toy.
But LEGO persisted. They evaluated who their customers were and identified what they wanted and needed. They followed their mission to “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.” With this mission in mind, they embarked on the expansion of LEGO retail stores, LEGOLAND and the Lego Movie franchise. The result was a remarkable increase in revenue, more than tripling its value from 2003 to 2013. By understanding its position, LEGO could figure out where it wanted to go and the best way to get there.
Step 3: Embody your brand
Brand positioning is more than knowing who you are and whom you’re marketing to—you also have to own it. Owning who you are as a brand starts with embodying your mission, believing in your product or service and connecting with your overall purpose.
Embodying a brand means that you must market yourself cohesively in every way: advertising, packaging, signage… everything. Cohesion sets you up for positive brand positioning, as your customers develop a clear understanding of who you are.
Creating great branding assets is crucial. Start with a color palette, a great logo and a killer website, then focus on becoming a content-driven, relationship-oriented brand. For example, blogging can play a role in showing who you are as a brand, and it’ll help you connect with your customers in a conversational setting. Use it as an opportunity to establish your voice and speak to your audience on a more personal level, not just through copy, but through imagery as well.
A big brand positioning success story is Lush Cosmetics. The Canadian brand is known around the world for its fresh, handmade, cruelty-free cosmetics. The brand embodies every ounce of its beliefs by utilizing minimal packaging, rewarding customers for recycling their bottles and being incredibly transparent about its views on animal testing.
From the bold storefront to the distinct fonts on its packaging, the result is an extremely cohesive, well-thought-out, recognizable brand that has positioned itself favorably in the minds of consumers. Lush has every detail down to a science. For example, each bottle includes a sticker with a cartoon illustration of the employee who created the product. It’s nontraditional, but totally relatable. Brand positioning thrives on human connection.
Be a brand leader through successful brand positioning
Brand positioning is a key aspect of your overall success as a brand. We’ve reviewed the big steps to successful brand positioning, which include understanding your customers, developing your mission and embodying your brand so that customers have a positive perception and understanding of you. Now it’s up to you to put these steps into practice for your brand.
Need help figuring out the finer details of your brand identity? Whether you’re just getting started or you’re looking to reinvent your brand, our global community of designers can help you figure it out.