What’s the difference?
What’s more important?

When people talk about positioning versus, say, brand purpose. Take a breath. It’s a false dichotomy. These are two sides of a coin, and at least should be intrinsically interlinked.

Your positioning puts prospects first. It’s lead by what your customer needs, and then how you fill that need. Of course, it’s a key part of your brand.

And it’s supported in doing its job, by other aspects of your brand.

Broadly, these are the elements that define the thinking behind managing a brand (brand strategy) – a toolkit to influence how our brand is held in the mind’s of our audience. Positioning is particularly focused on customers.

What’s my brand made of?

While your positioning is critical to how you relate to customers, your brand is bigger than your positioning. So while positioning is for prospects and customers, your brand is for a broader audience and it exists in their minds as the associations they have when they hear your name or encounter you business.

So, you don’t entirely control it, but you are always trying to influence it.

First and foremost your brand is something you stand for in the minds of (these) people:

  1. Your people. If your own people are not engaged, how will you deliver a consistent brand experience that works for customers?
  2. Your stakeholders. Investors, shareholders. The people you need to win over and keep on-side.
  3. Influencers. (Sorry, horrible word). Think media, thought leaders, whether at a conference, at a dinner table, or that guy on LinkedIn.
  4. Customers. If your name conjures a mental picture or feeling with customers, that’s your brand at work.

Your brand is not what you say it is.
It’s what they say it is.

Marty Neumeier

Decide what you stand for...

Most importantly, we can only decide what we want it to be. If we don’t decide and get clear what we stand for and value, others will decide for us.

But let’s get back to positioning!

Your positioning strategy has a very particular job to do.

Positive position - explanation Venn diagram
Positive positioning aligns the best of what you can offer with what gets your ideal customer excited.

Take a meaningful UVP (your Unique Value Proposition) and connect it to what your customer really wants. In the Venn diagram shown here, most companies are operating in the battleground of cost and features. Slugging it out where your offer and  competing offers intersect.

Positive Positioning is about shifting focus, to find the people who really need and value what you uniquely offer.

Where your brand comes into play is to offer support and recognition to your positioning. The most successful positioning plays are supported by customer recognition and associated with a set of values which your brand calls to mind.

Related: But is positioning just for products and services? Or is it relevant to my company brand?

Almost 95% of business clients are not in the market for many goods and services at any one time.
Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science

Brand is playing to win the mid to long term game

So, your positioning is a key part of your brand. And it’s very customer focused. Why don't we stop there? As I mention above it’s about more than that.

Bear in mind that if positioning seems like an immediate play for the mind of your prospects,  indeed it is. But that’s not all it is. It should also be speaking to those who are not in the market right now (most people) but you want to consider you when their time comes. For this you need a memorable positioning, and it will help greatly if you have strong brand awareness and recall.

Branding from the inside out...

If you think about the key ways you engage your customer —and their experience of your business — your brand has to be built from the inside out. Setting the direction (your meaning, mission and purpose) gives your people something to believe in and be part of. Setting the tone for behaviours (your values and principles) tells people what’s expected of them and impacts customer experience directly. And reflecting this in the style of delivery (your tone of voice and visual style) should bring these behaviours to life and make you distinctive and recognisable to customers and other stakeholders.

Positioning and brand cannot be mutually exclusive concepts, but complementary aspects to support and achieve your business strategy.

Positioning is the sharp edge of your brand that connects with your ideal customers and communicates your unique value proposition. Brand is the broader set of associations and perceptions that your audience has about your business, and that you can influence through various elements of your brand strategy. And of course, through your people, your everyday service and delivery of value.

Whether you’re a service business, a one-product company or a multi-product organisation, you need to have a clear and consistent positioning and brand that resonates with your target market and differentiates you from your competitors. It will bring you a competitive advantage.

If you need some expert help with your positioning or defining your brand strategy, get in touch.