Positioning — A foundational play for the future of your product or service

What can it do for my business? Why should I care?

The way your product or service is perceived by your customers can hold you back, or drive you forward. Positioning is not a new concept and isn’t another buzzword; it’s the bedrock upon which your market presence is built.

A practical strategy, positioning can often be seen as a price difference or where you sit relative to competitors on features. But these are relatively negative positioning points.

Positioning points

Traditionally there are positioning points (of difference) all of which are useful parts of the mix.

A successful positioning, why customers should care about you or your product, may leverage several of these to a degree.

What’s a Positive Positioning Strategy?

A Positive Positioning is one that goes beyond these to reframe the product or business in the mind of the customer. It will highlight a particular problem the product or service is solving for you, or a concern that it takes away. It comes out of your customer’s experience and it’s what deeply connects and resonates with them.

So. It should be the foundation that underpins all of your sales and marketing efforts.

Differentiate or die.
Jack Trout

Show me a powerful positioning strategy play…

Nespresso. What are you comparing it to? Context is everything.

Here is an example you’ll be familiar with. Nespresso.

Nespresso sells you packaged ground coffee and chooses a premium positioning. You get less mess, you may buy in a boutique flagship store, you get a lot more packaging (and branding). You also get much less coffee. For much more of your money.

But the real repositioning here is the genius of moving your point of comparison away from the espresso on the supermarket shelf. Nespresso tells you it’s offering you a barista coffee at home. And for so much less than your local Starbucks. This is why I had to google ‘how many grammes of coffee in a Nespresso pod’ to do the arithmetic above.

Side note: a decent shot of espresso is around 8g of coffee

Strong positioning feels like we’re cheating!
April Dunford

Here are some thoughts on the most common positioning points, with some helpful tips on the use of each.

Price (wars) – is that a positioning?

Some have indeed grown huge businesses out of low prices*
—*plus taxes and charges

Positioning yourself on prices relatively negative. That’s a no brainer.

It can work for a market where you have a strong price advantage through technology or material costs, for a time at least.

And, price will always be part of the mix, for sure.

But do you want to compete on price? I don't think so — you can do better!

If you must, or you’re lucky enough to have a sustainable cost advantage, think about what you can add...


  • Easyjet: ‘We use our cost advantage, operational efficiency and leading positions in primary airports to deliver low fares, seamlessly connecting Europe with the warmest welcome in the sky.’
  • Ryanair: Cost + Efficiency + Punctuality
  • H&M: ‘More fashion choices that are good for people, the planet and your wallet’

Tip: Remember that value is perceived, and when you understand the true value you are bringing, perceptions can be changed.

The trouble with the race to the bottom is you might win.
Seth Godin

My feature chart is better than yours: The world of SAAS and B2B. When you think about it... A chart of features is an invitation to compare your list with competitors, longest list wins? Or lowest price?

Features fight?

To some extent you will be competing on features. It’s unavoidable, even if it’s a services business and you call it your services, added value or attributes.

Product managers can become obsessed with adding features, it shows ‘progress’ and hard work from their teams. Sales people love to talk to features and equally, that’s understandable. It’s easy to list and like product demos, can become their ‘comfort blanket’.

But for many, it’s a trap. It forces your prospects into a comparative mindset pitting you against your competitors. Comparing a shopping list, rather than identifying anything unique in your offer.

And of course, features will be copied. And you will match competitors features. So it’s a different battlefield to price. It’s an arms race. Where does it end?

Features are easily copied, and customers quickly become indifferent to them.
The only way to win is to compete on value, which means delivering a superior benefit that customers are willing to pay for.

Marty Neumeier


  • Samsung Galaxy vs iPhone. While stronger on features, more choice and more expandable Apple has created more perceived value.
  • Teams vs Zoom. In spite of Microsoft’s market leadership (and ownership of Skype) Zoom achieved a powerful foothold in spite of fewer features, by making a virtue of design, simplicity and picture quality.

Tip: Understanding the benefits associated with your most loved features is a good start point to discover your more positive positioning.

Focus on solving problems, not adding features.
Eric Ries

Visual image – being distinctive

Aesthetics can in themselves be an advantage. But, if your visual identity is striking and memorable, that will help to differentiate you and make you distinctive.

It is certainly an advantage. At least until it’s copied or your competitor visually out-guns you.

However, it’s the associations in the mind of your audience that the visualisation provokes that is the deeper value of the visual (or audio, or verbal) identifier.


  • EY, Mailchimp, Tiffany & Co. Very different brands but each with strong associations with colour, illustration style, a mascot or graphic device, linked to the meaning of each brand.

Tip: If you a have a strong visual (and verbal) style that is associated (builds memory structures) with your strong positioning in the minds of your audience, it is much harder for others to attack your position.

Distinctiveness plays a pivotal role in enhancing memory for brands
Ehringer Bass Institute, Journal of Consumer Research

Product positioning on efficiency can lead to another ‘arms race’

Positioning on efficiency

Offering greater speed, ease of use, time saving or simplifying the complex?

If you have a technology, service or methodology that’s quicker than others or offers greater functional benefits, this is the bedrock of many positioning strategies.

Examples: Intel vs AMD. The stats change as often as the technology. Let’s leave it to the tech boffins to debate the latest round of innovations. But what’s harder to dispute — it has taken years for AMD to counter the ingenious Intel strategy of being the ‘magic inside the box’.

Tip: once again, focusing on the outcomes and benefits of the difference, rather than the technology or methodology is helpful. After all, it is ‘what you can do for me’ that’s more compelling to me than ‘how you exactly do it’!

The ultimate positioning? Probably the best? ... Hardly.

Comparative, quality, ‘better than’ or ‘the ultimate’ as a positioning strategy

This is a pretty common positioning (and can be a useful ingredient in a strong positioning). But if you don’t have a truly compelling difference in your offer (like a technology or tangible leap in quality of experience), it’s subjective.

Of course, if it’s you telling me you’re the best, there’s and issue of credibility and proof. (Probably the best lager... well if you say so but I’d beg to differ)

Examples: Apple, Rolex, Leica, BMW, Mercedes.

Tip: The most successful ‘better than’ positioning strategies are generally based on more than premiumisation of the product or service.

Logic always gets you to exactly the same place as your competitors
Rory Sutherland

Most positioning attempts fail (to even be a positioning).

A movie... Not a positioning strategy. Image: Studio A24

In my experience most so-called positioning is simply too broad – trying to be all things to all people.

It feels safer.

It’s easier to get a group to sign up to something broad or vague.

After all – Why would you limit your appeal to fewer customers or groups, when you can appeal to everyone?*

*Because it’s about as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot. Read on.

You can’t be everything to everyone.
Be something great for someone.

Positioning: Why be so specific and targeted?

Conversely, the broader you go, the more difficult it is to convince prospects of anything specific or unique you are offering them. And even if they choose you but are ‘lukewarm’, they are more likely to jump ship on a whim, or for an offer of a better price.

So, while it seems counterintuitive, being exceptional or renowned for something specific moves you out of the clutter of available options which, by competing in the same space, manage to blend in. And, as mentioned above, you  end up back in a price or features battle.

When you have established your core audience and success, it becomes a powerful platform (again, your foundation) to build upon and expand your offering to others.

Your Positioning: Enlivens your value proposition and is foundational to all your customer facing communications and marketing

Positioning strategy: The foundation of your sales and marketing?

You may think, these examples are big, known brands, how is this going to work for me?

Well, it’s more important for you.

You’ll note how successful brands simplify and have a clear message and then repeat it in many variations over a long period of time. So much so, they make it look easy.

You don’t have their budgets. You don’t have the attention and awareness of large cohorts of people. But you can craft, clarify and simplify your message and target the people who matter. It should in fact be easier for you to be consistent. First, you need to work out your optimal positioning strategy.

Bear in mind, what you cannot afford to do is be bland or boring. After all, it is so much harder to stand out and get your message through the noise.

All of your sales and marketing efforts, tactical or strategic should align and be built on the foundation of our positioning. Everyone in your business should know what your positioning is, and why.

Ready to put your positioning to work for you? Get in touch now.