Brand positioning is a phrase that is frequently used among business leaders, but what does it mean? The corporate world has become so rife with buzzwords that brand positioning may be discussed in terms that often make little sense. But in truth brand positioning is not a difficult concept to understand. Putting it into practice, however, is an altogether different matter.

Brand Differentiation

What good is a firm if it cannot be distinguished from its rivals? In saturated markets, companies tend to adopt or inherit characteristics from one another. Start-ups copy the business models of successful firms, which match or counter the activities of successful rivals. Eventually all firms look the same. Brands become meaningless when customers cannot tell one from another. Equally, brands lose value when they fail to stand out from others.

Losing identity and value is clearly not good, but when business leaders discuss brand positioning they often mention focus or direction. They talk about how they want to move the business forward in some way or another. They identify where they want to take an organisation. Of course, none of that describes exactly how the brand will be positioned in the market. That is, how customers will be able to understand and recognise the brand.

Brand positioning is relative. It describes one brand's placement in relation to all others. Features of brand positioning include differentiation, originality and specialisation. In a crowded market, it often pays for firms to realign their focus by occupying new or sparsely populated regions of the market. Getting noticed by customers is certainly one aspect of brand positioning, but being understood is arguably just as important. The positioning of a brand must also be right for the brand itself.

How to Position a Brand

An organisation must collectively understand its brand. If a repositioning is desired, the organisation must also be able to understand its current strengths and weaknesses. Business leaders should know exactly where they are, why their current position is undesirable in a commercial context and where they want to go. Evaluating what a business is capable of achieving is also necessary at this stage to ensure that a new position can actually be attained.

The process of repositioning a brand is rarely simple. Sometimes a subtle change to the brand itself is enough to drive the entire identity and ethos of a company in a different direction. More often, businesses need to invest a great deal of time and money into the process. Finding a new brand position, or redefining an existing position, means being different. It means attracting attention. It means being identified and understood in a different way.