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What is brand positioning?

Brand positioning has been a concept deployed by ad agencies since as early as the 1950s implied through the writings of David Ogilvy and later codified in many respects through the work of Al Reis and Jack Trout in their book called Positioning

Reis and Trout defined it as “Positioning starts with a product. A piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institution or even a person. Perhaps yourself. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.” 

Another similar common definition of brand positioning often referenced is by Phillip Kotler, “The act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market.

Positioning helps create connections in an over communicated world

For many small businesses and solopreneurs, a brand begins with the identity (ex. a logo and website) and marketing can be overwhelming in terms of where to invest time and resources with so many channels for communicating. Meanwhile consumers are bombarded constantly with messages that the challenge to break through the noise gets greater by the minute. And there are so many sales and promotional tactics deployed, competing on price alone isn’t enough. 

Many businesses will get started with creating the brand based on identity only with logo, colors, fonts, website and start posting messages on social media. Or promoting the product or service first. Or marketing and selling to everyone they think they can serve.  Or all of the above. 

Over time and through experience, strengths and opportunities for improvement will become apparent relative to the industry. The customer niche may develop in terms of types of referrals received and who seems to appreciate the product and/or service. And imagery may be used more consistently and the messaging may be more clearly communicated after trying different things. 

At a certain point in the business evolution, there is a desire to pull this all together. It’s after trying various sales and marketing tactics or maximizing word or mouth, that it’s time to truly build a brand. Usually this desire is from wanting to be more clear, confident and consistent in communicating while also being much more visible in a way to attract more loyal customers.  

This is where brand positioning comes into play. 

“The basic approach of positioning is not to create something new and different but retie the connections that already exist.”

Al Reis & Jack Trout - Positioning

Brand positioning reties the connections that already exist

Brand positioning is the heart of any strategy as it defines what the brand is truly about. What it stands for. Who it serves. What it provides. What’s unique and ownable.  What opportunities exist to create and foster trust and loyalty. 

Positioning plays a crucial role in marketing and communications by making the company and product or service relevant to the target audience. It strengthens the value of a brand in terms of why it solves problems and how it can make life easier for them.

Brand positioning works for the whole company as well as for individual products and services to ensure it’s all aligned. So no matter how your existing and potential customers come into your orbit the experience is consistently on brand.