When I was a child I used to watch every afternoon a kid’s Tv show in a Brazilian cultural channel. That show had several of my favorite all-time sketches. I loved the little mouse singing while taking a bath. Nowadays I still sing that same catchy song to my daughter. Another favorite sketch: one called “Did you see how it’s done?”. I miss the cheerful melodies that explained how things were made! A vinyl record, a pole, a cartoon, or dolls. In those few minutes, we learned a lot.
I grew up and went into the market of manufacturing ideas. One of the fields I have the most experience and passion is Brand Positioning. This relationship was born suddenly, in my very first college class. The teacher introduced the four ‘P’s. Who here remembers? Product, Price, Place, Propaganda… A beautiful journey until reaching the concept of Positioning. We learned a lot with Phillip Kotler, with Al Ries and Jack Trout, in the most famous book on the subject, “Positioning: A battle for your mind”. All these guys still have vital content for every manager. But, with everything in life, Marketing keeps evolving, so there are more things that need to be on the agenda when the subject is the most essential decision in your business strategy.
I still encounter entrepreneurs who struggle to understand how to develop a good Positioning, despite having heard or studied a lot about it. Many still think that Brand Positioning is to enumerate attributes and go-to-market definitions. “What’s your positioning on price?” — is what they usually ask their colleagues.
Since I lack the talent to create a song as wonderful as the skit on my favorite childhood show, I will give some tips here below to help shed some light on the subject.
1. Positioning is something that is defined by a Purpose.
Your company has some talents based on the way it creates its product or service, as well as the way it delivers it. These talents can certainly address the specific needs of the world. At this encounter of two forces, needs and talents, we have a Purpose. Simon Sinek says: Start with Why. There is a reason for your company to exist.
And yet, there are people who think this is a load of crap, a way to camouflage the pure capitalist spirit of the business. Of course that generating good results and profit are key goals, but the Purpose is a sine qua non condition to add more consciousness, motivation, and, I dare to say it, more nobility to the act of making money.
Once I heard from an entrepreneur: — My company exists because I need to make money to live. I answered: — In fact, you chose this company because there is something in it where you can express what you do best. And so, you will be more fulfilled and able to create a future of possibilities and comfort for you and your family. The Purpose starts to be carved out from this premise.
Soon, the Positioning needs to hear this calling, because it can only be truly delivered if there is a clear vision of which talents this company holds, and what needs can be met, inside and outside of it. You can’t create a marketing solution to deliver what you don’t have, what you’re not.
2. Purpose is destiny. Positioning, the route.
It’s important to consider what we are offering to the consumer, with all the necessary specifications, that’s true. The teachings of marketing help to structure a strategy through the four ‘P’s, for example. There are companies that have created their own forms of strategic construction. It is up to Positioning to embrace these and other guidelines in a single concept, which opens the way to the Purpose. If Purpose is the destination, and Positioning is the route, the latter needs to present a marketing solution that can be an instrument for this Purpose to come to life.
For example: If the Purpose of a brand is to be a happy moment of acceptance in the community, we need a positioning that envisions the way to reach this destination. A concept that encompasses a product, price, market, advertising, and other premises capable of creating this route. The Purpose of Coca-Cola, for example: Together We Sparkle. Thinking about this, visualize everything that is necessary to make this Purpose a reality.
3. Add up a fifth ‘P’ to the equation: Brand Personality.
Back to what we talked about talents: Every company creates an internal culture, a way of doing things. What is born inside, ends up going out, whether we like it or not. It is important to understand what voice this brand will have because to sustain it, it needs to be true. There are many ways to define it. Personality takes into consideration not only the way you speak, but also the way you act. The values, the rational and emotional triggers that guide behavior, these are fundamental for the consolidation of the Positioning.
For this reason, many Branding experts study psychology, especially the archetypal field. Understanding how the essence and intrinsic characteristics of a company can be molded into an archetypal projection, a way to humanize the brand so that it can connect more deeply to people’s psyche. Moreover, it is a full plate to guide the story that this brand will tell about itself.
4. Your Positioning needs to address an emotional need.
More than bare necessities, like eating and sleeping, we need to understand the longings of the modern human being. To be accepted, to have friends, to build a promising life journey, to gain recognition… There are infinite needs that a brand with good intentions can meet. Good Positioning goes beyond a list of product attributes or functional benefits. It is, after all, a path to a happier existence.
Dedicated parents grasp this idea really well. More than just feeding and changing diapers, the real act of love goes beyond basic survival acts. The goal is to do it while fulfilling your child’s emotional needs. Positioning works in the same way. We don’t feed babies because they are hungry, but because we want them to feel loved.
5. Good Positioning inspires people, from the inside out.
Do not think that Positioning is only for consumers! It starts with co-workers. Positioning is an exercise to move people. That’s why Branding embraces a whole company. It needs to be present in all departments and inspire everyone around. Something that not only reduces turnover but creates ambassadors. And of course, it will attract the right kind of people to your business. Those who really want to be part of the journey.
6. Positioning is an act of sacrifice.
Many people think that positioning a brand is to make its target audience retain a list of positive attributes. But good positioning occupies only one compartment, only a ‘drawer’, in a big ‘closet’. Think of all the information we receive daily. There is not enough room to store it all, right? Some things stay within, but others end up going to our ‘mental waste bin’. What we need is a powerful message to provide emotional recurrence.
Babies, for example, learn to understand the world when we repeatedly use the same stimuli and reassuring appreciation. So we need to well choose a message. A valuable superpower to ensure that more and more consumers put your brand in the same ‘mental drawer’. So, you have to let go of many things and carefully pick the most engaging message.
7. Positioning is a centralizing and long-tail concept.
Good positioning can be worked on in many fields, and activated in many ways. And most importantly, it has the potential to last longer. And thus, make more and more emotional recalls. Something important about the concept of being long-tail: it creates a centralizing vehicle for all marketing actions. Helping transform simple scattered actions into something that directs energy toward one single idea.
A client: — We need to stand up for a social cause! Something to make a difference, engage people and create even more brand equity. I answered: — Your brand needs to make people feel accepted and attractive. So, you must choose a social cause that defends that dignity begins by feeling good in one’s own skin. The social cause is a vehicle for your positioning, not the other way around.
Do you see what I mean?
Positioning not only inspires the best definition of which actions to take but how to make them stronger and more aggregative.
8. Positioning goes beyond what the category demands.
Think about what you need to start a company that specializes in manufacturing sports shoes. You need comfortable products that are visually appealing, in tune with fashion trends, and breathable fabrics… OK, make yourself a list. If the items on it are basically product features or sport benefits, you are just navigating the category waters. Don’t get me wrong, you need to navigate that sea anyway. The point is that the concept of Positioning needs to bring something more distinctive in order to generate deeper connections to your brand.
Think about it: it’s necessary to have what it takes to get into the game, but not sufficient. You also need to perform in a position of prominence.
9. Good Positioning is no easy task.
If you have come this far and even with these tips you feel that creating a strong Brand Positioning is not as obvious as it seems, this is an excellent starting point. Especially because once in the business, living its daily challenges and tasks, changing perspective to see new possibilities remains difficult. It might be interesting to count on an outsider’s eye to illuminate the way.
Ana Negreiros is a mom, an entrepreneur in the hospitality and gastronomy sector, and a specialist in Brand Development. She is the founder of Branding Aurora, a consulting company for small and medium companies around the world.