Have you put your brand in the best position to succeed?

If you filled a conference room with the leadership of your company, handed everyone a piece of paper and asked them to write down your brand’s positioning, how many different answers would you get? How about if you filled the same room with your sales reps? How about if the room were filled with your customers?

Chances are you may get a wide range of responses.

Positioning is foundational to your brand, but is often overlooked, assumed – or worse, neglected. The reason it is so critical is that it should drive your brand. Positioning is an internal tool to shape how you want the brand to be perceived. Messaging and identity that is not directly supportive of your brand positioning will diffuse the impact of your brand and contribute to confusion. It’s always better to position strategically up front, than be in the unenviable situation of trying to reposition a brand that has solidified perceptions.

Here are some suggestions when considering how to best position your brand.

Assess the Market Landscape

What are the strengths and weaknesses of potentially competitive brands? How have they positioned themselves? Is the market changing? What are the most relevant influencers?

Clearly Identify the Unmet Need

What need is currently not being met by brands in the market? Why is this the case? Why does this matter? Is the need real? Is it widely recognized or something that is going to require education? How significant is the unmet need?

Know What Makes Your Brand Meaningfully Different

What makes your brand unique? Why does this matter? How does your brand’s differences address unmet need? What are the attributes that most support the unmet need?

Cultivate Different Brand Positions for Testing

Don’t try to have your brand be all things to all people. What different directions can your brand take to meet the unmet need? Each direction must be clear, concise, distinct, customer-focused and credible.

Make Sure Your Positioning Directions are Well Crafted

Each brand positioning direction should identify the audience, the category in which the brand competes, what the meaningful point of differentiation is, and the reason to believe.

Commit with Confidence

Once you have tested positioning directions with target audiences and understand what makes your brand resonate, commit to the positioning. It sounds obvious, but it’s one of the most slippery slopes in brand communication. The desire to overstuff attributes and messages that don’t directly support the brand position permeates marketing and weakens brands. Instead, use your positioning as your brand’s GPS. Use it to stay on course and make sure that all of your marketing efforts reinforce how you want the brand to be perceived.

Messaging Matters

Messaging is a direct descendent of positioning. Messaging developed in the absence of deliberate positioning may lead to the generation of factual statements, however, this alone does not make for compelling messaging. There may, in fact, be a tremendous number of messages that you think are important. There’s a tendency to want to share every bit of information with audiences. But remember, your positioning exists for a reason. It’s how you want to be perceived. Moreover, it represents why your customer should care about and prefer your brand. So support it with messages that matter. Don’t add clutter.

Remember to Revisit

When is the last time you took a close look at your brand’s positioning? When is the last time you tested it with constituents? When is the last time you measured perceptions in the market to make sure that your branding and communication efforts are supporting the positioning and that the brand is being perceived favorably? This matters. The market is not stagnant, nor is your brand. It’s essential to evaluate regularly. Good positioning should endure, but also have the ability to evolve over time. Positioning needs to be created with foresight. You risk diminishing credibility when having to reposition, so be careful and make sure you are supporting your customers in a way that matters to them and in a way that your brand can fulfill with integrity.

Controlling your brand starts with positioning. It’s an opportunity not to just check the box in brand development, but instead to craft something that serves as your brand’s conscience. If you are operating outside the realm of your positioning, then it should serve as a warning that your brand might be drifting off course. If your positioning is on track and matters to your customers, then adoption and loyalty should be attainable. Regardless of who you fill your conference room with – leadership, sales, customers – by acting on strategically derived positioning, you should be able to hear a single, unified brand voice.

by Jonathan D. Katz