What Is Brand Positioning & Messaging?
At the heart of every successful brand is a big idea. Brand positioning is our process to define and establish your big idea in a way that positions your brand in the mind of its target audience and key stakeholders.
Brand Positioning is about defining your “why” – we work closely with brands to chart a positioning and definition that is not just distinctive, but compelling, and truly differentiated.
Great brand positioning ideas work as both a unifier and motivator for customers and the the entire organization, setting the direction for brand and business strategy.
While brand positioning can be externalized in a tagline or in messaging, a brand positioning typically exists internally and should guide everything from acquisition strategy to marketing communication to hiring and HR policies. A great example of this is Starbuck’s positioning – “The Third Place”. You will never see this idea in a tagline or in external messaging and yet the powerful idea has guided the business for decades. Everything Starbuck’s does serves the purpose of furthering its positioning as the third place in customers lives – they have work; they have home; and they have Starbucks.
Effective brand positioning can help a brand attract and retain customers, build brand loyalty, and drive business growth.
Brand Positioning Process
Every great brand strategy starts with the right input from key stakeholders to ensure we understand the customer context, our client’s unique equities and business strategy, the competitive context, and market trends and directions. We conduct in-depth interviews to understand these 4 areas and collect the inputs we need to create a great brand positioning.
If we are helping a client refine their brand architecture, we begin with discovery interviews to 1) understand the current state of the architecture and 2) understand pain points that exist within the current architecture. In this discovery phase, we also look at competitor brand architecture and the strategies they deploy when going to market.
After undergoing the discovery phase to populate our model (customer, competitor, company, market), we begin to ideate internally to create positioning ideas that are 1) succinct 2) creative and 3) exist at the intersection of the 4 areas within our model – the point we call the brand opportunity space. We shortlist internally to 3 unique positioning ideas. And finally, we report out to the client in context with a written rationale for the positioning idea to bring it to life and contextualize the idea.
After presenting the initial positioning ideas to our clients, we consolidate their feedback and refine the ideas as needed. Often, we have alignment and agreement on a single positioning idea and move to step 4. But sometimes, we have agreement on a theme but not agreement on the idea itself. For example, we may agree that the theme of partnership is the right theme for positioning but the positioning idea itself is not quite right. We then work to create a range of ideas within the theme to report back to the client and then select the final positioning idea.
Once we have the final positioning idea in hand we build the broader brand definition that surrounds and supports the positioning. First, we create the brand building blocks, which are the attributes that underpin the brand definition. When we created the Metallic brand we included brand building blocks like “simple”, “youthful”, “adaptable”, and included a few paragraphs explaining what these mean in the context of SaaS backup and recovery. Next, we write the final piece of the brand definition which is the brand manifesto. This is the written narrative that codifies the business, what it does, and brings the positioning idea to life, why it matters. Together these 3 elements (building blocks, positioning idea, manifesto) create a powerful, one-page summation of the brand.
Case studies showcasing brand positioning:
What Is Brand Architecture?
Brand architecture is about defining the hierarchy, structure, and relationships between brands, sub-brands, products and services in a company’s portfolio to help maximize value.
As a business grows—acquiring other companies, launching new products, or expanding into new markets— a brand can sometimes lose its sense of order and coherence.
The right architecture structures your offer to make it easy for audiences to navigate. It makes it easier to cross-sell, streamlines product launches, creates efficiencies in management and process a roadmap for the future. And it sets the tone for naming, identity, and design across your portfolio.
Brand Architecture Process
If we are helping a client refine their brand architecture, we begin with discovery interviews to 1) understand the current state of the architecture and 2) understand pain points that exist within the current architecture. In this discovery phase, we also look at competitor brand architectures and the strategies they deploy when going to market.
2. Initial Strategies
No architecture is the same. In this step, we work to create 3 unique strategies/architectures to create a more coherent and compelling buying process for our client’s customers. Sometimes this requires a move to a branded house with descriptive offerings. Sometimes our client’s unique architecture needs calls for the creation of a few sub-brands and a move away from descriptive offerings. We address the 3 best potential structures in this step. Consolidate our feedback. And move to step 3.
3. Refinement & Delivery
After presenting and discussing the 3 initial concepts we refine the preferred architecture option and deliver to our client. Next steps are dictated by the unique architecture solution. In some cases, we begin the naming process to create an ownable, branded sub-brand. In other cases, we begin to create descriptive names for our client’s brand portfolio.