Mastering the Art & Science of Brand Positioning
At Seed, we regularly blend art and science in nearly everything we do—and there’s probably nothing that requires expertly balancing these two disciplines more than brand positioning. The art in this case centers on abstract dreaming and creative expression, while the science is all about analysis and strategic decision-making. Getting it right means doing both, each in lockstep with the other—which can be easier said than done.
With that in mind, we’ve put together the following tips to help you excel at both the art and science of developing a strategically powerful brand position.
Throw Yourself Into the Role
The brands that inspire love and attain unflagging loyalty are those that register appeal on an emotional level. This starts by achieving profound insight into your target segments so you can thoroughly and empathetically understand their needs, desires and life circumstances—much like an actor studying for an important part. So, whether you’re conducting a social media investigation, or diving into segmentation studies, qualitative research findings or category articles, it’s important to switch on your feelings and really understand what it’s like to walk in your target’s shoes. That’s how you’ll discover what it takes to strike an emotional chord and generate the loyalty you’re striving for.
Paint Divergent Pictures
Leveraging what you know about your target, brand equities and marketplace environment, creatively explore the many ways that your brand could be positioned to appeal to that audience. Consider using a positioning matrix to ensure each idea is distinct and make it easier to compare them. And be sure not to limit your ideas early in the process—let those creative juices flow!
Bring Your Strengths Into Focus
Chances are, your brand is better at certain things than all other brands in the category. Sometimes your strengths are obvious; sometimes you need to dig a bit to find what could give you a competitive edge. The act of listing out your strengths can often help unlock rich territory for your potential brand positions—and hopefully set your brand up to be more distinct than others.
Strive for Originality
Originality is key to any art, and that includes great brand positioning. But brand leaders cannot act like uncompromising artists because, while the marketplace hungers for originality, that originality must be delivered in ways that don’t turn off consumers and customers. (We’ve all seen those strange concepts and communications that prove it’s possible to be unique in a bad way.) Keeping things like your brand equities and brand promise in mind will help you find the right creative space to formulate original ideas while still staying true to the brand.
Gather Information & Make Observations
Tap into valuable information sources like competitive analyses, trends analyses, Social Reality investigations and segmentation studies to gain a sound understanding of your category, competition and target segment. This is vitally important towards helping set the criteria for what a successful positioning can look like AND find meaningful need gaps that aren’t currently being satisfied. Oftentimes, occupying a position within a market gap can be the key to unlocking a competitive advantage and improved brand performance.
Hone Your Hypotheses
Leverage positioning frameworks, positioning triangles and even a brand prism framework (when your positioning exploratory is in a more advanced stage) to optimize your options. Tools like these will help you get more specific and single-minded about the intentions of your brand positioning ideas.
Test Your Hypotheses
A brand position doesn’t live in a vacuum (quite the opposite), so it’s important to use qualitative research to check your hypotheses with the people whom you hope will most passionately embrace what your brand can mean to them.
Make an Expert Conclusion
Qualitative learning is immensely valuable, but it’s not a decision-making tool. Rather, it should be used to “directionally steer” your thinking about a position. The final decisions about brand positions should be left to the minds of the experts—these are the brand owners who have a finger on the pulse of things like marketplace dynamics, retailer strategies, consumer demand, corporate initiatives and brand architectures, which also have an important role to play in identifying and refining a final brand position.
Sean Smyth is EVP, Head of Strategy at Seed Strategy where he guides clients through the ambiguities of innovation by grounding the experience in solid principles that build certainty and confidence—often by defying established conventions.
Edited by Adam Siegel. In addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.