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Strategic Branding & Advertising

Positioning around what you know

by Kelly Hobkirk

If you work at a large company with strong brands or a startup with no brand, to create a successful brand, you have to be capable of being a champion. To do that, you need smart brand positioning.

brand positioning simplified by Train of Thought

What if you have a great idea, but no authority on the topic? You must go get informed in a manner that helps you embody the most informed person in your brand’s area. There are no two ways about this, no shortcuts. You need the credentials and experience. If you can’t get those, you will need endorsements of those in authority. In order to get their attention, you will need some credibility of your own. If you’re doubting this, think about when you were a kid, when a classmate made some outrageous claim. What was our unfailing reply? Prove it.

Positioning Dilemma 1

Say you want to position yourself as an expert in women’s nutrition championing a new brand of foods aimed squarely at women. Sure, it’s a noble and worthy cause, but you lack relevant experience. Guess what happens when you start raising awareness? You will have potential opposition from doctors, dietitians, nutrition counselors, and anyone else with a strong opinion.

Granted, your experience may be unique and valuable, but will it be enough for you to speak with authority to the needs of your market? It might be, particularly if your unique experience relates directly to what you want to do. At some critical point, however, you will be asked to prove it.

Positioning Dilemma 2

Let’s think about it another way. Imagine you want to model for running shoe manufacturers. They want top runners, and fit average joes. And let’s say that you, in fact, are not fit and are not even a runner.

What would you be then? You would be a poser and an outsider, the antithesis of the proof people need to see in order to believe. You would lack the credibility needed to get any manufacturer’s attention, much less their ad agency, and you wouldn’t be able to relate to the market. In order to reach your goal, you would have to become a runner and get fit, which could take years. (Of course, you might be up for it.)

Brand Positioning Oversimplified

If you are like many entrepreneurs, you want to start a company or brand because you have something unique to bring to market. All you have to do for good brand positioning is make a sandwich.

The top slice of bread is what the market wants and needs, and the bottom slice, the foundation, is what you know. Your product is the middle, the heart of the sandwich (your brand), the reason people choose it and eat it up. And the condiments, lettuce, and cheese? Oh, that’s pure marketing.

Positioning around what you know will make your job easier. If you have credentials and relevant experience, you have a huge head start. Figure out what people want, match it up with what you can offer, and put in the hard work to make it reality.

Good brand positioning makes the difference between failure or success. Positioning around what you know is a critical step towards the latter.

Posted by Kelly Hobkirk • March 18, 2015 • Tags: ,

On crafting a strong brand positioning statement

by Kelly Hobkirk

Brand Positioning is one of the most misunderstood aspects of brand development. The purpose of a brand positioning statement, surprisingly, is not about staking a claim of the position you wish to occupy in your chosen market. That approach misguides people because where you aspire to be is generally not where you are, setting up the basis for failure when you could instead set a foundation for success.

A strong brand position states an accurate and succinct position of where you stand in the market. It is where you are now or where you intend to be based on real world aspects of your business today.

The problems with many positioning statements range from boastful ambition, to lack of realism, and inflexibility. Not coincidentally, the key to a strong positioning statement is balancing ambition with realism, and keeping a healthy degree of flexibility.

As your business changes, grows, innovates, and reaches a new position, you can update your positioning statement. That’s one reason flexibility is so important. Another reason is simply because you don’t know what you don’t know. A peer may somehow gain a stronger foothold or out-innovate you.

An out of balance brand positioning statement sets you up to fail because it gives people a false sense of who the company is and what it is achieving. It also misinforms key personnel, the brand itself, and marketing elements such as customer service, strategy, messaging, and advertising.

In order to craft a strong brand position statement, you need to have done your homework. You have to know more than just what you are doing. You need to know what the market wants and what the market already has. Moreover, you need to understand the importance of clearly defining your brand in writing right from the outset.

Your brand positioning statement needs to go well beyond stating the basics of who you are. A good statement is brief and concise so that it is actionable and achievable, yet it must be realistic.

A strong brand positioning statement uses inspiring terminology, yet the phraseology must also appeal directly to your target market because one constantly informs the other. You must consider words that might offend the sensibilities or sensitivities of your market. For instance, you would not use the term ‘earth-shattering’ if you are an environmental group. Focusing on inspiring words will—guess what—inspire people to share your vision and spread your word.

Posted by Kelly Hobkirk • March 6, 2015 • Tags: ,

What is Brand Positioning?

by Kelly Hobkirk

Brand positioning is one of the single most important steps any business can take on the road to success. Yet, brand positioning is perhaps the most shunned part of branding that exists, especially for small businesses who understand the value of positioning only after the results of the effort are in. That means their motivation for the work itself is often low because they would rather be tending to the hundreds of other tasks calling for their attention.

I’ve found that clients often expect to see visuals at every stage of brand development, yet in positioning and strategy, there frequently are no visuals (or only those of your competitors), only text. Pointed text, valuable text, but still just text.

It’s easy to just say, ‘This is our position,’ or, ‘This is where we want to be, so we will be there,’ but the problem is if there is already someone there who is bigger, better, or far more financially endowed, you may need to shift positions. Brand positioning reveals that.

Positioning can be tough because it can reveal that your golden egg is perhaps a little more on the bronze side. More often, brand positioning is an empowering exercise in clearly defining your niche.

We all like to believe that our ideas are completely original, and often times they are. But – and this is a big but – sometimes original ideas are not so original, without you knowing it. In positioning, you gain valuable insight into who will be your true competition.

Brand positioning brings to light the viability of your product or service. It can also show alternate paths, and even reveal new opportunities.

Brand Positioning is a difficult task which can rarely be completed by one person alone. Good brand positioning is a question and answer proposition, requiring hours and days of intense research, along with a ton of true objectivity. I usually create a team of designer and client who work together.

Combined with brand strategy, positioning is a potent step in brand development. Brand positioning and strategy will provide you with a clear direction and a wide-angle view of the future for your marketing. It will also give your graphic designer exactly what they need to be able to design your corporate or brand identity with purpose and meaning.

Brand positioning clearly defines the following crucial things, before you invest time, money, hopes, and energy in realizing your vision:

Determine originality
Is your idea unique? You may think it is, but now is the time to do some intensive research to discover whether or not other companies are marketing the same product or service.

Establish your unique position in your chosen market
If your product is totally unique, you may have hit a home run. If there are other products just like it, you may have to position yours as being different in one important way, which can capture the attention of your audience, and can garner enough sales to justify the effort.

Identify competitors
Everyone has competition. Everyone. I once had a boss who liked to tell his employees that the company had no competition. He wanted them to think only about their own success. There is wisdom in that approach, because it can help people focus, however, a strong competitor is a valuable asset. It gives you a peer, a potential equal whom you can rise above, or set incremental goals against, to capture a market. All great athletes have competitors. Businesses do too.

Determine required budget to compete
Do you have the needed budget? You may have the drive and determination, but if a larger competitor has the marketing budget to outgun you at every crucial step, you are going to need to change your strategy, and you may need to consider a different position in the market.

Brand positioning is often a hard process. When you’re excited about getting your business started or launching a new brand, objectivity is usually the one key ingredient most people lack, and often in a big way. I highly recommend pairing with a brand consultant or graphic designer who truly understands branding.

At the end of the process, you should have a brand position summary that clearly states your market position, and can guide your product development, brand development, and marketing planning.

Posted by Kelly Hobkirk • May 26, 2012 • Tags: ,,