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Popular styles of brand positioning

Overall, a brand strategy is a long-term plan for the growth and evolution of a public image in order to achieve specific goals. A well-defined brand strategy for any business should guide all aspects of it including consumer experiences, messaging, internal culture, and even positioning.

It is completely impossible to provide someone turn by turn guidance if you have no idea where they want to eventually end up and where they stand. Once you know this, you can then configure the best way to get there. So, without further ado, let’s begin with the location, or brand positioning, in mind.

If you haven’t already, selecting and developing a brand positioning strategy isn’t as hard as you might think.

Style 1: Arm Wrestling

In this positioning style, you are trying to take on the market leader and beat them at their own game. This type of strategy can be used when there is a well-established market category but no clear market leader that is leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else.

A classic example can be seen in Coke vs. Pepsi; two products that are very similar and have to constantly compare themselves against each other to try to gain market share. The advantage of this style is that your audience already has a frame of reference, making it very easy for them to understand your offering. However, the biggest hurdle to attempting this strategy is that it takes a lot of money and time to make it successful.

Style 2: Big Fish, Smaller Pond

The idea behind this style is to focus on a smaller sub-segment of an existing market. In other words, it’s about creating a niche within an underserved market segment (the proverbial small pond). This strategy is especially useful if there is an identifiable segment of the existing market whose needs are not being met by the existing market leader.

Many marketing agencies, for instance, take this tactic and may position themselves as a specialist in providing services to a specific industry. The advantage to this, again, is your audience already has a frame of reference.

They understand your offering because it is similar to something that already exists, but unlike “arm wrestling,” you don’t have to go head-to-head with the market leader since you are targeting a very specific niche. The risky part is the market leader could turn around and match your niche offering if they see it working.

Style 3: Reframe the Market

This style of brand positioning reframes an existing market in new terms. It makes the benefits highlighted by previous market leaders irrelevant, or frankly, boring. You would use this if your product or service features an innovation or advancement that was previously unattainable, or if there has been a recent shift or change in the market needs or expectations. Take Tesla and Apple, for instance.

Before Tesla, the electric car market competed solely on battery life. Tesla entered the market and said “battery life is a given, I’m not even going to talk about it.” Instead, it highlighted the style and experience of its cars as its differentiator.

Style 4: Change the Game

This style is reserved for when there is no market category for what you do. You are the first of your kind and you get to invent your market! This strategy should be used when your strengths don’t fit you into an existing category or if a new need has emerged that isn’t served by any existing market categories. (A new product-market fit, if you will.)

A simple example here is Uber. The ride share app category didn’t exist until Uber invented it. You’ll know you’re successful in changing the game when people say things like “My company is the Uber of food delivery.”

The advantage to this strategy is you’ll be the default market leader because you created the category. There are still, however, a few risks to be wary of if you want to go this route. The other major risk with this strategy is copy-cats.

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