Establishing the proper position for your business in the marketplace is one of the key ingredients for success. If you need to brush up on the basic principles of positioning, check out the post “The Beginner’s Guide To Brand Positioning in 4 Steps.” Once you’re ready for more advanced tactics, the three ideas in this post will help you take your brand’s position from established to outstanding.
Focus on owning a single word in the marketplace.
If your company is going to position itself successfully, it needs to attempt to own a word in the mind of the consumer. Google has become synonymous with search, Xerox has done the same for copies, and Kleenex has done it for tissues. The key here is that, if you want to own a term in consumers’ minds, you have to focus your brand on a narrow offering.
In other words, you have to give up something in order to get something.
If Kleenex made tissues and paper towels, when someone asked for a Kleenex you wouldn’t know what to give them. It’s only because Kleenex is strictly a tissue product that they can own that term in the marketplace. They gave up trying to expand to other paper products to remain number one in tissues.
As difficult as it is, you need to do the same for your business. You need to identify places where your company is divided in what it does, and either create a new brand for those other offerings, so that each one can have its own unique position, or simply shut down any extraneous lines of business. While it may be painful in the short term, it will ensure your company has a strong and secure position in the long run.
Don’t follow the leader — do the opposite.
Too often companies see the most successful business in their field, think to themselves “they must know what works and what doesn’t,” and then begin trying to do the same things as the leading company, only better. For example, if your competitor is the top toothpaste brand, and they are effectively selling their product on the fact they fight cavities, it would be a waste of time to try to convince the market you can fight more cavities.
If your competition already owns that position, you don’t have the time or the money to it take over. What you can do instead is pick an alternative attribute to position your business around. If your top competitor owns fighting cavities, you should try to get fresh breath, whitening, flavor, sensitive teeth, or any number of other positions instead.
Admit a negative to get a positive.
Whenever you make a negative or less-than-flattering statement about your business, your prospects will immediately accept it as true. After all, why would you make up something bad to say about your own company, and then publicize it? On the other hand, positive statements you make — particularly in advertisements — will be taken with a degree of skepticism at best and outright distrust at worst. Therefore, it can sometimes be easier to work your way into the minds of a customer by using a negative to gain their trust and then twisting it into a positive.
There are a number of great examples of this strategy in action. For example, Listerine used the tagline “The taste you hate, twice a day.” Admitting that their product didn’t taste good implied to their prospects that it had to be extremely effective. Smucker’s did the same thing when they said “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.”
If you’re marketing a product that is having trouble getting acceptance in the marketplace, try looking for ways to promote something negative about your business to gain prospects’ trust, and then flip it into a positive so that they no longer see it as a reason not to do business with you but instead as proof of why you’re valuable in some other way.
Which of these positioning strategies are you most excited to try for your business? Tell us which one and why in the comments!
Note: The term “positioning” became popular in the early 1980s when Al Ries and Jack Trout published a book with that title. At the time it was a fairly revolutionary idea, and it spread rapidly up the ranks of many successful businesses. Then roughly a decade later, they published another book that refined their concept of positioning even further called The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. These two books are like the old and new testament for brand positioning, and the recommendations in this post are largely drawn from this body of work.