Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Selecting a specific brand position

Every brand must express a concrete benefit that entices customers to buy. The broad positioning serves as the first step, the next step is to select a specific benefit position for a brand. Many companies choose a single major benefit positioning, such as: Best Quality, Lowest price, Most reliable etc.

In complex B2B markets, companies may have to develop multiple benefit positioning to cater to multilevel buyers. [ Buyers or decision makers in a B2B market will be many, ranging from engineering, finance, management, operations etc.]

For example, in my firm Open-Silicon Inc. positions it’s ASIC in three benefit areas: Reliable first time silicon (for prototypes) , predictable schedules (for design services), & Low cost silicon (for volume production). In this case, the company has multiple benefit position to attract multilevel buyers.

The following are some of the pointers to select a specific position for a brand:

  1. Attribute Positioning: The brand has a unique attribute i.e., Fastest, oldest, etc. Attribute positioning is usually a weak positioning as it does not explain the benefit to the customer.
  2. Benefit positioning : The brand promises a benefit to the customer. This is very strong positioning only if the brand can deliver on its promise. If the brand promises but does not deliver, then customers will not buy the product - worse still, the company can become liable for fraud or face legal challenges
  3. Application positioning: Brand promises to be the best suited for that application. For example Caterpillar positions itself as the best suited for earth moving equipment, or iPod positions itself as the best MP3 player.
  4. Competitor Positioning: Here the brand is positioned to be superior or different than that of the competition. For example, AMD’s Opteron is positioned to be better than Intel’s Xeon processors.
  5. Category Positioning: The company describes the brand as the category leader. This has a strong appeal in a uncertain market where buyers are not sure and to be safe many will choose to follow the majority (herd mentality). For example "Nobody got fired for buying from IBM" .
  6. Quality/price or Price/Performance positioning: Here the brand promises a higher level of benefit for a given price. This positioning strategy is usually followed when the brand is inferior to its competitor on performance but the company can sell it at a lower price than the competitor. For example, Hyundai cars in US are positioned against Japanese cars - as value for money cars.

Selecting a specific position for a brand has to be done very carefully. The company and all its employees must agree with that brand positioning. Specific brand positioning must be in-line with the broader positioning strategy. (see my earlier blog "Developing a Brand Position")
There are some well known pitfalls which one can avoid in selecting the specific positioning for a brand. The most common pitfalls are:

  1. Under positioning: Failing to present a strong central benefit or reason to buy the product. For example, Magnavox brand of TVs from Philips in US does not promote a strong reason to buy it instead of Sony’s Vega TVs.
  2. Over positioning: This happens when a brand is positioned at a very narrow customer base that most of the potential customers will overlook the brand. For Example, the web based grocery retailer - targeted the busy professional and ignored the mass market.
  3. Confused Positioning: By claiming two are more benefits that contradict each other. This is the most common of the mistakes in positioning. Routinely one can see a statement "Highest quality & lowest price". ( A google search on the phrase Highest quality & lowest price" resulted in over a 100 million hits. )
  4. Irrelevant Positioning: By claiming a benefit which few prospects care about the brand will have an irrelevant brand position. For example, "The world’s slimmest cellphone" - Motorola’s Razr V3. People don't buy phones because its thin, people buy cell phones for its utility.
  5. Doubtful Positioning: Claiming a benefit that customers will doubt that the brand can actually deliver. For example, a mutual fund offers 100% returns on investment. Another example will be the claims for various products in QVC channel: Oxyrich - which claims to clean better than all the leading brands, Ashvini hair oil - which promises to stop hair loss, Weight loss pills etc.

Selecting a clear, meaningful and trustworthy brand positioning is a critical step in the overall brand positioning. By having a well defined brand position will not sell the product. One needs to convince the customer the value of the product. This is done by selecting a suitable value position for the brand (which will be described next)


Vaava said...


I am slightly confused when trying to differentiate between broad and specific positioning. Can both be the same? In case, 'High quality' is a positioning I choose for broad and specific, would that be a right approach?

Apart from that, I have a query as well, can a single brand have two positioning to cater to the rural as well as urban market?

If that is not going to be the wise choice, can the umbrella brand adderess the two markets with two different branded products.

raj patil said...

This information is related to brand strategies and very important for newcomers in business.
It's always useful in business.

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