What’s Your Edge?

What’s Your Edge?

What sets your product apart? Why should lenders want to buy from you? In an article entitled “Easy Tips On How To Create A Brand Position For Your Product Or Service” written by Brian Sutter, published in Forbes, he talks about how to create a lasting perception about your brand that makes you stand out from the competition.

There’s a lot of wisdom behind the phrase, “Out of mind, out of business.”

Marketing experts Al Ries and Jack Trout penned it in their classic book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.” If your customers can’t (or won’t) think about you, you won’t be in business for very long.

Positioning gets you seen – and thought about, accepted and remembered. The marketing tactic focuses on creating a perception about your brand, product or service in your potential customers’ minds, and it’s done by leveraging how they view the market and your competitors.

Positioning is never an afterthought. It’s an idea that should shape every aspect of your marketing strategy from the very start, even before you become set on a name. You decide your brand or product’s positioning long before you worry about how much you need to set aside for your marketing and advertising budget.

Examples Of Positioning In Action

One early example of brand positioning is 7UP’s “The Uncola” campaign from the 1970s. Instead of going head to head with the dominant products in their category – Coke and Pepsi – 7UP defined a new niche.

This is a hallmark tactic of positioning. As Trout and Ries describe it:

“To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head to head.”

7UP changed the public’s perception about what a soft drink should be.

Chipotle is a more modern example of not competing head to head. They are a fast food chain, but their “Food With Integrity” positioning sets them apart. It flows through every aspect of their business.

Through their alignment with smaller farms and their direct condemnation of agro-business, Chipotle positions itself as a very different kind of chain. They even made a short film, The Scarecrow, to illustrate their difference.

Chipotle changed the public’s perceptions of fast food by focusing on its use of fresh and unprocessed ingredients.

Why Use Positioning At All?

Your audiences are experiencing information overload, also known as content shock, thanks to the sheer volume of marketing and advertising messages they’re bombarded with every day. To cope, the brain develops “banner blindness” that literally screens out this material so they never see it, even though it may be right in front of their eyes.

That’s why content marketers need to use positioning to get in front of these audiences; you want to change the way they perceive you, the market and your competitors. Change their perception so they not only see your content, but also appreciate and act on it.

Positioning And The Blue Ocean Strategy

Sometimes you need to get away from the competition to get in front of audiences. That’s the idea behind the marketing book and website, “The Blue Ocean Strategy.”

Positioning creates new market space without abandoning the competition. Sometimes it embraces it head-on. For example, car rental company Avis knew it could not overtake Hertz as being #1 in the industry, so it simply claimed its #2 spot and launched the “We try harder” campaign because of it.

Scope pulled a slightly different play with the then market-leader, Listerine. By pegging Listerine as causing “medicine breath” and positioning Scope as smelling better, Scope leveraged Listerine’s placement in the market to its own advantage.

Positioning And Unique Selling Propositions

Positioning is close to another current marketing concept. It’s called the unique selling proposition (USP) – or what makes your product or service different.

USP and positioning are similar, but they have key differences. Positioning is based on audiences’ perceptions; USP is based on the existing attributes of the product or service. USP tends to be more tied to the features and benefits, whereas positioning is much closer to branding.

As Trout and Ries put it:

“…since so little of your message is going to get through anyway, you ignore the sending side and concentrate on the receiving end. You concentrate on the perceptions of the prospect.

Not on the reality of the product.”

How To Make Positioning Work For You

Here’s your crash course in how to come up with positioning for a product or service. First, list what your competitors like to say about themselves. Like that they’re:

>> Faster

>> Cheaper

>> #1

>> Created for a certain group of people such as the experts, novices or small business owners

Now, think of the opposite of that attribute. Can you spin having the opposite of that into a good brand position? Here’s how some companies and movements did just that:

Faster versus slower: Fast food focuses on quick meals, while the “Slow Food” movement focuses on the farming and culture of local foods

Cheaper versus expensive: A GM Impala is an affordable and reliable car, but you need one of their Cadillacs if you want people to think you’re successful.

The #1 versus the rest of the pack:  Hertz might be number one in the car rental industry, but Avis says “We Try Harder”

For a certain group: The very successful “For Dummies” book series was specifically created for novices and it’s a great example of an expandable position strategy.

How To Check Your Positioning

Positioning is something you never want to change once it’s in place, so it’s critical to have something you can commit to long-term.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you settle on your position:

Can you own this position completely? Is your company able to completely deliver on this, or are you on wobbly ground? The perfect positioning will have been in your company’s DNA from the start.

How viable is this positioning over the next decade? Are there any industry developments or shifts that could undermine this positioning?

How close are any of your competitors to this positioning? You never want to be a “me too” business that stakes the same position already established by another company. By being first to identify and claim a position, you set yourself up as the leader in your particular area, and that leadership rule can be much more valuable than a high-priced marketing budget.

Are you responding to a need that a specific segment of customers in your industry craves? Does your positioning answer a largely unmet need?

Is your positioning simple enough to be summed up in a few words? This is often the hardest, but it is the most critical. Your positioning statement must be simple. It has to telegraph its meaning and value to your prospects in a second.

  • “We try harder” for Avis
  • “Think small” for the Volkswagen Beetle
  • “Think different” by Apple

What Do You Think?

Do you think positioning is just hype or do you believe it can make a difference in your marketing efforts?