Updated: Jul 19, 2021
When I am creating or evolving a brand positioning with a client, church bells generally ring when we crack the consumer target and identify the motivation or tension the brand is going to solve for them. High fives are swapped and usually, the rest of the positioning exercises flow freely and the puzzle pieces slot nicely into place.
Until you get to the exercise where you need to identify your brand's points of difference vs its competitors. In particular, naming the features and functional benefits the brand owns that sets it apart from the competitive set we just defined.
I often hear crickets.
Especially when I push and question whether a certain feature or benefit is truly unique and distinctive to the brand.
And that’s because, unless you have a truly unique product (which is rare these days) it is exceptionally hard to find a meaningful, tangible point of difference in a mature, competitive industry with low barriers to entry.
Now those brands who have invested in their emotional equity, their distinctive assets and have built a clearly defined brand personality get to breathe a sigh of relief when we get to the final part of the exercise, as they usually have some very clear, intangible points of difference that they can leverage.
And usually, these are far more unique, distinctive and ownable than any functional advantage.
But these brands are few and far between.
So if you are looking to sharpen your brand positioning strategy and ensure your brand owns a differentiated and distinctive place in its category then look beyond the functional features & benefits and instead focus on the intangible, more valuable ones. If you need to invest to build a POD this is where you want to place your money. For example:
Focus on communicating the emotional benefits your brand delivers against. It takes time to build ownership but it is much harder for competitors to copy. NRMA has done a brilliant job achieving this with their HELP equity because lets face it, most insurers offer exactly the same functional offer of protection.
Craft a distinctive but authentic brand personality and tone of voice that is woven through all touchpoints consumers may have with your brand. KFC is the standout brand for achieving this in the fiercely competitive and somewhat ubiquitous fast food category. Everyone brand has a burger and cheap chips on offer but KFC becomes the preferred brand as it has made us feel perfectly ok to crave a deliciously naughty burger.
Understand what has made your brand famous and successful in the past and exploit any distinctive assets you have built over time but may have not realised their value. These may be logos, colours, icons, characters, packaging, tag lines, jingles or other comms assets. If you don’t have any, create some immediately and start to build some long term memory structures. If your brand is struggling with differentiation and/or distinctiveness and you'd like to address the problem, try completing this checklist & workbook to test the strength of your brand positioning then drop me a note and I'd be happy to show you some of the tools and exercises we could use to sharpen your brand positioning strategy and find its distinctive place in this world.
If this is a strategic challenge you’d like to learn more about here are some further readings or videos: -> a great article on why differentiation and distinctiveness is so important and how it impacts marketing effectiveness -> a blog post I wrote last year on using brand personality as a strategic point of difference -> when it comes to understanding and using distinctive assets, you can’t go past the Ehrenberg-Bass resources -> and finally a great Effies case study review by Mark Ritson on the Snickers brand turnaround as a result of understanding their points of differentiation and leveraging their distinctive brand assets or codes as he calls them.