Brand positioning is a business question

Discovering the right brand positioning for your brand requires a good understanding of the customer, the competitive market and all aspects of your own brand. The final choice has implications for your whole business, not just your marketing team. In the third and final of this week's posts on brand positioning, we look at how to make that choice.

Bringing it all together

In the previous post, we looked at how the Brand S team worked on finding a way to improve their brand positioning using the Marquetypes™ system. We'll finish the story in this post by describing how Brand S selected a new direction and finalized their brand positioning.

Our analysis of Brand S's positioning building blocks defined the customer, whose needs are strongly in the Explorer territory with a desire for exploration and self-discovery, Brand S itself rooted in Creator, with its emphasis on invention and fresh thinking and many competitive brands battling it out as Explorers by reflecting the customer personality and character -  energetic, full of possibilities, always experimenting.

In addition, when we analyzed Brand S's current brand strength, it was clearly lacking in consistency. So, although many of its Brand Vision elements were aligned to a Creator positioning, and customers perceived elements of a Creator brand in Brand S this lack of consistency undermined the brand's strength.

It was important then for the team to find a positioning that could guide all their marketing activities to achieve consistency.

Positioning options

The customer-brand-market combination (shown in the diagram above) gives the Brand S team some options, for example:

    Option 1. Recognize that the market is mainly about self- discovery and exploration and shift their position accordingly.

    Option 2. Stay true to the brand vision and make it work more effectively.

To help them make the choice between options 1 and 2 (and Option 3 that we've omitted from this post for simplicity), the Brand S team worked through the next steps of opento's Brand Positioning - group user product to dig deeper into the customer, brand vision and market building blocks.

Customers: jobs-to-be-done and tensions

The customer needs are in the area of self-discovery. But to get really sharp about the role that Brand S can play, we need to understand the jobs-to-be-done and problems to be solved.

When the Brand S team got into more detail on how this worked in their market, they focused on the tension between their customers' desire to create an online presence for themselves and their lack of skills to do that. Their self-discovery was limited by their lack of creative skill.

That gave the team a very powerful link to their own Creator brand vision and an opportunity to stand out from the competitive market and choose option 2.

A sharper brand positioning for Brand S

The new brand role definition is based on acting as a Creator brand to Explorer customers by giving them the support and tools they need to create their online presence. In short, Brand S is "a creative toolkit for my self-expression".

The marketing team and the CMO were enthusiastic but a brand positioning is not just about marketing - it is about aligning the activities of the company to deliver the brand. Sometimes an inspiring positioning is just too difficult to deliver well. That's why we recommend that a cross-functional team works together on branding.

Competences: can we really do this?

Before jumping on an inspiring solution, the team worked through a structured assessment of all the options, including taking a close look at how easy or difficult it would be to deliver each of them with their existing skills, competences and assets.

In fact, their selected positioning of "a creative toolkit for my self-expression" was one of the more challenging options and required Brand S management to invest in new customer service capabilities to support it.

Brand positioning is a business question

When selecting a brand positioning think about it broadly and ask:

Does this fit with our insights about customers?

Is it distinctive from the competition?

Can we make it happen? Do we have the capabilities?

And don't forget to listen to the team's emotional response too:

Does it inspire us?

Does it feel right for our brand?

The Brand S team achieved all of this in 30 days with a cross-functional team in different continents using our online products. They are now bringing their new positioning to life with communication, products and services suitable for a Creator brand.

Define your own brand positioning with Marquetypes™

The Brand S team used our Brand Positioning - group user product to work on their positioning options. You can find this product and other cost-effective Marquetypes™ products to help you with brand positioning by visiting the Brand Department of our store.

The three building blocks of brand positioning

To discover the most powerful positioning area for your brand, you need to consider your customer, the competitive market and your own brand. In the second of 3 posts this week, we look at how to define these three building blocks of your brand positioning.

In yesterday’s post, we concluded that the key to brand positioning is to focus on the right ‘bundle of associations’ for your brand.

Those associations should be meaningful and important to customers, distinctive from associations owned by competitors and linked to your brand vision.

We'll look today at how you can bring these three aspects together for your own brand using a (disguised) recent example from one of our customers. We’ll call them Brand S.

Brand S

Brand S is a consumer technology brand in a fast-growing, highly competitive market. Although they are growing fast in line with the market and maintaining share, their market analysis suggests there is bigger opportunity that they are failing to capture. This is often the case for technology companies that have focused on communicating product features at the expense of building a distinctive brand.

Luckily, BrandS's CMO was ready to work on improving their positioning ahead of launching their next-generation innovation this year. Brand S’s cross-functional team of 8 people worked on the challenge using opento’s online products to get them to a solution cost-effectively and quickly.

The team worked systematically through the three building blocks of customers, brand and competitive market.


Let’s start with what’s meaningful and important to customers.

What’s the best way to define your customer needs? We focus first on why customers are in the category as a whole. What are they buying in terms of attributes, benefits and experiences? At a product and service level, they are looking for reliability and cost-effectiveness. But the real clue to branding territories comes from looking at their jobs-to-be-done and emotional needs.

There are many ways to discover your customer’s jobs-to-be-done and linking them to emotions. We use a structured method inspired by Scott Anthony’s laddering approach in The Innovator’s Guide to Growth and build up to the top-level needs in the category. For example, the main customer needs in your category could be about success or status or creativity.

Our Marquetypes™ brand positioning system categorizes customer needs into an archetypal territory. In Brand S’s case, these were primarily around the need for exploration and self-discovery that are associated with the customer archetype of Explorer.

Perhaps your customer archetype is in one of the other areas of the map. Is your customer a Lover, Jester or Everyman with an emphasis on the need for belonging?

Brand Vision

Next, look in detail at your brand vision. What are your values, your purpose and your motivation for your business and brand?  Are you driven by a need to change what isn’t working in the market? Or are you focused on being responsible?

Now take a realistic look at how your customers or potential customers see your brand. What type of brand personality do you have? Are you confident and responsible or mischievous and high-spirited? Then look at where customers think you excel: your competences. Are you better than competitors at helping them get organized or protecting them or helping them avoid specific types of problem?

The Brand S team defined their brand as being all about invention and fresh thinking. Taking into account their brand perception and their vision, we mapped their Brand Vision in archetype of Creator.

Don’t base your brand positioning on personality alone or competences alone but align them closely and make sure they are in tune with your values.

Market and Competition

Your competitors’ brands also own archetypal meanings. Review them in as much detail as you can. If you have market research data, look at where they are superior to you. Look at their marketing materials. What do they claim as their particular expertise?

The Brand S team mapped their main competitors and we classified most of the key competitors in or close to the Explorer archetypal territory.


This is not surprising in markets with an Explorer customer. Often a brand finds it easiest to simply reflect their intended customers with their own positioning and sometimes that is the most effective positioning in the market. However, the CMO of Brand S was determined to be distinctive in the market by staying close to their own unique personality and competences.

Where are your competitors operating? Are they all in the same part of the map and telling customers the same type of story? Can you find a new way to position yourself based on your unique combination of personality, competences and vision?

Bringing it all together

So, now we have the three building blocks to explore options for strengthening Brand S: the customer, whose needs are strongly in the Explorer territory; Brand S itself rooted in Creator; the competitive market place battling as Explorers.

In our next post, we’ll describe how Brand S selected a new direction and finalized their brand positioning.

Define your own brand positioning with Marquetypes™

The Brand S team used our Brand Positioning - group user product to work on their positioning options. You can find this product and other cost-effective Marquetypes™ products to help you with brand positioning by visiting the Brand Department of our store.

What is Brand Positioning?

A brand is not just a promise – brands need to deliver. Knowing how a brand really works is the key to brand positioning. In the first of 3 posts on brand positioning this week, we look at how a brand really works.

A brand is not just a promise

“A brand is a promise” is a neat answer to the question “what is a brand?” but how many of us would hand over money for a promise alone?

Brands succeed by consistently delivering what their customers need: benefits, experiences and emotions. Over time, the best brands become strongly associated with those benefits, experiences and emotions so that we all know what to expect from them. Apple became the world’s most valuable brand by ‘owning’ a unique combination of benefits, experiences and emotions. When we see the Apple logo, it is a very powerful reminder of that bundle of associations.

The logo, design, taglines etc. are not ‘the brand’ but they act as a kind of trigger to all the associations we have and the most powerful of those associations are the emotional ones – because most decision-making is driven by emotions.

What is a brand?

Here is opento's definition: a brand is a non-conscious shortcut to a customer choice.

‘Non-conscious’ because it triggers all those associations without the need for us to work through them rationally. We ‘feel’ better choosing our favorite brand.

‘Shortcut’ because it works very quickly and easily. In-store decision-making often takes much less than one second.

Why are brands valuable to customers?

As customers, we are faced every day with many choices, often difficult, confusing or just not important enough to deserve our time. The positive feelings and the speed of decision-making that comes from a strong brand and its associations make us happy and confident in those choices.

In other words, brands help us make choices quickly, happily and confidently.

And that’s why they’re valuable to us as customers.

Why are brands valuable to businesses?

Strong brands deliver superior shareholder returns. Research studies repeatedly show the value of building strong brands. For example, the Financial Times regularly reports on top global brands and shows the link between brand strength and economic value.

That value is achieved through an astonishingly simple but powerful mechanism: brands help people to make decisions quickly and confidently because of their instant associations.

Look at the distorted visual of brand logos in the picture above. Brand researchers use such ‘degraded’ stimuli to understand the strength of brand associations. Even without a clear view, you can probably recognize many of these brands instantly and say how you feel about them.

And that shortcut to emotional associations is why brands are important to businesses.

What does this mean for brand positioning?

The key to brand positioning then is to focus on the right ‘bundle of associations’ for your brand.

Those associations should be meaningful and important to customers, distinctive from associations owned by competitors and linked to your brand vision.

Good brand positioning takes into account: your brand vision, your customer needs and your competitive market.

In our next post, we’ll explore how to bring these three aspects together to define your brand positioning.

Find out more and explore our products to help you with your brand positioning by visiting the Brand Positioning Department of our store.

Meaningful Brands

Brand meaning is a hot topic right now. What is a ‘meaningful brand’, why is it important and how can you take it into account when building your own brand and business?

This month’s Havas media Meaningful Brands study follows hard on the heels of the BrandZ™ report from WPP.

Both are excellent studies and both place a big emphasis on the idea of ‘meaning’ in building strong brands. But why so much focus on brand meaning?

What is ‘meaning’?

The dictionary tells us that it’s about “the end, purpose, or significance of something”. But how can we measure that?

Havas measures ‘meaningful’ using 7 dimensions of personal well-being plus 5 dimensions of Collective well-being. Personal well-being includes physical, financial, organizational, intellectual, social, emotional and natural dimensions. Collective well-being encompasses ethics, environment, community, workplace and economic dimensions.

In contrast, BrandZ™ focuses on the idea that, in any category, meaningful brands ‘appeal more, generate greater “love” and meet the individual’s expectations and needs.’ It’s about making a difference to customers’ lives. There are also differences in category meaning too and BrandZ™ points to some archetypal associations with categories. Beers, for example, sharing ‘fun’ and ‘playful’ associations.

So, the two studies take slightly different approaches to measuring significance.

I’m happy to say that both are in line with opento’s approach to meaningfulness which emphasizes the emotional significance of meaning and the need to build the right bundle of conscious and non-conscious associations for your brand.

Why is it important to be meaningful?

Despite their slightly different approaches, both 'Meaningful Brands' and BrandZ™ emphasize two important aspects of meaningfulness -

        • Customer: there is a direct relationship with customer attachment (Havas) and the ability to generate desire and loyalty (BrandZ™)
        • $$$s: meaning builds financial value. BrandZ™’s top 100 outperforms the S&P500, rising twice as fast and Havas’ shows meaningful brands beat the stock market by 120%.


Where do I start to strengthen meaning for my own brand?

Both of these studies point to the importance of Purpose and making a difference in people’s lives on top of product performance.

So, start with your Brand Vision (a key building block of our Marquetypes™ approach) link it to both the underlying business model (BrandBases™) and to the type of world you aim to build with your brand (BrandWorlds™).

All three of these - business, brand and marketing - need to be in synergy. Your business model must help deliver the brand and your marketing must reflect the truth of the brand.

Meaning, value or both?

Different brands make the top 5 in each study.

BrandZ™’s top 5 brands (based on brand value) are Apple, Google, IBM, McDonalds’ and Coca-Cola whilst Havas’ top 5 meaningful brands are Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nestle and Sony.

Would you place your bets on meaningful brands or valuable brands?