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.

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Dunning says:
August 21, 2013 04:10 PM
Thank you for this - very helpful to us on a branding optimisation exercise.
Can you send me a link to the next post please? "In our next post, we’ll describe how Brand S selected a new direction and finalized their brand positioning."
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