Best Practices for Developing Effective Brand Positioning 

Brand positioning is a critical component of a successful marketing strategy. It defines how a brand is perceived in the minds of its consumer target, differentiating it from key competitors. A well-crafted positioning statement serves as the foundation for all marketing efforts and ensures consistent messaging across all channels. 

The SIVO team has spent many years helping brand teams develop and evaluate brand positionings across a variety of industries. While every positioning project is somewhat unique, we have supported our clients with proven frameworks and research approaches, leading to the development of successful brand positionings.  

A positioning statement is a concise description of how a brand wants to “show up” in the world, highlighting the primary (and ideally, unique) benefit it provides, along with the rationale for how it can deliver the benefit. The statement typically includes the following format and elements: 

For (consumer target), Brand is the only product type that provides (key benefit), because Brand has (feature/reason to believe), (feature/reason to believe) and (feature/reason to believe). 

For example, Volvo’s positioning statement looks something like this: 

For safety-conscious families, Volvo premium automobiles offer the safest cars on the road because they have advanced safety features, industry-leading crash test ratings, and innovative safety technologies. 

At the heart of developing a strong brand positioning is a solid understanding of the Brand Benefit Ladder, a strategic tool used early in the positioning development process. It helps brand teams articulate the value proposition by identifying benefits at four levels: 

1) What it is 

2) What it does  

3) How it makes you feel 

4) How it can transform your life 

This framework ensures a clear articulation of the brand’s offerings and the emotional and transformational benefits they provide.  Depending on the brand’s maturity and the competitive landscape, positioning can be based on functional benefits (what it is/what it does) or a more emotional/transformational benefits (how it makes me you feel/changes your life). 

There are a variety of positioning types that fit across the Brand Benefit Ladder:

Product Features: 

Attribute-Based Positioning centers on specific features that distinguish the product.

Example:  For homeowners, Dyson vacuum cleaners are superior carpet cleaners because they offer superior suction, advanced filtration, and allergen removal. 

Value-Based Positioning is linked specifically to the price value of the product.  

Example:  For price-sensitive shoppers, Walmart offers everyday low prices by leveraging its extensive supply chain and scale to provide unbeatable savings on a vast assortment of goods, ensuring customers can save money and live better. 

Functional Benefits: 

Benefit-based Positioning highlights the key functional benefits or solutions provided by the product. 

Example:  For fitness enthusiasts struggling to exercise regularly, Peloton is the exercise bike that keeps you motivated to exercise because it delivers an immersive and interactive experience, world-class instructors, and a supportive fitness community. 

Problem-Solution Positioning focuses on the problems that the product solves for customers. 

Example:  For individuals suffering from dandruff, Head & Shoulders provides effective and long-lasting relief from dandruff flakes and itchiness because it has a clinically proven formula that eliminates dandruff, nourishes, and protects the scalp. 

Emotional Benefits: 

Lifestyle Positioning aligns the product with a particular emotion or feeling. 

Example:  For athletes and active individuals, Nike enhances athletic performance and empowers athletes to reach their full potential through its innovative, cutting-edge sportswear products.  

Cultural Symbolism Positioning uses cultural symbols and references to position the brand within a cultural context. 

Example:  For motorcycle enthusiasts seeking an authentic and exhilarating riding experience, Harley-Davidson is the iconic motorcycle brand that delivers powerful, custom-made bikes with a rich American heritage and embodying the spirit of freedom, rebellion and individuality. 

Purpose-Driven Benefits: 

Innovation-led Positioning sets the brand up as a leader in innovation and cutting-edge technology. 

Example:  For environmentally conscious consumers and tech enthusiasts, Tesla is the leading electric vehicle and clean energy company that offers a sustainable environmental solution via their innovative high-performance electric cars and cutting-edge technology. 

Purpose-led Positioning centers on what the brand is doing for the world rather than the product itself. 

Example:  For socially conscious consumers, TOMS is the footwear brand that provides stylish and comfortable shoes while also making a positive impact on communities around the world though its One-for-One model, where each purchase directly contributes to improving lives in underdeveloped countries. 

Purpose-Driven Benefits: 

Innovation-led Positioning sets the brand up as a leader in innovation and cutting-edge technology. 

Example:  For environmentally conscious consumers and tech enthusiasts, Tesla is the leading electric vehicle and clean energy company that offers a sustainable environmental solution via their innovative high-performance electric cars and cutting-edge technology. 

Purpose-led Positioning centers on what the brand is doing for the world rather than the product itself. 

Example:  For socially conscious consumers, TOMS is the footwear brand that provides stylish and comfortable shoes while also making a positive impact on communities around the world though its One-for-One model, where each purchase directly contributes to improving lives in underdeveloped countries. 

Regardless of the type of positioning and where it fits on the benefit ladder, all positioning statements need to be clear, credible, and differentiated from the competition.  It can then be used to inspire marketing executions across channels, to create consistent communications and connections to the consumer target. 

Researching Your Brand Positioning 

Developing effective brand positioning requires rigorous research, with the ideal approach being a combination of qualitative and quantitative research.  

1. Qualitative Exploration: This phase uses one-on-one in-depth interviews with current and potential consumers to explore brand perceptions and refine positioning language. It helps the client team explore and understand the nuanced emotional and rational drivers behind brand choice and allows the team to modify and improve the positioning statements in real-time, based on consumer input. 

2. Quantitative Survey: Once the positioning statements are refined, quantitative research helps identify the most motivating positioning from a handful of alternatives. Surveys and real-world experiments (e.g., testing via digital ads) can be used to test different positioning statements among a larger sample, assessing the impact on brand perception and purchase interest. 

By using a combination of qualitative exploration and quantitative validation, brand teams can ensure their positioning is not only compelling but also grounded in consumer reality. 

Your Source for Expert Consumer Insights 

At SIVO, Inc., we are dedicated to helping our clients develop brand positionings that are clear, unique, credible, and most importantly, relevant to your consumer target.  We are trusted advisors in supporting your positioning development and will design custom learning plans that generate the insights needed to carve out a unique space in the market and connect with your consumers. This holistic approach will set the foundation for enduring brand success. 

Contact us via our website form or email us at Contact@SIVOInsights.com today to schedule a discovery call!  

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