Brand Positioning Strategy: Creating a North Star

innovation research and strategy 5
Determine where you are on the distinctiveness spectrum and build a brand that becomes a market leader

In addition to driving growth through innovative product concepts, continue to move your brand forward with a well-defined brand positioning strategy. Brand positioning is the process of differentiating your business from others in the market in a way that builds preference, long-term loyalty, and share. It is the “master strategy” that drives the rest of the organization’s communications and marketing activity.

In this Innovation Research and Strategy article in partnership with Great Lakes GrowthWorks, we’ll reveal how foresight, empathy, and Emotion Intelligence — steeped in artificial intelligence (AI) — can strengthen your brand positioning strategy.can strengthen your brand positioning strategy.

When building out your brand positioning strategy, some of the key questions to answer are:

  • Why should consumers consider your brand?
  • What sets apart your business from the competition?
  • What benefits does your product or service offer?
  • What specific attributes make your product or service better than the alternatives?

By answering these questions and validating claims through research, you can distinguish your brand in the target consumer’s mind.

How to develop a brand positioning strategy

Brand strategy begins with a clear view of consumer needs and where the market is headed. Understanding market disruption is critical. Then, uncovering disruptor-driven growth territory helps to ensure positioning is aligned with emerging opportunities. To start this process, conducting disruptor analysis can provide opportunity paths that inspire differentiated positioning. Next, key positioning elements can be defined through this future lens:

  1. Determine (and understand) your target market
    A target market is a specific, defined segment of consumers you want to start using your new product or service. Researching what your ideal customers want will help make your marketing efforts more strategic. Who are your “top” customers? (segmentation); What problems do you solve for them?; Is there a new trend in any of your key customer segments? Surveys, online bulletin boards, in-depth interviews, and focus groups can drive empathy and capture important insights that can lead to positioning that resonates with and motivates your target market.
  2. Research the competition
    Benchmark other players to identify need gaps and market opportunities. What are competitors’ value propositions? Can they defend their claims? What are their core competencies versus your brand’s? Insights from competitive analysis can shine a light on white space and where to play.
  3. Identify what makes your brand unique
    A positioning strategy must include what you do and who you are. What is your brand’s purpose? What is your brand really good at? Avoid wishful-thinking statements; claims should be backed up with strong “reasons to believe.” When possible, use the language of your customers or verbatims from product concept testing discussions. An example of a brand that put a stake in the ground early is NyQuil™, which differentiated itself as a “nighttime” cold medicine.
  4. Focus on emotional customer benefits
    Define the brand around an emotional benefit to open up significant opportunity territory and inform development of brand identity elements (logo, tagline, packaging, etc.) and messaging. Evoking the right emotions can be one of the most important roles brand positioning strategy can play.
  5. Craft your brand positioning statement
    The goal is to create a unique impression in the target consumer’s mind so that the person will associate something distinct and desirable with your brand. It will influence how your brand will be perceived and can guide all communications and initiatives across the organization. Can you articulate your brand’s unique “essence” in one sentence? Your positioning statement should succinctly state what your brand provides and why people should buy your brand. Consumers need to know how they will benefit. Also remember that defining brand personality, tone, and core values is critical to the work.

Other best practices to keep in mind when developing a positioning strategy aimed to fuel significant brand awareness and sustainable advantage should include being:

  • Broad enough in scope to truly “expand the box” for the brand – but focused enough to offer meaningful differentiation. For multi-brand companies, this means defining the customer journey at the category level to open much larger scale opportunities while mapping your portfolio against specific white space. Value proposition and positioning statements should be inspiring and feel encompassing, with the potential for a full funnel of strong, new products or other innovation.
  • Disruptor-led and future-focused, reflecting opportunities that leverage (and surpass) current and emerging disruption to fuel growth over the next 3 – 10 years.

Fuel your brand positioning strategy with emotion research

Get to the core of what consumers are thinking and feeling. Emotion Intelligence is a versatile and proprietary tool for uncovering hidden opinions and associations. It is simple, scalable, and seamlessly integrates with existing platforms to produce enlightening consumer insights. This tool can be used to understand how consumers feel about your brand relative to competitors to refine your brand positioning strategy. Emotion Intelligence insights can help you strengthen the emotional connections you want consumers to have with your brand.

Martec’s emotion research tool uses AI technology and is based upon Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions is a psychoevolutionary classification approach that illustrates 8 primary bipolar emotions—including the connections and intensities of each. Emotion Intelligence similarly reflects the multi-dimensional aspects of emotions with 4 key properties, reaching far beyond typical sentiment analysis. The Emotion Intelligence patented algorithms process language – from surveys, focus group transcriptions, research reports, social media, online reviews, and other sources – to detect and organize emotional words.

This tool can illuminate how consumers actually feel about your brand positioning, messaging, and new product or service. To capitalize on innovation faster, understanding and strengthening the emotional connections consumers have with your brand prior to product launch is critical.

Building a brand that is expected to deliver industry-leading innovation, drive consideration among prospects, and enhance customer engagement is an extraordinary undertaking. Support your efforts with research. Innovation Research and Strategy can show opportunity paths to new spaces where your brand can lead in the next 3+ years.

The Innovation Research and Strategy series is co-led by The Martec Group, a global market research and consulting firm based in metro Detroit, and Great Lakes GrowthWorks, a growth strategy and innovation consulting firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Next in the series: A free, downloadable eBook! Discover how to power what’s next for your organization with the Innovation Research and Strategy toolkit.

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