Brand positioning is the craft of choosing how your buyers see, discover, and access your product. It’s important to note that positioning is a gerund – a verb that acts as a noun, and denotes progressive or continuous action. First, you have to decide where you want your brand to be, then you send off what we call cues to the buyer and the general public. These cues are the symbols, words, slogans, images, pricing, and distribution management that put your brand in a certain position relative to its competition.
The following are just a few of the tools in your brand positioning tool box:
- You can use the name, logo, slogan, even the packaging and distribution management in brand positioning. L’eggs Pantyhose is an excellent example of using all of the above to position its brand. The company seized upon the concept of “eggs” – which rhymes with legs – and used it in its name, its font (the lower loop of the gg’s contain egg-shapes), and in their original packaging. L’eggs was introduced in an egg shaped container and got into stores more easily because its product didn’t require shelf space – the L’eggs stand-alone rack required only two square feet of floor space.
- Your distribution strategy is a brand positioning tool. It’s not just how companies position a brand in terms of quality and price, but how they actually got it in the marketplace. During World War II, Coca-Cola set up 64 bottling plants around the world to supply the troops. These plants helped accelerate Coca-Cola’s international growth. Coca-cola is an excellent example of a company that made its distribution strategy part of its brand positioning.
- Advertising is another brand positioning tool. Whether you use conventional advertising, worthy-cause marketing, the Internet, signs, billboards, or the package or brand itself, it is all advertising. Xerox has positioned itself as the quintessential copy machine; Canon has positioned itself as the affordable high-quality camera; and Kleenex has positioned itself as the leading facial tissue. These are all examples of successful brand positioning achieved via the way the brands were advertised.
- What your company does can be a power tool. If you’re positioning your brand as the good guy, you might want to back a worthy cause. With the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft is positioned as the good guy. The brand is viewed in a positive light through what the company does. It has nothing to do with the brand itself. But with it, the company gets great exposure, positive press and gives their customers “social permission” to buy their products.
- Brand positioning includes re-positioning. Once a brand has lost its steam, your brand may need to be repositioned. Repositioning can breathe life back into a brand. IBM is positioning itself as a dependable source of software and applications, but at first they positioned themselves as the maker of calculating machines, then typewriters. IBM is a good example of a brand that continues to act – to position and reposition itself.
These are some of the tools at your disposal in the ongoing process of brand positioning. The value of your brand depends on it. In my experience, success has everything to do with brand positioning.
Of course, there’s much more that could be said on this subject. What’s been your experience? Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Wine, the largest wine brand in the nation, invites you to join the discussion on Brand Positioning with your comments, thoughts, and opinions below.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders