To market your brand successfully, it helps to know how your prospects and customers already perceive your brand, and those of the competition. Understanding this will help you figure out whether your brand, and how you plan to market it, are going in the right strategic direction.
In their landmark book on marketing strategy, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote that your brand holds "mental real estate" in the minds of your current and potential customers. In other words, each brand stands for one thing and one thing only. Ries and Trout contended that the best way to compete is not to try to displace a competitor in the minds of your prospects—a tough or even impossible task—but to occupy a unique space that your brand can own.
With this approach in mind, how would you define your brand's current mental real estate? Is it:
- Defined by the scope, scale, and infrastructure of your company, such as having more stores than anyone else?
- Based on the features of the product or service you sell, such as all-natural ingredients?
- Expressed through how you provide your product or service to the market, such as online vs. branch banking?
- Founded on the personality of your brand, such as feminist, athlete or globetrotter?
- Centred on your firm's ethics, morals and values, such as being socially responsible or holding Christian values?
- Based on the experience the customer has when engaging with your product or service, such as relaxing or thrilling?
Overall, would the reasons why people buy your brand be more rational ("I get good value") or emotional ("I feel special")?
To answer these questions for my firm's clients, we use a tool called the Brand Positioning Spectrum created by Next Level Strategic Marketing Group, a Pleasantville, N.Y.-based marketing agency. This tool is based on the idea that any brand, at its most fundamental, can be categorized into one of six spots on a spectrum ranging from more rational (infrastructure) to more emotional (experiential). The example below shows the spectrum and examples, based on my company's analysis, of where various well-known brands fall on it.
Knowing where your brand currently sits on the spectrum, as well as those of key competitors, is critical because it can identify areas where you can create competitive advantage. You can get a feel for this simply by:
- Reviewing the vision and mission of your company to understand where you originally intended to position the brand in its market.
- Reviewing your print, online and other marketing and sales material to identify the promise to the market that your company makes. Which key benefits is your firm, consciously or unconsciously, promising to deliver?
- Asking employees and 10 to 20 of your best customers which of the six options above best defines the key benefits that your product or service offers.