Sorry it has been a while since the last post but things have been hectic and I decided to get some extra help with writing for the site. I want to continue feeding you guys solid articles and reads about the industry so to help with that I would like to introduce the new Marketing Communications except, Lori Kirk. Lori is a 23 year old student at Emerson College and in July will have her MA in Integrated Marketing Communications. She also runs a clothing lines called Cavata Clothing which supports the importance of the arts in our communities. Lori will be writing a few articles focusing on the branding and marketing aspects of the industry…and here is the first one, enjoy!
The Importance of Good Positioning
Whether you are trying to pick out a name for your company, create designs, develop a website or define your pricing strategy, the aspiring entrepreneur must always remember that the foundation of a great brand boils down to one thing; POSITIONING. Positioning is how the target market defines the brand in relation to its competitors. In other words, it’s the brands identity! When defining a brand’s positioning, one should consider how the positioning makes the brand unique and, more importantly, if these unique qualities are perceived as “added values” by the target audience. So what if you have the only clothing line that uses teal ink imported from Dijibouti! Although this is a point of differentiation, does anybody in your target audience actually care about this? If so, that’s great! You may just have found your positioning. If not, you are simply being different for the sake of being different and this really offers no added benefit to your brand or the customer. Here are a few helpful tips for those of you who have great ideas and don’t want to end up being just another generic-named clothing line with a few cool designs. Remember, branding takes time and positioning is just the first step on the road to developing a relationship with your customers.
When contemplating your brand’s positioning, you have to see who everybody else already is before you can figure out who you want to be. By scanning the competitive landscape you can see what niches are already being satisfied and also if there are any unmet needs your brand can take advantage of. So what if you have a fantastic idea for a new skate/surf apparel line. If there are already a million other people with the same idea that are 10 steps ahead of you, how will you compete? There is a good chance, although not guaranteed, that your brand will be seen as an imitator rather than a fresh new company. This isn’t to say that you should back away from ALL niche’s with established competition. On the contrary! Having some competition allows the customers to know what they can expect from you. It is up to you, however, to show the customer how you are different from Company A and Company B if you choose to go ahead with your skate/surf line in a competitive market. The key here is to decipher what your brand can offer as “added value” if other people have similar product offerings and knowing when to fold em’ if you think competition is too high. The purpose of an environmental scan is to help you realize what you are getting yourself into before you invest your life savings into a brand that Joe Shmo down the street started 10 years ago. Once you know what’s out there you can be that much more prepared to take on the wonderful world of apparel design!
There are a variety of strategies one can utilize when determining positioning. What’s great about this is if someone has a similar concept as me, let’s say a flavored water beverage, I can still use my specific positioning as a point of differentiation. For example, Company A is positioned as a diet drink focusing on low calories while my flavored water leverages the drink’s electrolytes and is positioned as an exercise supplement. These are basically the same products, more or less, but each focus on very different positioning giving each a competitive advantage and unique identity.
There are seven positioning strategies that can be applied to any brand. Open up any marketing textbook and you’ll definitely see these listed.
Product Attributes: What are the specific product attributes? Is your ice cream the creamiest of them all?
Benefits: What are the benefits to the customers? Will it help me lose weight or jump higher?
Usage Occasions: When / how can the product be used? A perfect example of this is Gogurt. They didn’t change the product, only the usage. Its yogurt for people on the go!
Users: Identify a class of users.
Against a Competitor: Positioned directly against a competitor.
Away from a Competitor: Positioned away from competitor.
Product Classes: Compared to different classes of products. Fancy feast cat food anyone?
If you are a blossoming entrepreneur with a head full of amazing ideas you have to think about positioning before anything else. You could have the best website, designs, packaging, etc., but if you have no clue how your brand should be positioned how are you customers supposed to figure you out? Go ahead and spend $1000 on tee shirts, another couple hundreds on custom mailers and message the hell out of people 16-35 on myspace. If all of these elements don’t reinforce your positioning you are going to confuse your customer, causing you to become yet another generic clothing line with a few cool threads. Know who you are because that will, in turn, help you figure out who you want to target.
Remember, a brand is a relationship. When we form human relationships we, usually, share who we are with our prospective partners. If you can’t communicate to your customer who you are through your positioning, how are you going to start a relationship?